The Growing Sport of Fitness and How to Win

February 23, 2016

This is a guest post from Andrew Essig, head coach, gym owner and programmer of Crossfit Gambit. He has coached 2 athletes to the 3 appearances at the Crossfit Games. You can follow Andrew on Instagram and Gambit Stratagem Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud.

With the Open upon us, I thought I'd talk a little about the growth I've witnessed thus far and what it means to the average fitness enthusiast as well as the seasoned competitor. Every sport throughout history has had periods of growth and necessary change as a result.

Ours is no different.

This is mostly great news for the spectator, but it might bear other implications for those with dreams of appearing on the national stage. I can recall watching a Regional event a few years back where many female athletes struggled badly with muscle ups. I wondered how they made it through the Open to begin with as well as what sort of attention there coach was giving them that allowed them to fall short so badly. I noticed the same phenomenon during a heavy strength event. The truth was pretty simple. The relative number of female athletes competing in the sport was small enough that an athlete could breeze through the Open without needing these skills. Obviously, the same observation could have been made of the male athletes but it was slightly less obvious ­I also happened to be coaching a female athlete at this time.

The point I'm getting to is that this ain't no cake walk! If you aspire to be a Regional athlete, you'd better have all of your gymnastic skills down. And I do mean ALL of them. You don't need to be the strongest athlete in your region to succeed, but you will need to compensate in other areas. A well rounded athlete will succeed, and only a well rounded athlete. This is becoming more clear in the Open every year. We've seen an increase in high skill gymnastics movements along with heavier loads and strength events.

Some people seem to take offense to the increasing difficulty in some of the Open events but it should serve as a goal for some, and a reality check for others. These events are always set up in such a way that encourages you to push your limits or go for that PR or new skill. And if you've been putting off your handstand push up practice, you'll find the Open isn't so forgiving any more.

“I get it. It's harder. What should I do about it?”

This shouldn't come as a surprise to most athletes. My best piece of advice is pretty much the most basic premise that CrossFit was founded upon:

Train everything. Be as well­ rounded as possible.

It's been said many different ways, but essentially any part of your skill set could cost you your goals. A huge Olympic lift is not a substitute for pull ups or vice­ versa. It's a hard pill to swallow, but if sacrificing some time working on your Snatch allows you to master handstand walking or pistol squats, you'll be better off for it. I know, it's so easy to spend all your time chasing that next PR, but what makes a champion in the sport of fitness isn't a 400lb clean and jerk. The truth is far less glamorous. Work on the frustrating skills that you've been struggling with 10 minutes after every training session working your weakness or flexibility will get you further than 10lbs on a lift you're already good at. On top of that, a better handstand push up might just help your split jerk and a better strict press might help your handstands!

Put in the grunt work.

The moral of the story is not to limit yourself to one aspect of your fitness picture. The prescription is the same as it's always been. The needs of the senior citizen and the Olympic athlete vary by degree and not by type. Practice everything all the time. Treat the broad catalog of skills and movements used in CrossFit as an advantage instead of treating it like a burden and you'll be rewarded in ways you never imagined.

-Andrew Essig





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