The Secret (you already know) to being a Better Lifter

January 13, 2018

Photocredit: Crossfit Firewall 

“What is the cue you hear over and over again?”
It was a Sunday and the WOD was to build to a heavy power snatch followed by some light skill work. We had time and I was on a roll. 

“That I don’t open my hips all the way.” 

“Ok, for this whole class that is the only thing I want you to think about whenever you grab that barbell: OPEN. MY. HIPS.”

I thought I was being incredibly clever. Like, the best coach ever. It was the weekend so no one had the, I have to work out my work feels and it was a small enough class that I could go around and talk to people instead of coach and cue on the fly. We had space to the technical work that can get lost in the midst of the average WOD. 

I coach at a pretty sizable gym, and one of the follies of that is we can over-coach the crap out of an athlete. I see your not explosive enough hips. The dude on Tuesday was all up in your business about your early arm bend. And there’s a distinct possibility someone told you last week that you were’t bending your arms enough. BAH! Thus, on this particular Sunday I intended to keep it simple and noncontradictory. I gave each athlete one thing, and one thing only to work on. 

“Hell yeah! Do that!” Everyone was killing it. Explosive hips up front. Patient, long arms in the back. Weight on the heals like a freaking champion down the middle.

So why not try something? 

“Ok, now I want you to let go of everything I just told you and I want you to only focus on the thing that you do really, really well. F the bad stuff.” 

Going into skill work that was my angle. The, do the shit out of the thing you’re best at, approach. We spend so much time as coaches exposing and articulating the problem. Where is a movement falling apart? And that isn’t bad. That’s necessary. But CrossFit is hard. It’s a sneaky sport disguised as working out. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need someone to remind me that I’m doing ok here. That I’m not in fact the worst CrossFitter ever even though I have a whole pile of things to work on. 

And here’s the thing:

Everyone lifted like rock stars. In fact, all of the things I had so carefully been cuing against happening for the last forty minutes magically disappeared when people stopped being so freaking worried about them. When they got permission to let go and trust themselves and to delight in the thing they love about lifting. 

Yes, we should absolutely work on the things we suck at. And we shouldn’t cherry pick WODs just because they look un-fun in not the creepy “oh it will be awful but AMAZING” CrossFit M-O. That is not bad, but it can’t be our only approach. Struggle isn’t the only way to get better at something. Nor is solely focussing on our faults. Keep that business in mind, for sure, but why not actually enjoy the work that we do in the gym and seeing what happens when we modify for that versus what will make this the worst (and thus best) workout ever? 

I’ve found that my body and my emotional ceiling feel the best in the gym when I pull myself away from the mental laundry list of all of the things I need to and should be doing better and instead look at where and how I’m killing it. That never (or rarely) means that I rest on my killing it laurels, but rather that I suddenly have the space to re-approach were I might be struggling, but I do so now without being a grumpy pants about it.

So, what do you do really, really well? 

Do more of that.

This is a guest post from Maddie Berky. Maddie has been a coach and athlete in the CF community for the last 5 years at CF Verve in Denver, Co, and was a regionals athlete in 2014. She's currently a holistic nutritionist and life coach specializing in all things food, sex, and worthiness. For more Maddie, or to work with her, check out or follow her on Facebook or Instagram @madwellness