Here it is. The day you've been pumped about for weeks! It's testing day. You've packed your lifters, grips, straps and wraps. Nothing can stop you. You're determined. You're fit and you've logged the hours.
You pull into the gym parking lot blasting your favorite pre-workout tunes. Stepping inside, you see all your favorite people and coaches. A great warm-up and then the coach reviews the lift. The push press. And it's a 5 rep max day. You're hoping to beat your old score of 165lbs. 15 minutes into a 20 minute max-out window, you load the bar with 170lbs, a 5 pound PR. A few deep breaths and a grunt or two, you pick up the bar. One. Easy. Two, a little harder now. Three. Oh yea, its starting to get heavy. Four. Only one more rep. Five... but halfway up, the bar stalls like it hit a brick wall. You fight and push and grunt and groan but it won't budge. Pissed off, you drop the bar. You hear a few buddies ring the PR bell and celebrate wildly over their success. You spend the remainder of the hour sulking over your failure as an athlete and can't seem to shake the feeling that you're just not good enough.
As CrossFitters, we need to learn that hitting a PR is not the end goal of what we do. Enjoying the journey and overcoming the small daily obstacles are the real PRs. When you do get a chance to ring that bell, it's great and you should celebrate that new accomplishment. But if you don’t hit a new PR in a lift, don’t stress – instead, get back to the drawing board. Begin analyzing why you didn’t PR and try to figure out if it is a strength, speed, skill, positioning, mobility, muscular imbalance, or mental issue. Now you’ll know how to change your focus for next time around.
Along the way, celebrate the small wins like avoiding traffic on the way to the gym or making friends with a new member. Those are the real victories. Our sport of CrossFit doesn't pay the bills for any of our members. It is a stress relief, not a cause.
We live in a very test oriented society. In school, in jobs and careers, tests seem to be a measure of one's ability. But should that be the case? Five rep maxes or one rep maxes are very similar to test taking. It's an acquired skill. It's a skill that diminishes with biological and training age. Does the fact that you failed to PR on the specific max out day mean all your training to that point was a waste? Absolutely not. It just means that you may have to work on different avenues of fitness. Meaning you may need to work mobility specifically. Maybe positional work will benefit you. Maybe your mental game isn't as sharp as it should be.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As coaches, we have seen athletes throw more weight on the bar but totally avoid the things that may actually be holding them back. That means working on the unsexy stuff that you'll never see on instagram. It's the 30-45 minutes of mobility that needs to be done to improve your overhead positioning, or the positive self talk in the car before the workout. It's the small things that make the biggest difference.
Look, failure is inevitable. Take it from me. As I get past my peak training age, I have to come to terms with the fact that PRs will be few and far between. As I take on more roles and responsibilities in the gym, I know that the time I can dedicate to training will severely diminish. I take the small wins when I can. However, you don't want to fear failure. Embrace it. It makes you stronger in the end. I hear people say a lot, "Oh, I think I will just stay light today" but when I unpack that a little and pry deeper, its not because of any injury or concern about health. It actually stems from the fact that they are fearful of what may happen. Avoiding failure is the express lane to more failure and a severe limitation on your full potential. In the CrossFit world, where PRs and big lifts are the expectation, failure is looked as a nemesis. Reality is that failure is a common thing but nobody talks about it. Embrace it and grow from it.