Updated: Sep 5, 2022
I never thought I would be writing this.
When I started working with CrossFit athletes a few years ago, I thought, "This will be easy. They are dialed in on their nutrition and recovery. All I have to do is geek out on their program design. It will be nice not to have to reinforce the fundamentals constantly."
And you probably know where this is going: I was wrong. It has surprised me the past few years how many CrossFit athletes know but don't consistently implement the basics of nutrition and recovery.
I have coached dozens CrossFit athletes (by an “athlete,” I mean those who want to, at minimum, compete in a local RX competition). Unfortunately, only a few initially knew how much food they ate, had a consistent sleep schedule, drank enough water, moved and supported recovery throughout their day, or used small habits to manage stress.
Most athletes cared only about program design. They were always searching for the next blog to follow or an individual coach who would concoct the right combination of workouts that would get them to the next level. All the while, some weren't even eating or even sleeping enough. They were proving the age-old adage: they were missing the forest for the trees.
You could argue that my sample size to make this observation is limited. I have never coached a CrossFit Games athlete. But that only proves my point. Not many of the Games athletes are overlooking the fundamentals anymore. The sport is too advanced for that. Even Rich Froning seems to eat more than peanut butter, milk and pizza now.
It's usually the athletes in the middle of the pack who are leaving too many stones unturned. It's the athlete who can beat everyone at their gym, in their town, and maybe even in their county but still can't punch a ticket to Semifinals. Those are most of the athletes that I have coached. They are talented enough, but whether it's due to a lack of discipline, motivation, or ignorance, they worried too much about the 15 or so hours in the gym every week and neglect the other 153.
Everyone knows that genetic or acquired skill alone is not enough to carry you to the top of the podium. Some may be able to get away with staying up late on the weekends and drinking too much with friends and still win at a local competition. But of course, that won't do anything to get you to the next level or to maximize your physical potential.
The lesson is implied, but I will allow Michael Jordan to make it explicit: "Get the fundamentals down, and the level of everything you do will rise."
And one more note. If you can't prioritize the basics as an athlete, you may need to change your goal. It's better to accept that you can't make the sacrifices required to dial in your nutrition and recovery, be it due to your career, family, or other priorities than to set yourself up for failure. Because no matter how much talent you have, you will have a hard time beating the athlete who matches your work ethic in the gym but also outdoes you in everything you should be doing outside of it.
I wrote this to educate you and hopefully to inspire you to prioritize the fundamentals, not to sell you anything. But if you are struggling with the fundamentals, or are interested in chatting with a Coach about Individualized Program Design, please reach out by filling out an intake form on our website! At Underdogs, our mission is to help athletes achieve their highest potential in sport and in live, so we’d be happy to help