[Editor's Note: This was originally published July 7, 2007.]
I have a very annoying tendency, as does the rest of the gym-going, supplement-taking, hard-charging public. When I find something that works, I quit doing it.
I can't claim the credit for recognizing this phenomenon, but I may be the all-time supreme practitioner. In the last month, I've managed to stop every habit that leads to good athletic performance. I'm not eating well, I'm sleeping six hours a night, I haven't stretched a lick, my masseuse doesn't remember my name, and I train twice a week. In other words, I've taken everything that works and turned it on its head.
What's worse, my excuse for doing so is lame. Please hold the sympathy cards--I'm spending twelve hours a day running a CrossFit gym. The weirdness of this phenomenon deserves some mention. I'm spending sixty-plus hours a week in the gym and getting less fit. Seems odd, doesn't it?
They say the first step to recovery is recognizing that you have a problem. For me, recognition came in the form of a missed 155-pound power clean. Not only did I miss it, it hit me in the chin on the way up. Luckily, Sam was the only other person in the gym, and she wasn't watching at the time.
I knew things were getting bad, so I decided to do what any rational person would do. I strapped on a 20-pound vest and had a go at "Murph". Running two miles and performing one hundred pull-ups, two hundred pushups, and three hundred squats in an hour is not a good idea. I don't care what they told you.
Fast forward a week, and you'll find me lying on a foam roller with a look on my face that would be right at home on the mug of a wounded bullfighter. The knots in my legs have literally pulled my left hip out of the socket, and I'm walking like a duck with vertigo.
The lesson is simple: there are a few things that lead to fitness, and a whole bunch of things that will turn you into a big pile of useless. If you stumble upon those things that work, keep doing them. Eating right, sleeping nine hours a night, stretching regularly, training on a schedule, and getting the occasional deep tissue massage are all on that list. Drinking coffee like there's a shortage, sleeping like a PTSD victim, and eating 200 calories a day are not.
There are other things that work. In fact, there's a whole bunch of them, but they'll usually be variations on a theme that can be boiled down to a few words. Practice squats, snatches, cleans, sprinting, and gymnastics, and follow up with rest, nutrition, and a healthy social life. You will not suck. Guaranteed.
Jon Gilson is the founder of Again Faster and former member of CrossFit’s Level I Seminar staff.