The Dangers of Self Doubt

Wow. Two posts in one week. Crazy.

Not quite sure how I’m going to work posting now, whether I’ll talk about each individual workout I make it to or only when I have something specific to relate, but today’s a bit of both. And it’s a bit of a ramble, so bear with me…

So today we worked on squat cleans. The workout involved a rep scheme of 21-15-9 for 135#/95# squat cleans and handstand push-ups. We haven’t done squat cleans for a while (at least I haven’t) and they are not one of my favorite movements though they’re an important one in crossfit.

In the past, I’ve barely managed to break each squat clean into its two distinct movements – doing a clean, then a squat. Getting them smoothly into a single movement was beyond me.

Today it seemed easier to do the actual squat clean. First with an empty bar, going through the barbell progression of shrugs and full movements from different points on the curve, and then with weight on the bar at 95# and 115#. I didn’t go for 135# today and instead chose to focus more on the movement itself than the weight.

DNF!-!-Apparently that was a good choice because I hit my latest problem with crossfit workouts… another DNF. I got through the 21 round ok. Took a while (about 12 or 13 minutes – I’m definitely not fast) but I was doing ok and taking it a rep at a time. When I started the round of 15s, I got through a couple of squat cleans and stopped. My lower back, right above the tailbone, had tightened up and was causing pain.  Tried working through another couple and then decided I needed to stop. Jimmy, my trainer, suggested I go do some mobility on the wall with a lacrosse ball or a softball – so I did just that.

My concern is not that my back got sore. I am 44 years old. I started crossfit in February 2013 after nearly 20 years of being a lump. My body is going to hurt from time to time as mobility and strength return to areas that have been neglected for far too long. I get that.

My concern is with the DNFs that are piling up. One a week fairly regularly for a while.

Back in March, I had a DNF with the last workout of the Crossfit Games. It got in my head and I couldn’t get out. And I was pissed at myself. Stormed out of the box, walked for a while – drove away and blew off steam in the car – generally threw a fit like a kid. Not my finest hour.

I’ve done that a couple of times. But recently as the DNFs have occurred more frequently, I’m noticing a pattern. Sure, I’m listening to my body more (usually it comes down to a bad shoulder or like today with my lower back), but I’m wondering if DNFs have become a “habit” – like I’ve “allowed” them into my life and now they’re here to stay.

That’s my self doubt at the moment. Is the DNF here to stay? Am I not pushing hard enough? Should I push through the pain or continue to listen to my body when it grumbles? My worry is that by continuing to damage already sore joints and muscles, I’m doing more harm than good – shoulders and knees are taking a beating during some of these workouts. Is it too much? Should I stop?

But I’m seeing improvements. I’m getting good feedback from my trainers that my form is improving. I’m seeing strength gains. Mobility has increased. And though I’m fighting for breath sometimes in the middle of these WODs (could be conditioning, could be allergies, could be the lack of oxygen at 6,000 feet of elevation in Colorado…) I’m feeling better overall than I have for years. I had to hike all over the Air Force Academy soccer fields last weekend during a tournament for my kids, including climbing up some hairy hills, carrying chairs and other items – and chugged up them only slightly breathing hard at the top. That’s a major coup for me.

So I think I need to temper my doubt with the fact that I’m making gains. I don’t want to do lasting damage to the body, so I’ve picked up some mobility tools for home – lacrosse balls, foam roller, rubber bands, etc. We’ve been more regularly visiting the chiropractor for adjustments. And my wife is pondering picking up a TENS unit to help with releasing some of the muscles that just don’t want to let go…

What do you think? Am I overreacting to the DNFs? Or underreacting? How do you treat these periods of self doubt as a crossfit athlete?

I’m not in the league of anyone in the Crossfit Games, but I’m having fun and seeing improvements every week. I think I should be happy with that.

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