Get Unstuck

Think back to those first few months of CrossFit when you were hitting PRs every week and shaving minutes off your Fran time. Ah, beginner’s gains. But if you’ve been at it for a while now, your progress has likely slowed, maybe even reversed. You can’t tack another 5 pounds on your deadlift and your snatch has been stuck at the same weight for ages and suddenly CrossFit is more frustrating than fun.

Ideally, your progress would be a nice steady linear progression toward awesomeness, no wrenches or detours, like this:

More than likely, your progress looks like this:

A series of gains, followed by plateaus, maybe some setbacks, a few more gains, then back to a plateau.

Assuming you haven’t had any major physical disabilities or catastrophic life changes, you can probably blame mobility issues, poor technique and injuries for your plateaus and setbacks. Those injuries, incidentally, are probably due to mobility issues and poor technique (see how the cycle works?). Here’s the good news – it’s fixable. If you’re willing to set aside your ego, put in some work and step back.

1.  Work on your ‘bilities. Your barbell numbers aren’t going to improve if you have mobility, flexibility, and stability limitations. If your shoulders are holding you back, work on them. If squats are tough, get at those hips. And here’s the good news: You don’t need to ROMWOD for 45 minutes a day or spend 75 minutes at yoga. Pick a limitation (say, shoulders), select two movements that seem to help, and perform each of these movements for two minutes per side every day. That’s 8 to 10 minutes of work a day. There’s plenty of time to do it on your coffee break or in between meetings.

2.  Get back to basics. After 6 years of doing CrossFit, I recently discovered that I don’t know how to do a  push-up. This came as a surprise to me since I’d been RX’ing Cindy and Angie for years now. But I’ve also been nagged by shoulder injuries and post-workout migraines, which led me to realize: I don’t know how to use my shoulders. The fix? Back to basics. No longer do I fly through a WOD without considering my push-up form. I work on perfect push-ups every time. That means I get through fewer reps at a much slower pace than I used to. But I’m building my technique to become more efficient and injury-resistant. I know, I know – it’s tough to scale especially with those “easy” bodyweight movements. But bad form now will flatten your future progess so set aside your ego and work towards perfection.

3. Ask your coach for help. If it’s been ages since you PR’ed a lift and you can’t get unstuck, talk to the coaches. That’s what they’re there for. Show them a few of your sucky snatches and have them point out your mobility limitations or technique issues for which they’ll have suggestions to improve and then – I repeat – LISTEN TO THEM. They know more than you do. And if you always go to the same class with the same coach, try mixing it up to get another coach’s perspective. Sometimes another coach might offer the perfect cue for your learning style or spot a breakdown another coach hasn’t.

Don’t risk long-term gains for the short-term satisfaction of a good WOD time.

Now go get those progress graphs trending upward.