Take a look at yourself

Last post we began a conversation about how we can achieve long term success in Health and Fitness.  We stated that the first big step is to view yourself as an athlete and develop consistency with exercise and movement.

While that may sound simple for some of you, the majority of people struggle with one or both of these ideas.  Personally, when I got started in CrossFit, I was someone that viewed myself as an athlete, but struggled with training regularly.

I have always been a mover, that kid that would get lectured for fidgeting in their seat.  I never worked a desk job but rather enjoyed the service industry that kept me running around.  I enjoyed dancing, jumping over things and other random physical challenges.

When I discovered CrossFit, began exploring functional fitness style training, utilizing weights and performing short duration high intensity intervals, I realized immediately that I had neglected many aspects of my training over the years.

From the age of 4-18 years old, the only organized sport I played regularly was soccer.  There were small bouts of basketball or track, but soccer is the thing that was constant and helped form the foundation of my athletic abilities.

When you think about the gameplay in soccer, there is mostly light jogging and walking around with bursts of sprinting, accompanied by footwork and some jumping and throwing.  For 14 years, these are the types of movements that I would perform in practice and utilize in games.

During my junior year of high school, I jammed my back in a pothole on a crappy field and lost my ability to play for a couple months.  During the last year and a half of school, I was in and out of physical therapy for this debilitating pain in my back.  The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong exactly, but I was having trouble walking at points.  After a ton of testing, they established that it was weak back muscles that were struggling to support the spine after the injury.

Soccer ended after high school and my first 5 years of college I did practically nothing for exercise.  If you have read my story about getting the gym started, I had a realization in my 5th year about the importance of exercise and picked up running and pushups as my primary forms of training.  This lasted for the next 3-4 years until I finally discovered CrossFit at the age of 25.

This is the story is about who I am as an athlete.  This is not about genetic gifts, but rather experience and adaptations to the life I had lived.  Because of these experiences, there were things I was good at in CrossFit right when I started:

  • Running – Except for a 5 year period in college, I had been running in some form for my entire life, and 18 of those years included interval style sprint training.  This served as my foundation for CrossFit in the all important areas of cardio/respiratory endurance, speed and power.
  • Understanding the importance of the back and proper technique – Because of my back injury, I had a heightened awareness of my lumbar spine, understood the importance of strengthening my back and prioritized how to perform the movements properly before worrying about load or speed.  Many of the foundational exercises like the deadlifts and kettlebell swings reminded me of my PT exercises and made my back feel better!
  • Bodyweight strength – The 3-4 years leading up to my start in CrossFit included literally thousands of pushups.  This still translated into a strong midline, lats, pull-up strength and transferable pressing capacity with the barbell!
  • Hip Mobility – Years of sitting on the floor, pulling my foot up on my chair and lack of a desk job paid off in a way that I never would have guessed.  I was fortunate enough to be able to squat to full depth and hinge at my hip properly right off the bat, which is critical to optimal fitness and function.

Of course there were also many things I was not good at:

  • Leg Strength – While I may have been able to squat with good form, my lack of strength training left my legs skinny and weak.  It has taken me years to move heavier weights comfortably and this continues to be one of my weak areas.
  • Overhead Mobility – I simply didn’t do anything overhead in my training and the thousands of pushups with nothing to balance it out didn’t help.  I couldn’t do overhead squats or snatching with weight for the first almost 4 years I did CrossFit!
  • Grip Strength – This may seem inconsequential, but a weak grip can limit your ability to express your power onto other objects and stop you in your tracks in a workout.  Because I never trained with weights, and my sport was soccer, this was something that  I never trained.

Remember, the purpose of this post is to get you thinking about yourself as an athlete.  What is your unique story and how does that affect your athletic abilities as an adult?  Maybe you were lucky enough to be exposed to athletic style training when you were younger, maybe not.  The important thing is to know that you are on that path of athletic development.  To know that the only way to get better is to train and play and move regularly.  Your body will adapt.  You are an athlete!

Joe D coming back strong from knee surgery.  His extensive history of athletic training will help with his speedy recovery!

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