Everyone remembers the first time they had (what they thought was) a lot of money. I remember it vividly. I was in second grade and I had like $100. I spent an eternity walking up and down the aisle overwhelmed by all the different things I wanted. I finally settled for 3 G.I. Joe figurines, 2 Nintendo games and a brand new Super Soaker 50. Then I was broke. Two weeks later those three new G.I. Joe’s were no different than the 20 others I already had, my brother and I had conquered those video games and my Super Soaker 50 sucked compared to my neighbor’s Super Soaker 100. I really wished I still had that $100.
This is a great life lesson, because it’s our first introduction to how real life works. This irresponsible and frivolous spending is fine for an 8-year-old. It’s not so fine for an adult with financial responsibilities. If we decide to spend more money than we have on things we don’t need as an adult, we’re left with something far more serious than envy at our friend’s killer water gun, debt.
As we mature and move into the real world we begin to realize that prioritizing and allocating funds for what we really need is much smarter than spending our entire paycheck on. We know that our paycheck could be used for an awesome new home theater system which is what we really WANT. But we also know that we need a home for that theater system to go in first, which is what we really NEED.
So week after week and month after month we take our paycheck and pay our rent and our phone bill and our grocery bill and we save a little of that money. One day down the road I walk into the electronics store and I buy that brand new home theater system. And boy does it feel good to watch my favorite movies on that nice new system hanging on my wall and no debt hanging over my head.
I think a child with $100 is a great analogy for an early stage CrossFitter. When you first start crossfit the number of movements can be overwhelming, just like all the toys in the store. We want to get them all, muscle ups, pistols, overhead squats, etc. So what does the average CrossFitter do? We practice muscle up transitions endlessly, we keep pushing that pistol target lower and lower and we overhead squat with a PVC pipe like a motherfucker. One day we reach out goal. We get a muscle up, we get a pistol and we do an OHS with our bodyweight. It feels great, our coach high fives us and the rest of the class cheers. It feels great.
The thrill wears off of course. Your single muscle up doesn’t seem as impressive when your friend can do sets of five. Neither does your overhead squat when you notice the girl next to you doing reps with 125% of her body weight. Then comes the worst realization of all. Our shoulders hurt when we dip out of the muscle up transition and our knees and ankles scream for days after we do pistols or overhead squats. You’re in pain.
It seems you were spending money like that 8-year-old with $100, but you did it on credit. You’ve racked up some debt, which is pain. By rushing to get the movements you really wanted you disregarded muscle balance, a solid strength base and a functional range of mobility. You didn’t prioritize, you didn’t “save” your fitness.
The good news is, for most of us it’s not too late to appease our creditors. So how do we do this? The same way we spend our paycheck, we think long term. Prioritize, spend your fitness on what you need first and save it for what you want later.
What do you really need? Balance, a solid strength base, functional mobility, etc. So spend your fitness on the basics. You know what these are: core lifts and movements, carries, cardio, accessory work (yes, you do need this), etc. Spend more time balancing and strengthening the muscles around your shoulders, knees and ankles to ensure you can perform the movements you really want to do correctly and that the joints can handle the load. Work on making sure you can hinge, squat, push and pull correctly through the entire range of motion required for those difficult movements you want to do.
Once you’ve finally built your fitness bank account you’ll perform (buy) that muscle up, that pistol and that overhead squat totally pain (debt) free. And you’ll enjoy those movements just as much as you would enjoy your favorite movies on that killer home theater system.