Written by Cassie Smith
I know this might seem like a really obvious idea, but I’m going to talk about it anyway: Being good at anything takes time. Since we all have CrossFit in common, I’ll use that as the thing.
CrossFit is unique in that it requires substantial ability in a variety of skills. (Some of which require mastery that’s completely unnecessary for 95% of people, but I digress.) It’s also unique in that practitioners need to be able to sprint 5-minute workouts, last through 20-minute chippers, and have the strength and endurance to perform movements well.
I bring this up because, arguably, it should take a long time to be good at all these skills. The sheer amount of time necessary to be able to perform all the movements safely and effectively, let alone be “good” at them, means the progress process can be slow.
…it should take a long time to be good at all these skills.
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how quickly you progress, what matters is your consistency. Consistent training over time equals progress. There’s no other way to improve. This idea of consistent training brings me to the actual point, which is your training age.
What is Training Age?
To put simply, your training age is the cumulative amount of time you’ve spent in training. For example, I’ve been a competitive athlete since high school. So, I could say I am 18ish years old in training years.
You can break that down further into sports-specific training age. If you’ve been an athlete your whole life, but have only been CrossFitting for the past couple of years, your sports-specific training age is quite young.
So, I could say I am 18ish years old in training years.
What complicates this further, especially for CrossFitters, is that you may have a lot of years training one modality, say running, and just a few months in performing high-skill lifts such as the snatch.
Again, I’ll use myself as an example. I started CrossFit in 2013. Beforehand, I did mostly bodybuilding. Bodybuilding definitely helped me as a CrossFit athlete. The being strong part was pretty easy, but the rest of it: cardiovascular endurance, gymnastics, and high-skill lifts took me a little longer to figure out.
My training age for CrossFit specifically is 6 years. Training age, however, doesn’t accurately measure quality movement, programming, or coaching. As I’m sure many of you have experienced, quality coaching has an enormous impact on your performance.
In my early years of CrossFit, I wasn’t taught to do anything correctly. When I started working with Basile, I had to relearn how to do pretty much everything. Because of this, I could argue I really didn’t start doing CrossFit well until about 2015.
Why It Matters
Your training age matters for a few different reasons. For one, every year you spend consistently training makes you better. Those with a higher training age tend to be smarter athletes. They know when to “send it” and when to hang back until the right time.
Athletes who have been in the game a while also know the importance of rest days. They tend to be more emotionally consistent; never getting too high or too low in high-pressure situations.
People who have been doing CrossFit for a long time seem to put more emphasis on movement quality, which is probably the most important piece of longevity in the sport. When you’re new, it’s easy to be excited about doing a muscle-up, or a handstand push-up. When you have years under your belt, (and possibly a few injuries), you learn to be more excited about doing those movements properly.
Athletes who have been in the game a while also know the importance of rest days.
Because of this stress on quality, people who have been doing CrossFit for years find they achieve mastery of movements. Mastery means you’re able to perform movements well, no matter if you’re deconditioned, or haven’t been working on that particular movement for a while. When that happens, you’re pretty much always “good” at CrossFit.
I also think training age is an important factor in how we learn not to compare ourselves to others. All of us have a different athletic journey and vastly different goals. If you’ve been doing CrossFit for less than a year, it’s unhelpful to compare yourself to someone who’s been doing it for five.
Consistency Matters Most
Whether your goal is to be a competitive athlete, lose weight, or just be healthy, the one thing you can do to ensure you achieve it is consistency. Doing CrossFit hard for two months and then not showing up for six isn’t going to help you earn those benefits that come alongside being a “long-time” CrossFitter.
And by consistency, I don’t mean killing yourself every single day. What I do mean is choosing a schedule you can stick to. Along with consistency, your job is to try HARD every time you work out, to listen to and implement cues, and to encourage yourself to be better.