Prioritization in Goal Selection

“The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.”
 — Brandon Sanderson
You may have noticed we have lots of new athletes coming in the front door at CFKI, ready to start (or re-start) their fitness journey.  Maybe you’re one of them!  Outstanding.  We all can’t wait to share in your trials and triumphs that are sure to come.  One of the first things we want to know from our new members, and indeed all of our members is, What is your Goal?  This helps inform the coaches on what your reason for coming into the gym everyday is, and also how to appropriately scale workouts for you.  It also helps our coaches keep you focused, and ready to celebrate when the time comes and you smash it!
A common theme that we see in goal selection is over-reaching.  It’s easy to come into the gym and see someone do a Muscle-up and think, or even say out loud to a coach, “I want to be able to do that.  That’s my goal!”  For the most part, a good coach’s reaction will be some version of, “Pump the brakes, all in good time.”  Of course, achieving a Muscle-up is a very worthwhile goal — as I’ve shared with a few individuals lately, I think the development of new gymnastics skills is a huge motivator within CrossFit and helps us all stay EXCITED about what is next in our overarching goal of constant improvement.  But what if you can’t yet get a Pull-up?  Or maybe you’re not yet consistently doing CrossFit?
It’s easy to be bewildered by the huge mountain of skills and tests that we want to improve on — even for an experienced athlete.  To help us out in our quest, Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, drew a pyramid of fitness development that goes like this (I’ll attach the picture in an email to the group as well).  At the base of the pyramid is Nutrition.  It makes sense that without a strong base of nutrition — if we are not fueling our body like an athlete — then everything else on the fitness pyramid will not be able to be stacked as high.  For the purpose of this discussion we will leave Nutrition alone, but suffice it to say this is crucial!
Next up on the pyramid is Conditioning.  Think of your Conditioning as your short-term work capacity, and your longer-term endurance.  Your ability to maintain an appropriate pace through a workout or a physical task in life.  Before you seek a goal further up the pyramid, think about selecting a Conditioning goal like getting your 1-mile run time under 10 minutes, or being able to do 30 burpees without stopping.  The best way to improve your conditioning is to show up at the gym and give it your all, as many times as your schedule — and your recovery — will allow.  As your aerobic and anaerobic capacity improve, you will improve your workout scores, you will lose weight, and you will be closer to selecting a higher-level goal to shoot for next!
Gymnastics is next.  Here we are!  We have improved our Conditioning to our goal level, and now we’re ready to select a movement-related goal.  Within the realm of gymnastics, first choose a movement within what I would consider “the fundamentals” — squat, sit-up, push-up, pull-up, dip.  If you cannot perform one of those well, work with a coach to identify the most appropriate goal and a training plan to get there.  Next on the list to check off would be other common but higher-skill movements that we test all the time like box jumps, double-unders, toes-to-bar.  If you can check off the fundamentals but one of those makes you cringe, it’s time to get after it!  Finally we have the pinnacle, at least in regular CrossFit programming, of gymnastics movements — handstands and handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, and pistol squats.  These lists of course are not comprehensive — it’s 6:30am as I’m writing this — but meant to be a progressive guide through the intimidating realm of selecting a Gymnastics goal.
Weightlifting is stacked above Gymnastics, like a barbell stacked above a strong athlete.  This is not to say that you can’t choose a Weightlifting goal before you’ve mastered all of the gymnastics movements, but I would caution against choosing to aim for a 200-lb Front Squat before you can properly (and safely) squat to full-depth.  Make sense?  Just as we wouldn’t shoot for a Muscle-up before a Pull-up, we wouldn’t want to load up and go for the gold without first establishing a strong bodyweight-strength base.  And of course this starts with being in good Condition, and paying attention to our Nutrition, just to bring it all full circle.  But, absolutely, if Weightlifting is what brought you into the gym and you can execute an outstanding set of 20 push-ups and 50 squats, then let’s talk about a goal of Clean-and-Jerking your bodyweight!
Selecting a personal goal within all of the movements that we practice and benchmark tests that we throw down can be daunting.  But if you think about it as a pyramid of establishing a strong base of Nutrition, then Conditioning, then Gymnastics, and then Weightlifting, you can prioritize your goals effectively and progress more quickly as an athlete.  Don’t pull the wool over your own eyes and ignore a glaring weakness in a lower level, or the overall pyramid — your fitness and your health — will be built on a shifty base!
As always, let me or any of our coaches know if you’d like to discuss your goal.  We can help you navigate the process and also help create a training plan to get you there!

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