How Veteran CrossFitters Can Break Through Plateaus

By Craig Hysell

Remember way back in the day when you began CrossFit? Wicked awesome, wasn’t it?

The intoxicating intensity of the workout itself, your daily battle with the timer, all the new moves you had never heard of much less ever done before, the coaching, the practicing at getting better, the friendships, CrossFit was still spelled with a capital “F”… it was a freaking blast!

And the gainz? Oh… the sweet, sweet gainz that first year and a half to two years!

As your body began adapting, you started to feel invigorated and more confident. You felt great, looked great, had more sex and smiled more than you had in a long time.

You felt alive!

Is all that sustainable? Personally, I say yes. Although, sometimes for some, it just doesn’t feel that way. And I get it, really I do. Believe me.

In order to sustain gainz and that feeling of being “alive”, your mindset must shift.

As your time under tension grows and your training age matures you must practice what you are doing with a much higher degree of self-awareness.

This can be a trap in itself if you are not paying attention.

Our bodies seek comfort, but progress is the key to happiness.

To progress, you must consistently get outside your comfort zone. It is easy to become complacent. It is easy to mislead ourselves. And that’s why you have coaches.

As your CrossFit lifespan extends into the 4 year, 5 year, 6 year+ mark, you must practice with a MORE deliberate nature, not less.

This is “The Game”. This is “The Process”. This is where you might feel like things are beginning to “fade”. These feelings could not be further from the truth. It is merely that the rules of the game have evolved for you and you must now play at a “higher level” than folks just beginning.

You’re a veteran now. Physiologically you are different. Psychologically you must adapt.

This is where millimeters mean something. This is where you’re not always going to “beat” your old score on a named WOD. This is where mindset, nutrition and recovery become necessary to your progress, and no longer be taken as mere suggestion.

The game is much larger now than the amount of weight on the bar or “the score” on your workout. You must dial in on different details now to see improvements in weights and times.

It will take you more time to get better, not less. PR’s come in 5 pound increments (or less!), not thirty pound jumps. Higher level skills take more determined practice.

It’s not that you are not coming to the gym, it is that your gym time is spent inefficiently.

A veteran at CrossFit knows how to pace a workout. They know where “their weights”, they know how to move efficiently, conserve energy, not tear their hands, not risk injury and how to save up for tomorrow. They know how to listen to their body.

And this is the rub. A veteran, if they are to progress must break through this plateau. I call it the scaling rut.

Each workout for the veteran athlete must come with a specific plan during the whiteboard breakdown, not zoning out or talking with your friends… unless you’ve come up with your plan before coming into the gym, anyway. 🙂 You MUST have your WHY.

Your plan, to be truly effective, needs to have some personalization. RX’d, Rx’d +, Advanced, whatever, it makes no difference. It is simply dependent on how you intend on pushing yourself from a MINDSET standpoint, not a GOAL standpoint.

Here’s what I mean:

Every coach knows athletes who hide in Rx’d +. They put on big weights and don’t have to redline the cardio. Or every coach knows athletes who hide in light weights and never have to redline on strength.

But none of this matters. What matters is how the athlete is playing “The Game”. Because it’s all a game. That’s all it is.

What story is the veteran athlete (YOU!) telling themselves? What are their goals (the arbitrary things that provide motivation for training and brief stints of happiness)? What do they want out of today? Next week? Next month? This year?

Some veteran athletes do not have any goals. This is fine, as long as the athlete understands that progress may be extremely limited. Like Louie often says, “If you don’t have a plan, you plan to fail.”

Some veteran athletes have high competition goals. Again, this is fine, but will take as much devotion to an aligned lifestyle OUTSIDE they gym as it will to the training INSIDE the gym.

Some veteran athletes just want to keep working out daily for no other reason than just to work out… AND keep improving. As you may have guessed, this TOO is fine! (There are no wrong answers. This is not a test, it’s a game.) And to do this, an athlete has to know where they are weak and know how to attack these weaknesses. The best way to do this? Ask your coach.

Some veteran athletes, and these are the happiest ones, understand that progression, with no timetable, is the key to enjoying the whole thing. This is “flow”. Work for the sake of enjoying the work and with this enjoyment come the gainz, the satisfaction, the relaxation and the longevity.

As a veteran athlete, to get more you must invest more. You must also never forget where you came from and consistently honor thy effort.

You must eat healthier, you must work more intelligently, you must enjoy playing the long game more than you enjoy the short term goals of “winning” workouts or competitions.

To break out of your scaling rut, do these three things:

1. Ask yourself how long you plan on devoting yourself to being fit. A year? Five years? The rest of your life? Then ask yourself what you want you want out of the next six months of your journey.
2. Talk to your coach and establish a game plan that takes into account both INSIDE the gym and OUTSIDE they gym factors.
3. Do not deviate from the plan.

If you do this, you will sustain happiness in CrossFit. If not, you might finding yourself thinking about seeking happiness elsewhere.

But you must always remember this, your happiness is up to you, not someone or something else. Until you embrace this tiny little piece of wisdom, you will always feel a little empty.

Getting out of your rut is simple, not easy. It is a choice. Your CTF coaches and your CTF community are there to help. One Team. We’ve always had your back. We always will. Hugs.

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