When I started CrossFit, I was intimidated and confused. There were muscular people all around me throwing weights around, grunting, completely aware of everything going on around them, and most of them didn’t even look tired, they just looked badass. Even after taking two beginners courses, one in Spanish and one in English, it still took me well over a year to remember the names of the lifts and what all the CrossFit acronyms meant.
It took me 2.5 years of doing CrossFit just to get my first pull-up and learning how to string them together efficiently has only been something I’ve mastered in the last year. It is still one of my most difficult movements and I definitely still can’t butterfly them. Double unders? Well, if you know me, you know there has been a lot of frustration and crying surrounding this movement. Again, I am roughly 4 years into CrossFit and it took me over a year of consistent practicing, rope-throwing, and tears of desperation to get where I am today. And where I am today is that I can now string double unders together and complete WODs that have them, but my personal record is still only 42 consecutively. I often look at people who effortlessly string 100 together and wonder how many more years it will take me to get there. I still can’t do a muscle-up and handstand push-ups are gradually getting easier for me, but are still difficult and slow in a workout.
Throughout the years I’ve seen many different types of athletes walk through the gym doors. Some pick up movements quickly, and some take a while to learn and master stuff, like me. I’ve had many moments when I’ve watched people who have only been doing CrossFit for 6 months to a year, learn to do pull-ups, double unders, and get a muscle-up all during that time period! I’ll be honest, seeing this has made me question if I’m putting enough work in, listening to the right coaching cues, and at times I even feel downright jealous. I wish it was that easy, and quick, for me to learn difficult movements and to excel in the workouts.
We are often told that we need to put the work in, be patient, keep trying, and work on our weaknesses, but the truth is, sometimes even when you do all of those things, it may still take years for a movement to click. Comparing myself to others normally just makes me feel worse, and that’s because each person is coming from their own set of circumstances. There are tons of factors that contribute to someone’s athletic performance – age, athletic background (gymnastics, cheerleading), height, weight, past injuries, arthritis, mobility, and genetics, just to name a few. It also doesn’t help me get a muscle-up to be mad about someone else’s. I only have control of what I can do and if I am trying my hardest and giving my best effort, I can be proud of myself today.
Comparing ourselves to others sets us up for feelings of discouragement, jealousy, and lack, when in reality our best competition is ourselves. That’s why we track our scores in SugarWOD, record our heaviest lifts, and our movement PRs. Because we so quickly forget that we do progress (even at different rates), and that we are getting better year after year.
When I feel discouraged, I try to remember where I came from – my heaviest weight, post-sixth knee surgery, a soccer player who has never done gymnastics in her life, never got a pull-up (even in elementary school), hardly any arm strength (it was all in my legs), and years of heavy drug and alcohol use. When I think about what I’ve been through, I am able to celebrate my wins (no matter how slow I think they are) and set goals for the next thing.
I don’t expect to never feel defeated, because that’s what it can feel like sometimes when you try and fail at something. The mark of true personal growth is how we progress in the face of adversity. You can cry, you can throw your rope, you can even be jealous! But as long as those things don’t make you give up, you’re on the right track to win the competition against yourself.
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-Kelly Fitzgerald Junco is Special Projects Manager at CrossFit Cape Coral, a writer and marketing professional, and Certified Professional Recovery Coach.