The Art of Progress 
by Felipe Polanco

When people think CrossFit, they immediately think of shirtless guys with sleeve tattoos, women in skimpy shorts and bras, both of who are running from one exercise to the next like chickens with their heads cut off, slinging around heavy weights and heaving their bodies up to and/or over objects, all in random fashion.  I’m not going to lie…I thought the same thing.  However, since joining the “cult” and drinking the Kool-Aid full-time in December 2010, I’ve come to realize that CrossFit is much more than the aforementioned scenario.  What most outsiders (and even some insiders) fail to realize is that CrossFit all about progression.

The greatest characteristic of CrossFit is that it is universally scalable.  What this means is that a veteran FireBreather and a newly-minted On-Ramper can perform the same exact WoD with scaled movements.  I find this amazing!  However, both the FireBreather and the On-Ramper can still make progress and improvements.  This part I find this frustratingly amazing!  When you’ve finally mastered a skill from your GOAT list, somehow another 17 skills are added and it feels like you’re starting from scratch. 

As an incoming freshman in college, one of the Jesuit priests concisely packaged what the learning curve for my undergraduate career would look like:

Freshman Year: you don’t know that you don’t know
Sophomore Year:  you know that you don’t know
Junior Year: you don’t know that you know
Senior Year: you know that you know

However, what he failed to mention was that this would be a pattern mirrored even out of school: because once you graduate, get a new job or move somewhere new, you are a freshman all over again.  CrossFit is no different.  I am constantly flowing through this continuum: one second I thought I’ve mastered a skill only for the skill to appear in the next WoD and absolutely destroy me.  However, I continue the path in hopes of accomplishing the goals I’ve set for myself.  Which brings me to my main point: without clearly established goals, there is no progress:

I’m a firm believer in goal setting. Step by step. I can’t see any other way of accomplishing anything. –Michael Jordan

Where CrossFit is “by design, broad, general and inclusive”, your goals have to be specific and exclusive.  In other words, “I want to lose weight” is not a goal.  Its more of a statement.  “I want to lose 10lbs by the end of the Paleo Challenge” is a goal.  You have a number to reach for and a deadline.  Here are some of the goals I had set exactly a year ago:

*I will walk on my hands for 20 yards by December 2011.
*I will cut out all processed carbs by December 2011.
*I will complete an adventure race by May 2015.

Over the next few weeks, take some time and write down your goals.  Whether it has to do with a certain lift, skill to improve, or the number of classes you want to attend, write it down.  Then put it somewhere you’re going to see it everyday.  In addition, share your goals with someone.  We tend to accomplish our goals only if we’re held accountable.  Second, get yourself a notebook or anything to write down your workouts and your lifts.  This takes the guessing game out of “Well, what weight do I start with?”  You can take out your notebook and look at the last time you’ve done deadlifts, squat cleans or strict press.  You won’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from.

Happy lifting!