It's incredibly challenging and entirely worth it.
It's today's workout, and we'll do anything to protect it.
Where else can we let go? Disappear into activity and let instinct take over? Where else, with all that life has to throw at us, can we be free?
But what happens when that workout isn't cooperating? What happens when we show up ready to tear the head off a lion and end up leaving with our tail between our legs? What happens when we settle into a workout we've down before, and the end result is actually worse?
Many of us beat ourselves up. We take what's usually the best part of our day, and ruin it with self-loathing and doubt. We question why we do this whole CrossFit thing at all. But we never ask ourselves; was I supposed to be better today?
"What kind of stupid question is that," you say. "Instafitness and the Facebook gurus and all the stoic books I read say every day is better than yesterday. And this is CrossFit, and I'm type A, and blah, blah, blah." That's all well and good, and we should all strive for improvement, but here's the thing; better isn't measured in a day. Better is what happens when the process adds up over time, and we're left with something greater than before.
Think of it like this; when you're climbing a mountain, you don't always go up. There are times when you have to move laterally or even retreat for the chance to summit. Do those times of less than vertical ascension mean you're not making progress? Of course not.
Before you get to down on yourself, look at the data; how did you sleep before your workout, how did you eat, what was yesterday's training, or two days ago, or when was the last time you took a rest day? These are all valuable questions with huge ramifications, all of which point towards one of two particular outcomes; was I training, or was I testing?
Training means we're performing a series of tasks that encourage the body to adapt and build strength, speed, coordination, and all that. But during the process, training takes its toll, making repeating certain workouts anything but better. It doesn't mean we can't break records during this time — it's great if we do -- it just means we shouldn't go into a training workout with a testing mindset.
Testing, on the other hand, means we've peaked. We've tapered training, we've slept great, ate well, and we're even in the right state of mind to take an honest account of our progress. We ran a 5k three months ago, and we're running another one today. And we're paced to beat our best by nearly a minute.
Both are valuable. Both are completely different.
If today I ask you to perform a few dozen heavy back squats, then tomorrow I invite you to run a mile, I'm not asking you to run the fastest mile you ever have. I may be asking you to run your best mile with weak legs. One is excellent training, one is testing.
Improvement isn't always measured in fewer minutes and more miles. Once we learn to accept that, we stop punishing ourselves and begin to enjoy the training days even more. Days that cobble together to form the process. The process that makes us better than yesterday.