No one likes being last. But, I realised yesterday that you need to get comfortable with it. Sometimes, that’s exactly the right place to be.
Earlier in the week, I went to CrossFit. I’d done a decent amount of mobility and skill work before, so I was feeling tender. After a warm-up, we went straight into front squat — working up to 3 sets of a 5 rep max.
I knew I had a decision to make. My lower back felt sore. Working under my capability was the right decision, but, deep down I didn’t want to come across as a wuss.
Most people started off light, but quickly got to their working weight. Instead, I slowly worked up to 100lbs over 4 sets. Now, 100lbs for 5 reps isn’t easy, or hard for me. But, I decided to stick at 100lbs and focus on the quality of the movement. I was squatting some of the lightest weight amongst the group, but I didn’t care.
Each set was slow and intentional. I took my time to get in position. I pushed my elbows as high as possible. My stance was the right width — my toes pointed out (but not too far). I took the time to get my core tight, look straight ahead and get my chest up. Then, a deep breath.
I descended slowly and in a controlled fashion, keeping everything tight. I made sure my knees didn’t drift inwards. I went down low — but only as low as I could keep my form. I paused at the bottom. Then, I drove up, keeping everything tight and controlled. On the way up, I breathed out through my nose. I paused at the top, taking just a few seconds. Then, repeat.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so present and focused on the quality of the movement before.
Next up, a circuit.
8 rounds — 20 secs work, 10 secs rest:
- Air Squats
- Push ups (hand release)
- Sit ups
Nothing too tricky there. But, I was worried about lower back impact.
I started off at a reasonable pace (it’s a conditioning workout after all), mostly prioritising quality of movement, over pace. About a third of the way in, I intentionally slowed up and focused more on the quality of movement.
I came second last out of the group, with 177 reps.
Despite coming second last, I felt really good at the end of the session. Weirdly, my placing and output wasn’t important. What mattered was the quality of practice, avoiding an injury and getting out of breath. I nailed all three.
So, I’m proud of that session, even though I pretty much came last. What I’m most happy about, is what led me to consciously approach the session in that way.
A year or so ago, Crossfit was my number one priority. I knew I needed to do mobility, but I saw it as a boring necessity (which I struggled to be consistent with). I was active on the side with some running and biking too.
Fast forward to today. Mobility and skill work is my number one priority. Being able to move freely, without pain and do cool stuff is what I care most about. Crossfit has been relegated to the ‘keep active’ group — along with running, biking, swimming etc.
Now, there may well be a time that I want to prioritise Crossfit higher. And when I do, I will push harder in the sessions. But, it will be when I have a better foundation of mobility and bodyweight strength. Even then, CrossFit will probably just be the highest priority in the ‘keep active’ group. Skill and mobility work will likely always be at the heart of my training.
That’s a big thing for me to say, and really mean. It shows a maturity in my training and thinking. It’s like I said in ‘How I think about everything’ — viewpoints and approaches to different areas of life have to constantly evolve. I’m not talking change for changes sake. But, change because of learning and getting smarter. My fitness goals and approach have shifted in the last 6 months in that very way.
So, even though I came close to last in my Crossfit class, I pretty much had the a perfect fitness day. I did some wrist mobility and a GMB workout (mix of mobility and bodyweight skill / strength work) at lunch. I cycled 5 miles in the afternoon. I went to Crossfit in the evening. It doesn’t get much better than that.
As I said at the beginning of this — no one likes being last. But, sometimes other stuff is more important. Being last might be the exact right place to be, for that moment in time. Even two time Crossfit Games Champion, Mat Fraser had to get comfortable with being thrashed by the high school track team to get better at running.
P.S — I want to give a lot of credit to GMB for this shift in my thinking. The thing I love about GMB, is it’s much more than a type of workout. It’s a philosophy and a method. Not only has it got me super excited to practice skills, it’s also pushing me to be more mindful and present with any movement or activity I do.