Challenges at the Gym

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Challenges at the Gym

CrossFit workouts can be exciting and a lot of fun. That’s why many of us get nervous right before they start and have to take a quick pee 🙂 They can also be very challenging. The word challenge can be used in many different ways. One definition from Merriam Webster is:


“To arouse or stimulate especially by presenting with difficulties”


Challenge. When I hear this word, I think of a hard journey. Uncharted territory. Anticipating but knowing that there will be things that are unknowable. I think of mental toughness. I think of moments of weakness. I feel excitement and uneasy. I feel uncertain.


I think the challenge is what keeps us coming back, day after day, month after month, year after year. CrossFit workouts always present unique challenges. When we’re new we are challenged simply by the number of reps that a workout may present, maybe the amount of time, and often the mobility and/or stability requirement that movements can present. Next we become challenged by particular movements like double unders or muscle ups which are technical, requiring levels of precision that only time and focused practice can improve. Once you develop an entire bag of tools, challenges often come in higher reps of particular skills, or in besting your previous times on workouts. Maybe a new movement or one that you’ve just never been able to take a firm grasp of.


Each day at the gym, we are presented with a challenge. How do we respond to the challenge. The things that happen when we are in the thick of it?


  • We start out too fast and fall off the deep end. Maybe we need a better plan here, one that aims for building pace as we feel out the workout.
  • We get behind the pace of others and we try to catch up, in turn burning out faster. Remember, this is your race. Don’t find yourself using someone else’s gameplan.
  • We get behind and then get discouraged. Discouragement leads to shut down leading to a poor workout. Do you. Fitness is built over time. There will always be folks ahead and behind you. We’ll all get to the same place in our own way.
  • A movement challenge presents itself. We charge at it head first with a bulldog mentality and maybe some relative recklessness. We get injured. Please remember, exercise is designed to build you up not break you down. Increase fitness not set you back. If you find yourself in this scenario we can look at it from a few opportunity perspectives. You have something that you can work on and improve so that you can attack it with intensity later. You can step back and treat it like a skill build, decrease reps and aim to do them right. You can look at it as an opportunity to scale back and work a different movement that will BUILD up your strict strength and make the challenge more attainable in the future.
  • We enter the paincave and face the battle of wanting to rest. This takes a decision. If you feel your movement quality breaking down, it is time to rest. If you just want to rest because you are pain averse, attempt to keep going. We don’t need the rest unless we are breaking down or failing. The growth is in pushing our capabilities when our form is adequate. You may just surprise yourself with how many reps you can actually perform past the point of you wanting to quit.
  • We find ourselves in the paincave and push the pace when our form breaks down. Please think of your body as a machine. A series of lever arms designed to work in unique ways but not in all ways. If we have a busted lever or one that is working inefficiently, it may not break down on this day but it will break down. If you choose this route, it is inevitable. Remember, we are here to build ourselves up.


These are just a few of the experiences that I’ve had in my CrossFit existence. Maybe you’ve shared some of the same? Challenges are designed to be difficult. Not just physically but more often mentally. Challenges require critical thinking under pressure and in turn decisions. Remember your body is a tool and although it grows through challenge, most challenges in life are mental. We grow mentally from our experience. We make better decisions as we learn from our challenges, our successes, but more so from our failures. Always remember, in the CrossFit gym you are there to build yourself up not break yourself down. When you are presented with a challenge, take a millisecond to reflect on your WHY for being there. If you do that, each decision you make will be more likely to represent that. If we live by our WHY we will be the people that we say we want to be.


-Coach Derrick