Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, once said, “hiding from your weaknesses is a recipe for incapacity and error.” I have to say, I agree with him. Through my own experiences, I have seen how addressing my weaknesses in fitness has allowed me to grow my strengths, and also make me a more rounded athlete.
Growing up playing goalkeeper in soccer, I did not have the traditional strengths of a soccer player, namely massive endurance and extremely low levels of body fat. These two strengths put together yields athletes who typically can run for long periods of time at fairly high thresholds, and excel with bodyweight movements. For example, during summer workouts at NC State, many players on the team were doing repeat 2000m runs in roughly the same time I would be doing 1600m, or a mile. However, I was also one of the stronger guys in the weight room, posting top five results in the back squat, bench press, deadlift, and vertical jump. Clearly my strength was in being explosive, but I had a huge weakness in terms of work capacity.
After graduating off of the team, I spent the next six months focusing almost primarily on my strengths; they were easier for me, so I enjoyed doing them more. I began an intense lifting program which allowed my big three lifts to improve, but only served to exaggerate my weaknesses, as well. Interestingly, although I had spent the majority of the last semester of college lifting weights, my strength gains were minimal. I felt as if I had reached my genetic capabilities in terms of strength. However, this changed when I was forced to address my weaknesses: work capacity and body weight movements.
When I first truly discovered and dove into CrossFit, I was in Barcelona, Spain finishing my college degree. At CrossFit Eixample, near my school, the programming was very endurance based, and included a lot of gymnastic movements. Both things I have extreme weaknesses in. When I arrived, I could hardly snatch 100 pounds. When I left, only 7 weeks later, I could snatch 135 pounds. 35% change in 7 weeks is pretty awesome, even for a beginner. Somehow I did this while doing a steady dose of distance running, body weight movements, and kettlebell flows. I was really interested in how my other strength movements had changed, as well.
Upon joining CrossFit 813 in Tampa, Florida, I got the other end of the CrossFit spectrum. The classes at that box centered on a lot of barbell conditioning, heavy weights, and short bursts of high intensity. To balance this out, 813 offered Endurance Class, as well, and I took part in that sporadically. At the end of four months training purely CrossFit, my deadlift had gone up 25 pounds, my front squat improved 50 pounds, and my overhead press went up 30 pounds. Not to mention my snatch improving to 195, a 60 pound difference. Additionally, I hit a new personal best of bench press, even though we never benched in class. Meanwhile, I also ran a personal best mile, and my resting heart rate was down to 44. I also had achieved my first muscle up!
All of this made me evaluate how I should address my weaknesses in the future. There was clearly improvement across the board when I took the time to improve my work capacity (endurance) and my bodyweight skills. It seems that as these two areas improve, everything else does right along with it. I often wonder if I would have had more success while playing had I taken the time to be more well rounded, instead of so specified during my playing days.