For the sake of illustration, let’s consider two athletes. The first is a repeat world champion triathlete. The other? He’s a deconditioned, retired real estate agent with twenty or thirty extra pounds of inactive lifestyle hanging around his midsection. You could very well put these guys on either end of the fitness spectrum and no one would argue with you.
There’s an interesting note about these two seemingly opposite individuals that is worth noting, however. Comparatively speaking:
For which athlete, is the exhaustion of a maximal effort greater?
Of the two athletes, who hurts the most after an 800m time trial?
Which athlete must rely heavier on hydration?
Of the two, which athlete must pay closest attention to nutrition?
Who is affected more by sleep, or lack thereof?
I’m sure by now you’re catching my drift. Finishing 3 rounds of 400m runs, 24 push ups, and 12 power snatches as fast as possible hurts the same for the newbie as it does the advanced athlete. The take away of this, then, is two fold..
1. We all have access to the same gains.
2. We all will have to bear the same pains.
The next time we take class together. You can enjoy the fact that it sucks just as much for me, as it does you. The reward is just as a sweet, too.
3 Rounds for distance and reps of:
6 Broad Jumps for distance
90 sec Max KB Swings
-Rest 2 min-
Question for you: As a “back of the packer” 41 year old Crossfit devotee, who truly truly truly wants to cry each and every WOD five years running – are there specific theories you have as to how that ratio might shift? Doesn’t the practice of repeated mental toughness help the “elite” get through a WOD much better than the newbie since he has command over what’s going on between his ears? Doesn’t conditioning to feel the discomfort and find comfort in it the result of years of consistent practice? Yes, the “pain” signal may be equivalent if we could qualitatively measure “pain”, but doesn’t the seasoned athlete, trained properly in grit, suffer less of a dent to his momentum/morale as a result of a different/less “wounding” framing of that pain, which is just a signal? I’d welcome your thoughts on this…then again, suck is as suck does.
You’ve nailed it. Your point is one that I conveniently left out. Everyone’s worst nightmare is relative, right?
Though the “suck factor” may be the same for both athletes. There is a difference in practice. The seasoned athlete, know how to “go there” and is much more comfortable with the “suck.” The beginning athlete is usually experiencing a whole new level of pain that is A. Scary, B. Sucky, and C. Unchartered territory. The pain signal as you called it may be the same.. but the experience may be a whole different animal to a newbie.
Just to throw the wrench into this quality discussion.. One might also argue that the experienced athlete has an ability to go further and experience more pain. All politics aside, Lance Armstrong, for example, has proclaimed in the past that he was simply willing to hurt more than other athletes. Those words seem to be paraphrased from the King of Pain, Steve Prefontaine. Having the skill set and experience of an elite athlete, one could say, affords them 5th and 6th gear, while newbies only can feel some much of “the suck,” as they only have access to 2nd and 3rd gear, for example.
Great points. I think this discussion is getting to the core of why our training modality is fundamentally different from the traditional/globo way, as it is (in my opinion), uniquely focused on mental training to facilitate physical training goals – which is why Crossfit/HIT tends to trend towards personal development in ways that other “fitness” activities don’t – and exactly what smart companies like Nike use to become lifestyle brands. So now we have made the distinction of “suck” vs. “pain” – both of which have tolerance levels depending on individuals. Your point about gear 5 and the fear of feeling it I believe is exactly what the holy grail is ….personally (and Brian McKenzie has a lot of great stuff to say about this…) my BRAIN is wired to STOP me if it perceives that my PAIN signal at a certain setpoint because the BRAIN (not the thinking “mind”) is always, always, always, wired to keep us alive. And when that signal reaches a redline it’s never experienced, the SUCK kicks in to get us to slow down, drop the bar, begin negative self talk, etc., not because we’re weak or lame, but because that’s what our system is designed to do…so athletes like Pre, Lance, etc. have clearly done the work of alerting their brain that it’s ok, that the signal is one the body can handle, and they adapt and evolve in performance as a result. I can feel the precise moment when this happens – we are trained as kids that this is “failure/fagtigue” but you are correct – its the momen when we are about to go into unchartered space – which is never pleasant and humans are designed to avoid at all cost – and that took about 3 years for me to get to. Now that I can tell when this happens I am working on living in that suckzone for 5 seconds at a time, continuing beyond, allowing my brain to compute I’m still alive and well and seeing how that goes. To be continued.