“Practice your basics. They’re your foundation. Everything else is just icing on top.”
Of all of the many the things I learned in martial arts, this is the statement that has made the biggest impact on my life.
I did martial arts for 8 years, training almost every day of the week. I loved it, I went to all the classes I could and eventually quit dance classes so I could go even more. Abruptly, the summer I turned 14, I grew 3 too many inches. Like a silver bullet, I developed severe hypermobility, and started experiencing intense pain during classes, chronic pain outside of the dojang, and suffering from repeat joint dislocation in my shoulders and hips.
In 3 stupid months, my life became a hazardous maze of “can’t” and “shouldn’t.”
I even had to learn a new way to put my shirts on, because I’d dislocate my shoulders trying to get them over my head. Gross.
I was told by my doctor to stop all contact sports and all vigorous activity, so everything I loved had to go. I soon stopped going to physical therapy because it only made everything hurt worse. I cried a lot.
I could barely walk a half mile, I couldn’t do a single pushup without excruciating pain.
I became deeply depressed, and when other ongoing health issues consumed me, I struggled to find hope that I’d ever be an athlete again.
My first time doing CrossFit was in Coach Kenny’s garage at 23 years old, almost 10 years after that stupid summer, and I fearfully explained to him everything I couldn’t do. Many of you didn’t see me when I first started, and I want you to know, I was a mess. I was a bundle of fear, pain, and weak asparagus limbs. I don’t forget those days, and I don’t want you to think they didn’t happen. I’m like the poster child for injury, but Kenny was unphased.
“Everything is scalable.” It sure is, thank goodness.
I had to take things slow to succeed. These things take time, and they take me even longer so letting go of my impatience and embracing the process was super aggravating, and also the best possible thing I could’ve done for myself. The following are some of my favorite words, and they’re still my backbone, even as I improve past most of my old handicaps:
Patience. Build your basics up. I had to build my strength and stability before I could attempt anything else. My foundation has to be strong, or else I’m going to get injured. It’s almost guaranteed. That stuff takes time, so much time, so give yourself time. Squat, press, pull!
Practice. Show up, and work. All of the patience in the world won’t help me if I’m not doing the work. It feels like piano lessons all over again, but you have to admit, they did have a point. I consult our amazing coaches all the time, and they give me some amazing progressions to work on. They’re an invaluable resource! Hit them up.
Precision. Do it right, as often as possible. Whatever movement “it” is, I need to make an effort to be as efficient and mechanically sound as I can, every time. Otherwise, I risk serious injury. This stuff is super complicated, there’s lots of moving parts, and no one expects you to learn it all at once! Plus, the more efficient you are, the easier everything gets. For real. Not magic. Physics.
Patiently practice precision for perfect performance.
Every time I come to our gym, I see a place full of amazing humans and incredible athletes, working really, really hard. I am so proud of all of you, and so in love with your progress! Pause for a moment, and think about all the things you can do, that you couldn’t have done before you started. Those little goals and little successes were the only way I remained sane, kept pushing, and held onto my determination! If I can do it, you can do it too. I promise.
Don’t hesitate to ask other athletes in the gym about how they got to where they are; their answers might totally surprise you. Be patient, practice often, be precise. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying more and more of that icing on top.