The Sweet Spot
In most cases it takes several years to find the Sweet Spot in CrossFit. What am I talking about? I’m talking about that thin red line that you will learn to tread very lightly in an effort to maximize your fitness. What does training hard really look and feel like? How hard should I train? How many days rest should I take? How much sleep do I need? How much food do I need to eat? These are all questions that a person who is serious about their fitness will eventually be faced with. I’m going to specifically talk about training hard and pushing your limits. It’s the Sweet Spot, and it is generally not so sweet. The internet is fully of douchy form Nazi’s who have lots of time to critique the latest video of you getting a .75 lb PR on a lift you have been working on for the last 16 months. I will go out on a limb and tell you that those folks are f*cktards. These are the folks who have never trained hard, never wanted something so bad that they lost sleep over it. They don’t understand that if you want to be the best there is going to be a long road of failures along the way. No coach or athlete worth their salt will say anything other than “good try, now work on this and you’ll get there”. The ones that have been there know how it works.
I’m going to lay it out for you plain and simple. You have to push your limits. You have to go actively looking for the Sweet Spot, which oddly enough looks very similar to failure. This is non-negotiable if you want to attain any sort of favorable adaptation in strength, endurance or GPP (general physical preparedness). Oh, you want to run a sub 5 min mile? How often to you run 800m sprints? Oh not often? Yeah that’s because it is the worst distance ever in track. You can’t run your fastest mile until you learn to deal with the mental and physical anguish of sprinting an 800 over and over again as hard as you possibly can. And I’ll just let you know now, your pose running will suck to the 100th degree on those training days. You’ll probably look like someone just shoved an M80 up your ass, but you will beat your previous times when your pose was perfect and you had a perfect 15 degrees forward lean!!! Oh you want a 500lb back squat? Well you have to get under 400 lbs first and take it a$$ to grass. You will stand it up and your knees will cave (sorry Stephanie) and you will feel like passing out. Then one day your knees won’t cave anymore and people will say “that dude knows what he’s doing”. You will dive under a heavy clean knowing full well that you will probably catch it on your toes with your elbows down and likely miss the lift, but you’ll dive under and try to catch it anyway. You will have to have some sloppy days on the pull up bar when you look like a person being strangled from a noose. You will have some lifts that everyone in the gym (even the guy who started yesterday) will make the “what was that?” face. If you want a true one rep max deadlift, there will likely be some (I say some, and only thoracic spine) bend in your back. You will do push ups like a limp d!ck sloth. You will smash your head doing hand stand push-ups. Those days are almost a requirement to get better. If all it took was a picture book or a YouTube video to be proficient at something then everybody would be good, failure wouldn’t be in the English lauguage and coaches wouldn’t exist.
If everything you do is perfect and the form never waivers then you will get passed up by all the athletes who found the Sweet Spot. You will hit a REALLY crappy PR before you ever hit one that looks good. If you don’t know the shooter analogy for intensity then Message to Garcia! When I was little and I wanted to learn to dribble with my left hand, I spent the better part of three months bouncing the ball in every direction except back to myself. I broke things in the house, I hit myself in the face, I dribbled off my knee and into the ditch, the dog was petrified of me with a ball. I probably looked like I had never seen a basketball in my life, and I was an athletic kid. Then one day I couldn’t tell if I was better with my right hand or my left. You must get outside of your comfort zone. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You must push past those points where your mind tells you to stop. Here’s why…. That is the only way to get better, period! It’s the only way to find out what’s really inside. No amount of supplements or special programming with cool linear graphs and really sexy auxillary work can be substituted for working so hard that you rethink life decisions you made 10 years ago. Do you want to know what your true potential is? Go to the dark place you don’t want to go. Pat Sherwood once told me that after watching thousands of people do Fran at the Level 1 seminars how interesting it was to see the difference between the people that absolutely have to put that bar down during thrusters and the people that just wanted to put the bar down. From a coaches stand point this is the most rewarding adaption to witness. The one between the ears! It’s that point when you see an athlete who looks like Rocky Balboa in the 27th round against the steroid monster, and they keep going. They want nothing to do with that next rep, and they do it anyway. That is the Sweet Spot!
You can’t and shouldn’t train there all the time, but you have to go there periodically. I’ll admit it does get easier, and then it gets harder. As coaches we are there to push you to the sweet spot and while avoiding the train wreck. You should spend the majority of your time training under the guidelines of mechanics, consistency, intensity (in that order) but there is a time to throw caution to the wind. Trust us if we say go heavier or take some weight off. Trust us if we say speed up or slow down. We know that the road to a stronger, faster, healthier you will be paved with some really sloppy sh!t occasionally (occasionally being the key word). As long as you understand when that is happening and you are constantly striving to make corrections and chasing the ever elusive “Perfect form” then you will be fine. On the other side of all those crappy form days is a phenomenal lift that people will smile at, there is a string of butterfly pull ups that Chris Spealler would be proud of, there is a Fran time that people will be jealous of or a muscle up that the other girls will hate you for. So the next time you read a bunch of internet geniuses posting comments like “oh that back was rounded, you should do blah blah blah” or “you should change the way you do that because wa wa wa wa” just blow it off and be proud of the fact that you had the balls to test yourself. Dave Tate once posted a comment on his ELITE FTS blog about internet trolls and it went something like this, “If you are jerking around commenting on blogs that exactly 1.5 people give a sh!t about, then you aren’t training.”
Form with intensity is a fine balancing act, and you will falter if you are pushing hard enough. That’s ok. Fix the deficiencies and get back to work. We will stop you before you go too far and the wheels come off the bus. You’ll be amazed at what happens down the road.
Keep training hard and hit your weaknesses!
2016 03 19