On November 30th, we will redo a workout that we originally did a little over a month ago. Have no illusions, this workout is going to hurt and for some it will go well, for others, perhaps not so much.
The overall structure is simple and grueling – For time, complete a 2000m row, then 150 wall ball shots, and then 150 box jumps. Nothing complicated, just 25-30 minutes of sustained effort.
Similar to a previous experiment that I wrote about here, we have done a series of variations of the original workout during the last few weeks. In each of those different versions, athletes have had the opportunity to experiment with each of the movements across different time domains and at different volumes. The basic intent of these types of experiments is to allow athletes the opportunity to figure out how they best optimize their power output across different movements and at various time domains. Bottom line, we are learning how to make ourselves fitter faster.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems, or should I say challenges, with experiments like this is that there are invariably going to be athletes who will do worse when we retest the original workout. I’d love to paint a pretty picture where everybody improves by huge amounts of time and we all dance around happy and excited.
But the reality is that with a workout like this, so many variables – poor sleep, consistent attendance, unexpected injury, nutrition choices, faulty logging habits, etc – influence a single performance that there is as much likelihood that a retest yields a slower time as there is that an athlete improves.
With that in mind, as a coach, I find myself preparing for the inevitable highs and lows that athletes may or may not experience in the coming days. But to be honest, it’s not my job to frame this in a positive light or try to sugarcoat it for athletes. I feel like pretending that “everything will be awesome” screams inauthenticity.
Instead, what I offer is that we are not one workout. We are not the emotional low of that unexpected poor performance. Conversely, we are also not the emotional high of the equally probable good performance.
If someone were to ask you to define what makes your car a car, what would you say? Would you tell them about the steering wheel? The radio? The tires? The engine? If I could only see the headlights, am I looking at your car?
In the metaphysical thought experiment concerning the Ship of Theseus, Plutarch, and more recently Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, pose the question of what would happen if you replaced each plank of Theseus’ famous ship one at a time until all the planks had been swapped out. Would you still have the original vessel?
As we progress in our own fitness journeys, at what point do we become fit? What is the defining moment that we step out of the former version of ourselves and have a profoundly new identity in the gym? Is it the moment you get a personal best in a workout? Lift a five pound PR in your clean and jerk? Or should we ask Plutarch again?
I challenge you to let go of what you think will define your success in these coming weeks and simply keep showing up. Let the individual moments of failure and success wash over you and focus on the process. Consistently show up each day, focus on the routine, and lean into the mundane basics.
I’ll be sure to celebrate the wins with you and we’ll always take the time to explore the setbacks along the way.
See you on the Creek.