A Humbling Comparison
By: Mike Collette (Head Coach/Owner CrossFit Prototype)
Now that the 2016 CrossFit Open is over, those past five weeks have given me the opportunity to reflect on multiple components of my fitness that are strong, but for the most part areas that need improvement. The great thing about the Open is that it reminds me why I CrossFit. CrossFit is constantly challenging regardless of how fit you get. The reality is, there is always something to get better at, something to strive for and continual progress to be made in all the areas that encompass overall fitness. The elegance behind CrossFit training is that there isn’t one distinct practice or one common method to achieve the results you are looking for. The constantly varied approach to improving your work capacity, strength, power, and flexibility are endless.
To put this into context, I recently took up golf as a hobby. Early last summer, I played a round with my girlfriend and her parents and I was instantly hooked. I occasionally went to the driving range throughout high school and college in an attempt to hit the ball as far as Happy Gilmore. Taking vicious hacks at a small stationary ball seems easy enough when your goal is just to hit it as far as you can. When your goals change from hitting it far to hitting it accurate and consistent, it becomes a totally different game.
So after some high-level technique tips from my girlfriend’s dad John and my basic athletic background, I did fairly well. Well enough for John to tell me I should take the sport up and get serious. He then gave me a set of his old clubs which allowed me to go to the range and practice those helpful tips. After a few more times, I then went out and bought a new driver (gotta go deep!) to add to the club collection. After a few more outings, I bought a new bag and eventually (by December) I bought a new set of irons, shoes, shirts and shorts. I now have my golf gear (sound familiar CrossFitters?).
That summer/fall/winter, I played eight times (I know, I’m basically a pro) and now I’m 100% in. The learning here for me is that folf is my new CrossFit. Let me explain in detail:
First things first, the unique aspect of CrossFit training vs. other fitness programs or other gym’s is the community behind it and the social interactions and friendships you develop. The common ground you share with someone else who CrossFit’s creates an immediate connection. If you are in a social setting and you find out that someone else does CrossFit, the two of you are instantly drawn together and start talking about the different aspects of CrossFit. “What box do you go to? What is your favorite WOD? Did you do the Open/how did you do? What are the personal trainers like?” From an outsider looking in, this might seem like a foreign language and many people who don’t do CrossFit will think “All you talk about is CrossFit!” but what they don’t understand is that you share a common bond with that person. CrossFitter’s understand to respect effort and they take pride in that. The same goes for military personnel who served in the same branch or frat brothers from different chapters. They understand each other and they share common ground. CrossFit is a training program, but you can also look at it as a hobby for many.
Now to get back on track, when I started playing golf, all I talked about was golf. I think I asked 50 of our members if they played and we instantly starting talking about courses, club’s, swing strategies, exercises to improve your swing etc. We shared common ground and connected based on our this sport. It’s fun talking about things you like and it helps build relationships with people when you share a similar interest.
From my experience as a fitness coach, personal trainer, and CrossFit Owner, those who try CrossFit for the first time tend to either love it or are impartial to it. I’m not going to say hate it because I don’t like that word and frankly I don’t believe anyone who has come into our CrossFit gym has “hated” it, but it just wasn’t for them. In my opinion, this is the same for Golf. You are either a person who tries it and get’s into it from the first time or is impartial to it, might do it on and off but you’ll never commit. From talking Golf with many people now, this tends to hold some ground. Now, there are those people who don’t fit this norm, but I would say they are the exception. Personally, the reason why people love CrossFit, beyond the health benefits, community and variance is that it’s challenging. Golf to me, is that challenge that I can see myself constantly trying to improve at. For some of you reading this you are probably thinking “well, you can make that comparison to anything that is challenging” and I guess you can but let’s break down some of the finer components.
For the golfer’s out there who CrossFit, think of your golf swing as every technical component of CrossFit (olympic lifts, high-level gymnastics, double unders etc). They require precise accuracy, finesse, at times serious power and timely coordination to be successful. The pure nature of your swing has so many components to it that if one part is off, it can throw off the direction or distance of the ball. Think of the Snatch. The most technically challenging lift on the planet. First pull accuracy, second pull accuracy, speed under the bar, catch; all these areas need to be performed in perfect synchronization in order for a lift be successful. Sure you can go out on the golf course or driving range with no experience, some athletic ability and crush the ball but you essentially can do the same thing with the Snatch or the Clean and Jerk. This doesn’t mean that you are skilled and it will eventually limit your potential unless you dial in the technique.
I won’t get into a tremendous amount of detail about the Physical skills that are developed through CrossFit with respect to Golf but I will say that the frustration in Golf is comparable to many of the challenges you face when doing CrossFit. Do double unders ring a bell? Does your short game in golf ring a bell? These “frustrations” in CrossFit such as not being able to complete a double under, do a workout Rx, keep up with the young buck at the box or understand the language around CrossFit can be a pain the ass. They can get so annoying that you feel like you will never get to where you want to be. Then something happens, you start to “get it”. You get your first double under. You Rx your first WOD. You actually understood the workout the fitness instructor explained without having to ask, “What’s an AMRAP?” In my opinion, this is the same for golf. I had ZERO expectations playing the first time. I hit the ball decent and I actually pared a hole which felt amazing! The next time out, I sucked. I was slicing the ball, missing puts, my drive was short; overall very frustrating. Then all of a sudden you have these moments on the course where you hit a perfect shot, make a hard put or crush a drive. It feels awesome!
The roller coaster of emotions I experience golfing were the same I had experienced when I started doing CrossFit. As I started to get some of the pieces, my confidence grew but there are still times where you get a reality check and you are humbled beyond belief. I don’t expect to be an amazing golfer and I never expect to be a CrossFit Games Athlete. The honest truth is that I have no desire to do that. I do have a desire to be very proficient in everything I attempt to do. I never want to just “get by” or be “average” at something. I believe this is a contributing attribute that forces me and others that are similar to want to be successful. The things that constantly challenge you in life build resilience and are the best things you can do. Doing things that are easy aren’t as gratifying as doing things that are challenging and succeeding in them.
The moral of this post was to explain my comparisons between CrossFit and Golf and why I truly appreciate the humbling experience they both give me. What I have learned by just writing this is that constantly challenging yourself to do things that are difficult facilitate your confidence to succeed with greater potential. I believe that if I never got into CrossFit I would be constantly settling for things that were easy. Don’t do that. Challenge yourself. Set some milestones you want to achieve within those challenging tasks and whole heartedly attack them. Understand that they aren’t easy, they will take time but you will do it, it’s good for you. Also, if you want to play golf this summer, let me know, always happy to play. : )