Virtuosity

Posted: June 10, 2013 by Uncle D in CrossFit, Olympic lifting, the box, Warm Up, WOD

Sometimes you are happy with good enough. Hell, sometimes you are happy just getting through the damn WOD. So it’s super easy to get comfortable with good enough because you can do the workout, but it is not a good long term plan. In fact it’s a fantastic way to hit the dreaded plateau.

So how do you get past good enough?

I’m going to use a personal sports analogy because I know many of our crossfitters played sports as well and I am hoping you may be able to relate to a non-crossfit example more readily on this particular topic.

When I played volleyball in college, I went in knowing nothing and got by strictly on athletic ability. I quickly realized I was so far out of my league that if I didn’t get better every day I had no chance of ever making the travel squad. So I went to practice and picked one thing every practice session to give my undivided attention and full focus to improving that day – opening my hips prior to hitting, crossover steps in transition, reading opposing hitters, serving to a specific spot, etc. In downtime at the dorm I would lay in bed and set balls, or sit in bed and bump with one hand until I missed. None of these items individually were particularly hard and most were actually fun. All of these pieces and focused attention helped me transition from not making the travel team to captain and MVP my last year.

I relay this story not because I want you to be impressed, but because I didn’t think specifically about becoming a captain or MVP. I didn’t really have an end goal or a specific place at which I was trying to arrive. I simply liked the sport and wanted to be a little better every day and the rest followed on its own.

Crossfit can be exactly the same. 99% of us aren’t trying to be in the Games, we do it because we like it and it makes us feel good about ourselves. But here is a little secret, if you stop getting better it can get un-fun in a hurry. I totally get that you have a life and you don’t have the time to practice constantly (very little downtime in the dorm these days…) and it’s awfully hard to come early and stay late consistently, I’m in the same boat. But you can retrain your mind to strive for continuous improvement in form, body positioning, and technique. The simple act of choosing one thing in the warm-up or during the WOD to truly focus on and give your undivided attention can go tremendously far in improving that particular skill. Improvement in skill leads to improvement in performance, and improvement in overall satisfaction.
(That’s what she said….)

In certification they called this concept Virtuosity. One dictionary definition lists virtuosity as a person who has a dazzling skill or mastery of technique in any field of activity. That can be you. Will you be awesome at everything? Not anytime soon and maybe never but better to keep working towards that goal then not.

So pick something, anything, your air squat, hook grip, elbow position on pushups, hand placement on the pull-up bar, how you breathe during thrusters, the way you land on box jumps. The choices are endless and just like with crossfit workouts you should never get bored or feel completely comfortable. Mess with it, ask questions, test it in a workout or ten. Watch a video online. Watch someone at the box who does something particularly well and ask them. And please, don’t be a hard head, if the whole world says this is the most efficient way to do ‘x’ and you think – “Well, not for me, I’m better doing it the way I have always done it.” 999 times out of 1000 you are going to be wrong!

You won’t always be better right away, occasionally you will, but most times you might have to take a step backwards while learning proper technique only to vault four steps ahead once it clicks. That’s what happened to me on the hook grip, I was the aforementioned hard head, and once I finally quit fighting it and got comfortable with it, my lifts increased rapidly and dramatically. Miniscule steps of improvement have a way of showing up as some serious compound interest when they all decide to click together at once.

So there you have it. The secret to avoiding the plateau is simply not to accept good enough. Strive for virtuosity. Find your mastery, show me your dazzling skill! Wow… Now I’m just being super cheesy and ridiculous but you get the point.  Make it happen!

Uncle D

P.S. This post was inspired by Carl Paoli, (gymnasticswod.com, I highly recommend the progression videos), for some reason the stuff he says really seems to resonate with me, maybe it will with you as well.

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