What makes the difference between the people who use CrossFit to get in the best shape of their life, and the ones who fail to get results and eventually quit?
That’s the question I seek to answer everyday while coaching at 2 different CrossFit affiliates, as I try to get people the best results out of their CrossFit experience.
I have also attended 2 other CrossFit gyms as a customer (putting my current total at 4 and planning to add a 5th this week!), in places like London, England, Pompano Beach, FL, Key Biscayne, FL, and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I’ve met hundreds of people in these gyms and I’ve had the privilege of seeing how these CrossFit gyms operate on a daily basis.
The people I’ve met come from all walks of life. I’ve met everyone from elite athletes who work out 2-3 times a day, to grandparents who haven’t worked out in over 30 years. I have seen many people who get in shape quickly and (seemingly) effortlessly, and plenty of others who continuously struggle to hit their goals.
Over time, it has become clear to me that the individual differences between people are smaller than most people think. What really separates people are their actions. There are patterns to success, and there are patterns to failure. What works for one person may not necessarily work for others, but there are basic principles that seem to apply to almost everyone.
While this post may appear to be geared towards CrossFitters, you certainly don’t have to be a member of your local CrossFit affiliate to use these principles to your advantage. These pitfalls depend more on the person than the program, and avoiding these mistakes would be beneficial to almost anyone.
Here are 4 reasons CrossFitters fail to lose weight, get in shape, and reach their goals:
1) They look at exercise as a cure-all. CrossFit, especially well-programmed CrossFit, is probably better than 98% of the fitness programs that most people have tried. With that said, exercise is just one small part of the equation, way smaller than most people think. It’s been said that no amount of exercise can make up for a bad diet and I see CrossFitters who over and over again prove this to be true. Even quality sleep and stress management can end up being much more important components for health than exercise in a lot of people.
Exercise is just a fraction of the good health equation. Don’t add stressful intense exercise to your body unless you’re willing to clean up your diet, sleep more, and get your stress under control.
2) They have shitty goals! (or no goals at all) It amazes me how many people I ask about their goals that can’t provide an answer beyond “I want to lose weight”. If “getting skinny” is your only goal, then you have come to the wrong place. Why subject yourself to the daily suffering of an intense workout, if you don’t even have a meaningful result you are looking to achieve? When someone tells me they can’t wait to get their first muscle up, that they want to defy the odds of their family’s history of heart disease, or they want to set a positive example for their kids, then I know I have someone who’s going to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Create goals that look less like a to-do list and more of a guide to becoming AWESOME. You don’t have to be an elite CrossFitter to accomplish things you think are impossible. If all you want to do is to look good for an upcoming beach trip or special occasion like a wedding, at the very least you must still clearly define your goals. And phrase it in a way that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning. Broad goals like “shed some pounds” or “eat better”, last about as long as that chocolate cake does in your fridge.
3) They exercise way too much (or at least they plan to!). Why is it that the people who have exercised the least in the last 5-10 years, always want to do the MOST exercise possible to get them back in shape? I come across people all the time that are adding swimming, Zumba(Yes, Zumba), yoga, and training for their first marathon, on top of starting CrossFit. These are usually the same people that spend 50+ hours a week sitting at a desk and can’t remember the last time they stepped foot in a gym. As much as I appreciate the effort that these people are putting in, being in great shape just isn’t as hard as most people want to make it. You can reach most, if not all of your goals, in a fairly short period of time with simple, small changes. Especially with a program as intense and effective as CrossFit.
Instead of trying to do EVERYTHING possible to lose weight as fast as you can, focus on small habits that you are willing to maintain for the rest of your life. Before you start any exercise or diet program, you should ask yourself one question.
“Is what I am doing now, something I am willing to maintain for the rest of my life?”
If you can’t sincerely answer “yes” to this question then scale back your workout routine until you are comfortable adding more training on a permanent basis. The positive habits you create are much more important than trying to be perfect.
4) They don’t track their progress. CrossFit may look like a way of competing against other people in workouts, but it is ONLY about competing against yourself. Your goal should be to have the YOU of tomorrow kick the ass of the YOU last week, last month, or last year! You set your benchmarks so you know what you have to beat the next time. The only way to do this is to track EVERYTHING you can. Take pictures, body measurements, and record your workouts. Even take note of how your energy and mood are on a daily basis.
Because no matter how hard you try to remember, you will forget where you came from. You will forget how fat you really were. You will forget that you couldn’t do a push up. You will forget how much you squatted that one day. And you will forget how many rounds of “Cindy” you completed in 20 minutes. Without specific data (pictures, measurements, logs) it is nearly impossible to see how much you progress over time. Once you forget where you came from, you can never have that opportunity again. It is lost forever. Start tracking every important variable that you can, and your past will begin to fuel your future.
What mistakes have you made when starting a new exercise program?
What advice would you give others to prevent them from doing the same?