What Do You Struggle With Most?
by Sam Russel
What do you struggle with most?
Staying consistent going to the gym?
Staying consistent with your diet?
Being too hard on yourself when you have an off day?
Getting frustrated with slow progress on your goals?
Well good, that means your human too.
Almost every athlete in the box experiences difficulty in one or more of the afore mentioned criteria.
Whenever I speak with athletes on what is the hardest aspect of fitness, most often we discuss elements of the mental game. Therefore, the mental game will be our focus today.
Today I am going to tell three stories. They may seem random, uncorrelated, and insignificant, but stay with me. I promise they will come together in the end.
Story number 1.
I over hear a coach speaking with a new member on results of their weekly in body test. Although I had not met this patron, I could infer she was fairly new to fitness. I had not recognized her face, and her conversation with her coach would quickly reveal she had just completed her second week of training.
“Okay let’s take a look. Oh hey, you’ve lost 4 pounds since last week! That’s awesome!”
“4 pounds?! That’s it!”
“It may not sound like much now, but that is really great progress!”
“I just feel like I’ve been working way too hard to only lose 4 pounds!”
“We might not be at our goal weight yet, but it’s better than where we were last week!”
The conversation between coach and patron would continue in a similar fashion for some time. The new patron being unsatisfied with numerical results, and the coach trying to usher supporting words of encouragement.
Though my attention would drift elsewhere as the interaction continued, I would go on to notice the patron aggressively exiting the facility to conclude the conversation.
Come to think of it, I am not sure I ever saw her face at the box again…
Story number 2.
When I was 23, I taught second grade. Working with 7 year olds everyday made for a very interesting year. I had a group of great students who were always kind, happy, and honest.
One day whilst teaching writing, I gave my students a prompt. “What do you want be when you grow up?”
A simple prompt, one they have spent many day dreams pondering. Each student knew exactly what they wanted to be. A chef, a firefighter, a police officer, a rocket scientist, even a teacher. My students were also tasked with recording a plan, with steps included on how to become a member of their chosen profession. At 7 years old, each of my students fully understood it would take many years of studying and hard work to achieve their goals.
Story number 3.
Back to the box. There is a man who works hard. He attends a CrossFit class nearly everyday, his days off are few and far between, and no coach has ever accused him of “sand bagging” or slacking off.
Despite his consistency, many days his face holds a frown with a desperate grip. His lack of satisfaction can be seen from a mile away. In every lift, his disappointment can be heard through sharp swears under his breath. In every workout, the anger of his performance weighs him down like a 50lbs weight vest.
Through a combination of disappointment and discouragement, the man walks out of the box feeling worse than he did when he came in.
Okay lets recap here. A story about a woman who wants to quit going to the gym from lack of progress, a tale of young students who understand patience better than some adults, and an anecdote of a man who is not enjoying the process.
I hope the connection with my first two tales is becoming more clear. Young students knew they need many years to transform their minds before they can have their dream job. Adults try to transform their body, yet loose sight of how long this goal may take.
In truth, I don’t blame the woman in my first story. For years we have been watching shows like The Biggest Loser where contestants loose 25lbs in one week, which aired on a one hour TV program. We are constantly fed images of elite athletes making the work seem so easy. The Box even has dozens of fit individuals who are capable of some pretty crazy feats. Hand stand push ups, legless rope climbs, bar and ring muscle ups. All of which are awesome to the athletes who have reached that level of fitness, yet could understandably be discouraging to other less fit members. Seldom do we see success stories which accurately portray realistic timelines.
So what went wrong in our first story?
The woman did not understand fitness is both a process and a journey. It was clear the woman had goals, and she had even worked quite hard in her time at the gym. Yet her self-criticism was aided by her lack of foresight to result in an early, unsatisfactory ending.
Finally, our third story should have been that of success found through consistency of hard work. Yet, the tale carried a much less fortunate tune. We found a fit man who works hard and consistent. However, it was very clear the man was unhappy.
What went wrong?
It was clear the man had goals, and was working to achieve them. Yet he too lacked patience in a way, not-so-differently, from the woman in the first story. The man did understand that fitness is a process and a journey, yet he was missing one incredibly critical aspect of training. An aspect so crucial, its absence could derail even the most hardy and determined train.
He wasn’t having fun! He did not enjoy the work he was doing. He did not feel good about what he was capable of. The man was never happy about the weight he could lift, he could only focus on the lifts he missed.
Regardless of how well every other aspect of training is happening, without fun, days feel longer, weights get heavier, and driving to the gym becomes a much greater task.
What can we draw from our three stories?
A few things. 1, Fitness is a journey and a process. It will take a long time to transform your body, and that’s okay. 2, You need to enjoy the process if you plan on making it very far. If you don’t feel good about what you’re doing, then what’s the point? You are the biggest key to fulfillment in your fitness journey.
Ways to stay positive?
Here are my tips, which have helped me a great deal in my journey.
1, Find good people to put in your corner. Surround yourself with men and woman who make you feel good about yourself. If one of your training partners is always dreary, down, and pessimistic you have a couple options. One, say something. Let them know how to help you. “Hey, for this to work for me, we both need to have a better outlook on things” or “I need more high fives during workouts” or “I need us to cheer each other on” though these sounds silly, your training partners can’t read your mind. Its okay to say exactly what you need. Or two, find some other people to train with. Your gym has a large member ship, maybe it’s time to find some folks to train with. Working out is one of the funnest parts of my day, if you are not having fun, you may be doing something wrong.
2, Set short term and long term goals. Short terms goals help me feel more accomplished on a day-to-day basis, they can help me feel the rewards of my hard work sooner. Long term goals help remind me that I have more work to do, and how happy I will be once I can accomplish a long term goal. Additionally having short term goals do the most in encouraging me to keep coming to the gym consistently.
Typically, athletes can set long term goals fairly easily. Long term goals are often numbers we want to hit on lifts, or an ideal body weight.
Short term goals could be something like how many pull ups I want to do this week, how many CrossFit classes to attend this week, or what is a realistic weight for me to hit in my lifts this week.
3, Start a journal. Take 5 minutes at the end of your day to reflect on what felt good. Even if the workout felt awful, try to find at least one aspect you feel good or accomplished about.
This may seem like a chore at first, but after about 10 good days, you will begin to feel more confident about the work you are putting in.
If you struggle with keeping a consistent diet, keeping the journal helps me take accountability for the food I eat, and helps me feel rewarded when I do have a really good day in terms of my food.
Finally, everyone has off days when we feel slow and heavy. Often times my feeling of accomplishment on these off days happens just by entering the gym. Even if my lifts are awful and my workout is terrible, I still have the satisfaction of making it into the gym when I had every reason not to. Try to remember these are the days we grow the most, because those are the days we truly overcome a struggle. Despite all obstacles, we still manage to stay focused and get some work done.