classes each week (52 weeks) for 4 consecutive years, you would achieve a level of fitness that 1) the current version of you would never believe and 2) could not be un-done.
Let’s expand, I’ve coached / been involved in the fitness industry for well over a decade and during that time I’ve coached hundreds of people from all walks of life (those that started fit, those that started as couch potatoes, those who were former athletes, those that defined athletic achievement as typing 300 words per minute, those that were young and those that were “old”). I’ve seen every category of person succeed and every category of person fail.
The success stories have a few things in common: 1) they never gave up, 2) they had fun and 3) they had a hunger to know what THEIR body could do. I emphasize that because they kept their focus on themselves and not what others were or weren’t doing. Okay, so how do these 4 years play out….and a bigger question, is it worth it?
Phase I: Neurological
So a cool thing to note is that your body, as it exists today, is WAY stronger and WAY more capable than you can understand. The average “untrained” person maybe utilizes 15% of their actual strength in their daily life….for some far less. Now if you had the ability to express 100% of your strength on some random day (think about a mom lifting a car off a child) you would be in the hospital with torn muscles, ligaments, tendons and probably rhabdomyolysis.
When you realize you want more than that 15% you need to train your tissues, nervous system and the psychological aspect of your brain to start bumping that number up.
The first, and fastest, thing that happens is the connection between your brain, your nervous system and your muscle tissue. A process referred to as myelination allows your brain to send signals to your muscles faster. A lot of people think of this as “muscle memory” and sure you can use that term, but the idea is that the more you do something the better you get at it. Your muscles contract faster, they respond faster and that allows you to tap into a greater percentage of your capacity. People think their muscles need to get bigger to get stronger, not true, the current muscle mass you have can get stronger without “bulking up.” Women, please take note of this, lifting weights DO NOT make you “big.” Lifting weights makes your muscles strong.
It’s important to note that when you start training your increase in strength is going TO THE MOON! Or at least it will feel like that and this will last for a while, but during Phase II the increases will be harder to come by.
Phase II: Tissue Changes
For 90% of people they will be thrilled to stay in Phase I forever. Dial in your nutrition, use the muscles God gave you and you will be happy. But for some of us we want a little more.
During Phase II we have to work dramatically harder to achieve much smaller increases. You’ll notice I didn’t write “muscle change.” Generally you need to think about two types of tissue: 1) muscle (we all know this one) and 2) connective tissue (think tendons and ligaments). You could even include bones in this category, but let’s not get too far into the weeds.
Everytime you stress your muscles you are inevitably going to stress a joint. This is good and bad; good because both things make you stronger and more stable in the long run, but bad because most people don’t realize the latter is happening.
When you stress your joints you are creating microscopic tears in the tendons and ligaments, our understanding of muscle damage is similar. Great! When these heal, those tissues get stronger. Bad news! The repair process for this is much slower than muscles because there is a much lower level of blood flow (generally) to these tissues.
Long story short, after you work out you drink your protein shake and give those muscles a day or two off and you should be ready to go right? Nope….well almost nope, you have to be aware that your connective tissue took a beating too. Most people are unaware of this and then they develop minor aches and pains and sometimes they believe this to be an injury and give up. Bad idea, no one ever died from a sore shoulder….but heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. So getting fit, even with minor setbacks is still a much better path than “avoiding discomfort.”
Even after people have changed how their brain interacts with their muscles and made positive changes to their tissues some still don’t reach a level of fitness that is lasting.
Because they are too scared. They think, “I could never pick up 200#” or “I’m just not meant to see my abs.” This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and guess what? They never pick up 200# and they never get to see their abs.
But for the lucky few, something happens, it’s different for everyone, but it’s life changing. And at that point everything changes. I wish I could give you a gameplan or a method to do this, but I can’t. The most common way it happens is when they beat, out-lift, out-work someone they once looked up to. There is this amazing ah-ha moment when they say to themselves, “I never thought I could do ‘that’ but I did….and I now I want to see what I can really do.”
The world opens up, possibilities become endless and a new person is born. It’s crazy to see, to get to see someone who undertakes this transformation is one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Phase IV: New Margins
Once we break-through Phase III the world looks different. We are truly transformed and we now look towards the next “impossible task” to check off the list. Instead of the old version where are goal was just to hold onto what we have, trying to avoid the “everything goes downhill after insert age;” the new version is seeking out the next barrier to break.
Once you are here there is no turning back, who you are now cannot be undone. You will not be able to remember what you were like before.
All this happens over the course of 4 consistent years. Why do I say this should happen in a CrossFit gym? Because you will be provided with a road-map, you just have to follow it.
So the big question: Are those 832 hours worth it? What do you think?