Preface: I finished this year’s Open in 35th place in the South Central region. I am still letting that soak in, as I never set any specific goals on WHERE I wanted to finish, but rather how I wanted to just get better. A few people have asked, so I want to share my journey on how just focusing on the the daily wins, the daily progress, can help YOU as much as it helped me. Also, this is LONG and more words than you have probably ever heard me speak in class lol.
I remember it like it was yesterday. As I waited for the “Pro Team” heat to be called, I was anxious. This was the event I was most nervous about- partner deadlifts and synchro bar muscle ups. I had done bar muscle ups (for over a year at this point), but they were still super inconsistent, to the point where each day as I approached the bar I questioned whether I could do them that day. I was hopeful that today was a good day.
The event started, and we blazed through the first set of deadlifts. But then came the bar muscle ups. I tried and tried, but each attempt ended the same way: with me failing the rep. After a few attempts, I would tag out so my teammates could go, and I watched as each of the other members of my team successfully completed their sets of bar muscle-ups. I felt overwhelmed with emotions-- embarrassed, disappointed, upset, and guilty; I let my team down. Little did I know that this was a turning point for me, as after the competition I vowed that I never would feel like this again.
That was the end of January 2017. At the time, I was training at another gym in Houston with their competition class, but I had previously dropped in to classes at CrossFit Derive because I had friends at the gym. After one of these classes, Frank had spotted some ring muscle ups and given me a few cues that really helped, so I decided to ask him for help through Personal Training lessons. I was still training regularly at my old gym, but every Thursday morning, I had a 30 minute private lesson with Frank where we worked on gymnastics movements.
We started lessons the immediate week after I had my bar muscle up breakdown. Before my first session, I had no idea what to expect; I just knew I wanted to get better. Even though I could do ring and bar muscle ups, Frank started me at square one. On our first day, I literally just worked on learning how to simply jump onto the rings into a hollow position and proper swinging position. My “homework” was to practice these ring swings a few times that week before our next lesson. I put all of my energy in making this “homework” intentional and perfect-- I didn’t care how mundane it was. Eventually we progressed to actual turnovers, then actual full reps done in EMOMs (where I still failed reps every few minutes). But it started to click, slowly but surely, and after a few weeks we were working on stringing two muscle ups together.
Outside of these lessons, I was still training at my old gym and preparing for the 2017 CrossFit Open with aspirations to qualify on a team for Regionals. I wanted so badly to compete on a regional team; it was what my goal had been in training all year. However, I was mentally not in a good place. I found myself wanting my teammates to fail so I could “beat them” in workouts. I wasn’t enjoying my training, and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, day in and day out, to try to “win” workouts. I didn’t like who I was becoming-- I wanted to be an athlete who wanted to beat people at their best, who cheered for my training partners, and celebrated their successes as if they were my own. I was so focused to seriously train for competitive CrossFit that I had already planned to quit my engineering job in the fall of 2017 to do so, but I knew that for me to be successful, I needed to make a change.
In mid-March, I met with Frank about joining CrossFit Derive. In this meeting, I told him I wanted to still compete in CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting, and that I was going to quit my job in the fall to do it full time. Looking back, I realize I probably sounded a little crazy, but if he thought so he hid it well. LOL. He asked me a ton of questions about why I wanted to do it and then he told me exactly how he wanted me to approach it: start one day at a time, grow myself within the community at Derive, and take additional steps when he deemed necessary. We decided that I would make the switch in April, after the Open was over. Also during this time, I had been battling knee issues for about 6 months, and they hurt to the point where I could no longer squat without excruciating pain. So instead of April, within two days after our meeting, I withdrew from the Open and started training at Derive full time.
Two weeks later, we met again, but this time to talk about my goals for the 2018 season. And they were far from what you might expect. I had aspirations to compete on the regional floor one day, but I knew that it would likely be a multi-year process. So for the next year, we focused on just a few small things:
Improve mental disposition
Improving gymnastics skill
Improving breathing patterns
Improving movement efficiency
All these were small goals that we could focus on day in and day out, not necessarily goals at the end of the tunnel. So during my first month at Derive, I was limited to only the daily WODs- all scaled so I wasn’t squatting, plus a little extra strength imbalance or gymnastics work. It was SO MUCH less volume than what I had been doing, which took some time to get used to, but whenever I got impatient I looked back on the goals above and focused on one or more of those. I continued to take private lessons on Thursday mornings and focused on improving my gymnastics technique because I was still seeing mental and physical progress. Then, as I got healthier, we added more volume little by little. I was starting to see a small sample of how focusing on the small daily wins was leading to bigger and better things.
By the beginning of May, I did my first competition with Team Derive. In one event, each teammate had to do max sets of ring and bar muscle ups. It was my first time attempting bar muscle ups since the catastrophe in January, and my first time attempting ring muscle ups ever in a competition. My first set on the rings, I did three unbroken- a new PR at the time. On the bar, I was able to do consistent sets of threes. It felt like redemption and was the first proof that this simple focus on doing what you can with what you can when you can, really was working. I was motivated to keep focusing on the little things and trying to get better, one day at a time.
Throughout the summer, we started adding more and more volume. I started going to the gym once a week in the morning before work to do an extra aerobic conditioning workout; before long, I was in the gym every morning working on conditioning or gymnastics. We put such a huge focus on the little things- making my swing tighter on the rings, letting my toes get higher, making my dip more efficient, etc,- and when they improved, we celebrated just as hard, as if I had strung 10 muscle ups together. We added other “little things” like my nutrition, sleep, and recovery, and critiqued and celebrated those like they were snatch PRs. Each workout I did had specific goals, and the objective was to meet the goal no matter what, even if that meant moving slower, resting more, or breaking reps up differently. I felt like I was training in a bubble; I knew what I was working on, but I had no idea what other athletes were doing or how I stacked up. Until September.
During this time I registered for my first individual competition, an online qualifier. It was my first test to see where I stacked up to other competitors in the region. After the first week, I was in 4th—I was absolutely shocked. I felt like I just didn’t belong, like it was a fluke. I kept telling myself I was going to be exposed in the second week of workouts, like people would figure out I really wasn’t that good. I ended the qualifier in 14th and qualified in the Pro division. It was the first time I realized that I could compete with all those other athletes and have a chance at qualifying for Regionals --so much sooner than I ever thought possible. I started to not only believe in the process, but I started to believe in myself.
The next month was a major change for me. I quit my job and started training and coaching full time. It was a big adjustment figuring out what my body needed- from weightlifting volume, to how much I needed to eat, and how much I needed to focus on recovery. It was a mental adjustment, and now I had to focus EVEN MORE on finding the positives day in and day out, even when it seemed like I had “failed” in a workout. I battled through a few minor injuries, learning to focus on what I could to rehab and get back to training. I continued to learn, to fine tune small details, and to become mentally stronger, one day at a time.
In January, I finally got to compete in my first competition as an individual- the SAME that had haunted me the year before. Competing in Pro division meant I was up against the best—many of the athletes had competed in Regionals or the CrossFit Games. I was intimidated. One of the workouts had handstand walks, and one had ring muscle ups, two of my weaker movements. Doubts began to creep in my head again. What if I went out on the floor and failed like I had in the bar muscle up workout the year before? What if I came in last in each event? I felt like none of the workouts were in my wheelhouse, as they each contained one of my weaker movements. Luckily, Taylor was also in all of my heats, which helped immensely in easing my nerves. My favorite moment from the competition was during the event with muscle ups. Prior to starting, Frank had told us to keep our eyes in our own lanes and run our own race- essentially not to get caught up in what everyone else was doing around us and to execute our own game plans. But in the middle of the event, I looked over a few lanes at Taylor, and we made eye contact. It was like we were telling each other, “You got this!” It was confirmation- I liked this person I was becoming. Not only was I hoping my training partners succeeded in training, but I wanted to cheer them on even when they were my competition.
Although the final results of the competition were not what I had hoped for (I’m hard to please), it gave me a chance to prove that I could do ring muscle ups, handstand walks, and pistols in competition and that I could compete on my own. Though I executed my game plan and performed to the best of my abilities, I left feeling unsatisfied; I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
This year, the open was different for me in so many ways. It was my first open trying to qualify as an individual, my first open training full-time as a “professional”, my first open not comparing myself on the leaderboard, and my first open at CrossFit Derive. I think the biggest surprise to me this year was how supportive the Derive community is, how everyone genuinely wanted their fellow competitor, including myself, to succeed. It was a different experience than any other gym I’ve been at; never would I have thought people would stick around on a Saturday morning to cheer me on while I worked out. To the people who told me they were proud of me or who watched how I fared each week, thank you! It means so much to me and makes me so, so proud to be a part of this awesome community.
Two weeks in, I was ranked ninth in the region. NINTH. I saw my name on the TV during the open announcement as one of the top 10 girls in Texas that week. It felt like a dream and gave me a taste of what that success feels like. It left me more motivated than ever to keep working. Unfortunately, week three and week four were not my strongest workouts, but they gave me a chance to prove how much progress I’ve made. I did 12 muscle ups mid-workout in 2:20; last year at this time I couldn’t do 10 muscle ups in 3 minutes while fresh! However, my 35th finish was a tough pill to swallow (only the top 20 qualify). I did everything in my control this year to maximize my training, and I fell short. I’m not good enough—YET. I’m not where I want to be—YET. But I gave my best EFFORT, I know I’m doing the right things for myself, and I know eventually it will pay off.
Reflecting on this last year has been so rewarding. I’ve learned and grown so much throughout the year. I can do things I never would have thought possible- had you told me a year ago I’d finish in the top 40 in the region, I’d have thought you were crazy! My goals for 2019 are almost the same as those from 2018. They aren’t result driven, because I don’t want to be satisfied with just a number. I want to control what I can control to maximize my training. I want to focus on fixing the small details. I want to find the positives in each workout and each day. I want to get better every single day. And now I know, all it takes is just that.
One day at a time.