Is Routine Really The Enemy?

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Written by: Coach James“Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.” – Greg Glassman, 2002Have you ever felt a bit lost in whatever it was you were doing, then someone or something came along and introduced to you a new way of seeing/moving/thinking, and immediately the fog lifted and you could see clearly for the first time in what felt like forever? This was me when I found CrossFit in 2007. I was 20 years old, and even though I had been an athlete for 10 years already and was studying Exercise Science, I really knew very little about the practical application of how to train properly. The movie ‘300’ had just been released and with my 21st birthday around the corner, I wanted to get in the best shape of my life. I started doing some research, and eventually made my way to this style of training that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I was hooked.The workouts were different every day, which at the time seemed random, and I didn’t understand how they could make you better at anything based on what I had been taught in school. But they were intense and challenging, leaving me on my back gasping for air after nearly every session, so I kept going back for more. And I noticed that I did get better. My lifts improved, my times got faster, and I even started to get leaner (#Paleo). But I was still holding on to my old ways of thinking and would sometimes skip workouts in favor of bench presses and bicep curls. Old habits die hard. It wasn’t until a few years later that I really started to take things seriously. In 2010, I helped a buddy open a CrossFit gym, went to a CrossFit Level 1 seminar, and really learned what it was that I had been doing on and off for the last few years. (Note: If you’ve got a strong interest in learning, I HIGHLY recommend investing in the L1 course. Even if you have no interest in coaching, there are a lot of lessons learned there that could be applied to much more than exercise.) I began to track my food, log my workouts, and organize my schedule to optimize sleep, work, training, etc. My rate of improvement soared, and I became one of those people who just wouldn’t shut up about this new workout regimen. The quote at the top of the screen is taken from the 2002 ‘What is Fitness?’ article I reference often, and in it lies the phrase, “Routine is the enemy.” What he means in that statement is that in order to prevent plateaus in training, you must constantly change the stimulus. It fits very well, for that specific context. Unfortunately for many (including myself), information often gets taken out of context and applied where it doesn’t belong. For me, when the burdens of life’s demands start to weigh heavily, my first thought is to abandon the parts of my routine that feel like indulgences, which can collectively all fall under the umbrella of self-care. My workouts suffer, my eating habits go to shit, and I actually become less effectual the harder I push. I stop making plans, setting goals, writing lists, and tell myself just “be prepared” for whatever comes next. I become reactive to life’s stresses, rather than being proactive and creating the life I want for myself. As I continue to grow up and the more people I talk to, I’m realizing just how common this phenomenon is, and that I’m definitely not alone here. I’ve said often before, “If something is truly important to you, do it every day.” That, by definition, is routine, and it’s an absolute non-negotiable if you plan to live your best life. When it comes to your life outside the gym, this can manifest itself in many ways: daily journaling, meal prep, meditation, making to-do lists, creating a schedule (and sticking to it!), going on walks, etc. My advice would be to start small. Very small. Do one thing well, master that thing, then build on your momentum. Too much too soon leaves me feeling the same amount of overwhelm as not having a plan at all, and I default back to “routine is the enemy”. This is also true within the gym. CrossFit is a general physical preparedness program, meaning its aim is to make you above average at each of the 10 general physical skills highlighted proudly by the banners on our walls. If you’re particularly deficient in a skill (such as flexibility or strength), or you want to specialize in a sport (such as Olympic Weightlifting), you’ll likely need to devote more time to that than the general class has room for, which is why we believe in open gym, offer workshops and seminars, and also personalized services like 1:1 training and program design. As with everything in life, there’s going to be a trade-off, and it’s up to you to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to chase your potential.I studied Exercise Science to become a better athlete. I started training people to earn a living. I became a teacher and coach in order to help others realize their potential and help them develop strategies for achieving success, whatever that looks like for them. Throughout that time, I’m at my best when I’m committed to my routines. Nearly a decade later, I still firmly believe that the CrossFit methodology is unparalleled in its ability to produce both physically and mentally strong men and women and am beyond grateful to be able to share that with you guys each and every day. If you’d like support with structure, accountability, goal setting, please find any one of us here; we’d love the opportunity to help.When we started the monthly newsletter here at CrossFit Infinite Strength, the primary aim was to give members the feeling of cohesiveness, to let them know what’s going on at the gym, and to continue building a community of hard-working individuals who want to see each other succeed. If you have any comments or suggestions for how to improve our newsletter, or you’d like to get involved in its creation, please feel free to respond to the email you received!

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