Coming Back From Quarantine Mindset:
March 16, 2020 we closed our doors on the order of our Governor. Since then, a lot has changed in our lives, hopefully in some cases for the better. Now that we are able to be back in the gym I have some important truths to tell you, and a mindset to practice.
Truth number one: You may not be as fit as you were in March. I have spoken with some of you about this and the concerns that I hear the most is that “I feel I have stopped making progress,” or “I feel like I am losing strength.” Unfortunately, this is most likely true, and it would be irresponsible to assume otherwise (unless you had access to a full gym). We have been focusing on bodyweight movements or DB/KB work, which while effective, does not provide the same stimulus that heavy, weighted barbells, or complicated gymnastic movements do. As a result you have most likely entered a “detrained” state, resulting in a loss of strength, and to some extent progress. You may see, however, that your bodyweight movements have improved, so be careful before you state with certainty that you have lost progress overall.
Truth number two: You have not lost your skills. Whether it be pull ups, double unders, or hang power cleans, you still have that skill. It may be rusty and out of practice, but it is still there. Instead, what you have lost is the capacity, strength, and endurance in the tissues used when doing those movements. The good news is that your proficiency with these skills and movements will come back, and fairly quickly. The simile “like riding a bike” definitely applies here, however:
Truth number three: You will be very sore. Do you remember your first Crossfit workout? Do you remember how sore you were the first month of Crossfit? Expect that again. For all intents and purposes you are starting over as new athletes – even those of you who have done something every day and joined us for classes (thanks by the way!). You will be performing movements that you haven’t touched in over two months, and will be using weights that you haven’t felt in a while. The barbell will even feel rough on your hands. Expecting to be able to lift the same amount, or perform the movements with the same efficiency is a recipe for injury. This will be a rough time for everyone as we get accustomed to Crossfit again, so make sure you are taking care of yourself (re-read the Recovery blog post if you need to).
Truth number four: You now have a higher risk of injury. The deconditioned athlete is the group most at risk for injuries in Crossfit. Not the new athletes, or even the already injured and recovering athletes. It is the athletes that know what they are doing, have a taste for intensity, and want to push themselves, but don’t have the structural or muscular capacity to perform at the level that they used to be at before they stopped. What used to be a routine stress for our bodies two months ago will have a drastically different effect on your tissues now. Think “use it or (temporarily) lose it.” Our bones, tendons, and ligaments increase in strength when they are placed under loads/stresses over periods of time, and conversely decrease in strength when these loads are removed for a period of time (Wolff’s Law for those interested). The good news is you can get this strength back, but it is going to take some time for these physiological processes to occur, which means that yes, you will have to go lighter than you did two months ago, and progressively (not vigorously!) increase load and intensity. Movement based injuries tend to occur when you do “too much too soon, after too little for too long,” which exceeds our tissue’s capacity. For example, loading too much weight on the bar too soon could potentially lead to stress fractures or throwing yourself into kipping pull-ups when you haven’t supported your body weight on a bar in months can lead to ligament tears in your wrists, elbows, or shoulders. If you approach your workouts when returning to the gym with the mindset of “protecting your bones and joints”, you’ll be making efforts for the longevity of your body in CrossFit!
Truth number five: You will be observed carefully and coached critically. You may think, “well duh, that’s what I am here for – coaching!” And you would be right, but you have not been critiqued in person in a long time. Even those of you that have joined us for Zoom classes, it is not always possible to observe movement and provide feedback in real time over the internet. Over time, without constant correction, there is a tendency for movement patterns to become lazy. Moving forward, expect to get a lot of cues and movement corrections from your coaches, and please be open to it. We are not picking on you, we are just trying to make sure that you are moving well, for all of the reasons mentioned above.
Truth number six: You will have fun! Starting fresh in a brand new space is going to be both fun and exciting. You will also be able to get back to a new normal schedule and see your friends face to face for the first time in a long time. As a result, we will be looking to build camaraderie as a gym that has survived a very rough patch. It is usually the difficult situations that tend to bring us closer together, and I expect us to be stronger as a community moving forward. Plus, you will be able to relieve a bunch of built up stress at the gym by finally picking up some heavy weights (once you are ready of course).
All of which brings us to our mindset: focus on fundamentals. While we are not back at square one, most of us will be in a deconditioned state as mentioned above. This is a perfect chance to make sure that we are moving properly and with the correct range of motion. Prioritizing movement quality and building a protective workload will allow the body to progressively respond to the stress of being back in the gym, and will be the safest, most effective way to increase your fitness. How are we going to do this? We are going to make sure that you do everything perfect. Have a hard time squatting below parallel? Guess what, you will not be adding weight until you can. Can’t lock out your arms overhead with a barbell or do a weighted overhead squat correctly? Guess what, we’re going to work with a PVC pipe until you can. By loading poor positions when you don’t have the proper flexibility, mobility, or stability, we open ourselves up to injury and prevent maximal fitness gains. Going back to truth number five, we are not picking on you and we are not trying to be mean. In fact, we are doing this to make you better. This is just a perfect time to relearn proper movement before we start loading weight or intensity. Remember, you have had over two months away from the gym, we want to make sure that you are safe as we ease you back into Crossfit!