Setting Goals & Maintaining Motivation

Setting Goals and Maintaining Motivation

The honeymoon phase

In the first year of CrossFit, everything is new and exciting and fresh. Athletes find that they learn something new in every class, and constantly improve. Training consists of hitting PBs and feeling the difference as techniques and patterns become second nature. In the second year, athletes go from small numbers to big numbers, lifting weights they never thought possible and drastically cutting their WOD times down.

During this period, the growth and improvement in CrossFit and fitness is exponential. This progression is incredibly motivating and inspiring – it leaves athletes hungry for more knowing that the amount of time they put into their training will equate to the amount of reward they receive. Athletes are seen leaving every session high fiving, rolling on the floor laughing and feeling pumped and ready for more… then year three happens.

Staying motivated to fine tune

Generally, in the third year of CrossFit, athletes have developed all or most of the skills needed, and must now focus on fine tuning those skills. Progression now comes in shaving seconds of a WOD time, lifting half a kilo more on your clean and jerk, or becoming more accurate with the timing on a movement. These achievements don’t really induce the need to high five a friend – they are rather small, quiet, internal victories and rewards.

The thing is, though, that all progress is positive – no matter how slow you perceive it to be. Becoming an athlete that is conscious of how you move, being more aware of your breathing and timing, takes your training to another, more mature level. It’s about perfection rather than maintaining a plain “I’m going to lift this bar” mind-set.

This is usually where athletes start seeing the “plateau”; but you only really plateau when you stop putting stimuli in. When you don’t practice the things that you’re not good at, then you will tend not to see much change in your performance. At this stage, athletes need to change their approach to training.

Athletes should pick skills that they could improve on, and ask a (knowledgeable) friend or coach to offer constructive criticism on how to become more effective in the movement. A second pair of critical eyes will go a long way to let you know where you are going wrong, or whether an adjustment to the mechanics is required. Work on drills to make the movement more efficient, and you will see improvement, allowing you to enjoy it more – which will lead to heightened motivation.

Remember that every CrossFit movement – from metcon to gymnastics and Olympic lifting – can be improved on. You don’t have to be working on a super-skill to achieve “aha!” moments for yourself, or “oh wow” comments from fellow athletes. It could be as simple as your fluidity through wallballs, your rebound on boxjumps, or your smooth transitions through a complex – all of these things are gratifying and can help you out of a plateau.

What goals should you be setting?

In the first month of training (when returning after a break) the goal should be to get comfortable with being uncomfortable again – the hardest thing when you come back is that you aren’t used to the intensity. It’s not that you’re unfit; it’s just that your nervous system has switched off, your adrenaline and cortisol have switched off, and your brain has been on holiday. When you all of a sudden come back to for-time, for reps, under load WODs your body isn’t used to it, and it’ll take a bit of time for everything to switch on again.

Once you’re there, and you don’t feel like throwing up every time you work out, start looking at the competition calendar, select which events you want to participate in and set up a relevant training programme for yourself.  Box owners and coaches should be doing this anyway, so that the basis of their programming is according to upcoming competitions, and then tweaked for those that don’t want to compete.

Not competing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be setting goals. Non-competitive athletes can set biomarker goals (body fat percentage, blood pressure, etc.), strive to finish a WOD in the time allowed, or push themselves to be able to do 75 percent of the work RX.

Whether you’re competing or not, remember to choose measurable goals so that you can track your progress. Write them down; thinking about them isn’t enough!

Written By: Diane Teles, Co-Founder of CrossFit 360Vida, Level 1 coach and physiotherapist