Chances are if you've recently embarked on a journey to a fitter and healthier you (eg. your working out 3 or more times a week and you recently made changes to your dietary habits) it's almost a guarantee that by now, or in the very near future you'll experience significant physical and mental gains. Physical in the form of improvements to body composition (eg. fat loss and increased lean muscle mass), Mental in the form of increased levels of mental acuity as well as an improved sense of well-being.
If you've been at it for a while (more than 6 months) You eat right pretty much all them time and exercise regularly chances are that all those significant gains or losses as they might be – the great big changes that you experienced earlier on may feel like they have slowed and now you find yourself progressing at what sometimes seems minuscule amounts. You're working out with guys that you used to dominate but now not only are they giving you a run for your money, they're starting to dish out some arse-kickings of their own, and on a regular basis too – You're losing grams, they're losing kilos. Your beating your previous WODs by seconds – They're beating their previous times by minutes. You're just getting full ROM pull-ups sorted out and they just nailed their first muscle-up (3 in a row. damn it!) – you know the story… It can be pretty frustrating when you see all this progress around you and you feel like you're plateauing because it everyone else around you is killing it. 🙁
I have totally experienced this myself. I've seen guys that I thought I had it over in workouts and strength surpass me. I've watched these guys come up through the ranks slowly at first, finally find their niche or rhythm, and now they're killing it.
It's all to easy when this happens to spit the dummy and say things like “That's it! I quit! – I'm not winning so I don't want to play this game anymore…” Coming from a guy with only a 'small' ego (joking) – I've found myself wondering what I should do now that the guys I train are starting to surpass me – I mean I used to set the benchmark for most of our workouts and the guys would push themselves to get close to 'my' time. When guys like Tim and Rosey started setting their own benchmarks and smashing my times – I was like “ah shit… what's a guy supposed to do? where to for me next?” I found that I kind of lost my motivation and it wasn't until I watched a CrossFit journal video interview with Chris Spealer that it dawned what was 'actually next…' Chris discussed how he use to post his results on the CrossFit main site and how people would try and beat his times and how now he really has an inner focus to to better himself regardless of what everyone else is doing…
If you'd currently consider yourself in a 'rut' or plateauing and losing motivation – here's a couple of key points that have helped me keep my chin up and stick with it…
- Leave your ego at the door
If you're a win at all cost kind of person or you're packing even 'slightly' competitive character traits – eventually (maybe not yet, but eventually) you will be beaten – there will always be someone skinnier, stronger, fitter or faster than you.Don't spit the dummy and quit the game just because you're not winning anymore. Take it on the chin, suck it up and deal with it.
- internalise, re-focus & remember why you're doing this
What was the original goal? what was your primary motivation? You need to look deep within (and I know that sounds really esoteric but remember you're doing this for you – and not for someone else…) If you've forgotten why you're doing it then you need a reason – you need a driving motivation… if you had a previous goal and achieved it then realise the goal post has moved. Set a new goal, find a new motivation! If you don't it's way too easy to let things slip and then you end up in a viscious cycle of self sabotage…making excuses for not having a go.
- refine and tweak your strengths
if you think you've got a 'pretty good' squat – get for a 'perfect' one – If you look close enough there's always room for improvement. Aim for virtuosity:a greater level of proficiency and efficiency in all your movements: squats, pull-ups, running technique, muscle-ups, double-unders, sit-ups, push-ups, cleans & snatches (especially O-lifts). Pull out the microscope and be brutally honest with yourself. Go hang out with people that are better then you are be prepared to take some constructive criticism. Take it on the chin and grow. Recently I went to visited a mate who's the head of Olympic Lifting at a local university to work on my snatch technique (which at the time, I thought I was 'pretty-OK') Boy did I find out how much I didn't know at… It was quite a painful experience but I was able to learn a lot and now I'm sure I'll be able to use it more efficiently in future workouts and get better times 🙂 Realise that in order to grow, develop and progress you need to keep learning . Realise sometimes it's gonna suck (actually, probably most of the time…) but it's oh so worth it.
- work on your weaknesses
Using the CrossFit model of fitness: increased work capacity over broad time and modal domains, more often than not you will find that it's a weakness holding you back. If you have a massive deadlift but can't string double-unders together you're gonna run into problems (see Greg Amundson's 'Chink in my Armour' story on the crossfit journal). If you have a deficiency – work on it. If you're a great runner but have trouble with pull-ups there's a deficiency. If you can't do ring dips then you'll never get a muscle-up – there's another deficiency -> work on it. If there's one particular movement that you hate more than any other and you're dreading the next time it comes up in a workout, there's a deficiency – work on it.
Hopefully this helps any of you who feel like you've plateaued and aren't moving forward as fast as you'd like to. Remember: Progress is progress and slow progress is better than none. As that shampoo ad says “It won't happen over night, but it will happen…” – you've just gotta want it bad enough and work you arse off to get it. -Ben