How to Demand Excellence from Yourself

How to Demand Excellence from Yourself

At our recent Verdant Coaches Retreat in McCall, we discussed a few concepts you may notice coaches emphasizing. These go beyond just how to better coach a squat or pull-up. Basile asked each of us to start taking a “them not me” approach in our role as coaches and as members of the gym. He also asked that we continue to strive for excellence in not only our coaching, but in our health, and our lives as a whole. When he later asked us to come up with how we could improve as a gym, my first thought was to pass on this demand for excellence to our members as well. I know that we already demand excellence in your movement, but I think we can have more of an impact on your athleticism and health in general by simply giving more of ourselves as coaches (them not me), during, before, and after classes. Our coaches have an impressive amount of knowledge and experience that I personally hope to start spreading out to our community.

So here are a few topics that I’d like you to think about, as they are areas that can ALWAYS be improved. If the advice below strikes a note, great, take action and strive for excellence where you can. If there’s an area you need improvement on but you still don’t know where to start, lean on one of our coaches and let us help you however we can.

Stress: I get it, life is crazy! Especially in the current state of the world. BUT, do you use this as an excuse to slack off or give up on trying to improve yourself? I would hope not. For many of us, stress comes from our jobs. I realize many of us cannot change this due to other obligations, but I do urge you (especially our younger athletes) to think about what job you would take if you didn’t need money? What steps do you need to take to do THAT job for your career? Do you need to rethink your lifestyle to make that happen? Would changing your current lifestyle make you happier on a day-to-day basis? If so, I would urge you to go for it! Don’t be miserable for the majority of your life, simply to be able to afford a fancy house and car, and to have a comfortable retirement. Find a way to enjoy every day (or at least most of them), right now.

Sleep: There are a million articles on how to improve your sleep. Here is a great one from the folks at The Ready State, but I urge you to talk with one of our coaches. Many of us closely monitor our sleep with the Whoop band or Oura ring, and would love to discuss your unique situation. We have many coaches fighting the same sleep battles you may be (parents, pet owners, shift workers, military/first responders, healthcare workers, business owners/executives, students, etc.)

Here’s a brief outline of the points made in the article below:

  • Quantity and Quality matter, and have a profound impact on your short and
    long term health
  • “The number of people who can survive without impairment on less
    than six hours of sleep is ZERO”
  • A strict sleep schedule will help
  • This includes having a time set for when you start winding down from
    the day
  • Your daily habits are important
  • Exercise, proper nutrition, limited caffeine/alcohol, breathing
  • Proper sleep hygiene
  • Bedtime routine
  • Dark, quiet, cold environment
  • Comfortable pillow/mattress

Nutrition: Verdant has several nutrition gurus on the staff, so my biggest suggestion would be to speak with a coach and they can get you pointed in the right direction. If that is asking too much, my advice would be very simple. Start by making one small change, such as drinking an extra glass of water, or adding a serving of vegetables or protein to your dinner every day. Once you have mastered your new habit for a week or two, add something else in. The key with nutrition is not to overwhelm yourself, but instead, make small changes that are sustainable. We are trying to slowly develop habits that will become a part of your normal lifestyle, and not get you on a 6 week “cleanse” that will guarantee you to lose 10 pounds, but also guarantee that you gain it right back. Your end goal would be to eat primarily real food (I.e. no ingredient lists), in the correct quantities.

Here is a great starting point regardless of where you are at with your nutrition:

Exercise: If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got most of this box checked. Keep showing up to classes consistently and listen to your coaches. However, we are talking about excellence here, and I’d be willing to bet you have little to zero focus on your mobility or movement besides when you’re in the gym. You’re missing out on a major part of health if you are unable to put your body through a full range of motion (or at least working towards full range of motion) or if you are sedentary besides the one hour a day you’re at the gym. If this is you, how can you improve?

MOVE. I get it, you work at a desk and are super busy, but it has been proven that consistently taking movement breaks will increase your productivity. Step away from your task, take a quick walk, or stretch. Maybe take walking meetings or phone calls rather than sitting? This will reset your mind and your body. If you want to take it up a notch, try a standup desk. Find all the benefits and options of doing this here.

MOBILITY. Make it a part of your lifestyle. Personally, I have adopted a 5 to 10 minute morning routine of mobility and stretching, and have noticed that I not only feel better throughout the day, but when I start my workout, I no longer feel like the tin man. I have also had a lot of success just trying to sneak in a minute or two of stretching here and there throughout the day. If you struggle with this focus, try showing up to class 10 minutes early or staying 10 minutes after and doing the “Mobility Homework” which will include targeted stretches or mobilizations based on the day’s workout. Trust me, you will feel a difference if you are consistent.

If you want more than our suggested stretches/mobilizations on a daily basis, there are a million different guided versions out there, but I suggest you talk to any of our coaches as I know most of us either have our own routine or follow programs such as GoWod, The Ready State, RomWod, Gymnastic Bodies, or yoga.

Mindset: A trap that we constantly fall into throughout life is making excuses for why we can’t do something, or why it will be ok to put it off for a later day. This leads to us settling for mediocrity. In some circumstance’s mediocrity is fine, for example, maybe you have a hobby such as playing piano, cooking, or mountain biking, but don’t feel the need to improve beyond a beginner level. Awesome! We need hobbies that simply add joy to our lives. Striving for excellence in these areas may ruin the joy and stress relief they provide, or take away from more important areas of your life.

However, there are some areas of your life where you cannot settle for mediocrity. Your health definitely falls into this category. You don’t need to strive to be a competitive athlete to pursue excellence in your health (in fact this may be the opposite of healthy in many circumstances). You do, however, need to constantly work to improve yourself. One easy way to do this is to switch your mindset. Rather than telling yourself “It’s ok that I can’t do a full range of motion squat, I’m almost 50 years old” or “It’s ok that my diet sucks, I still look good in the mirror”, set those labels or expectations aside and see what you’re capable of or how good you can feel if you actually work to improve. Striving for excellence in these areas will not only allow you to live longer, but it will add to the quality of your life as you age.

CrossFit’s Sickness, Wellness, Fitness continuum explains how striving for excellence in your health creates a buffer. Injury and sickness are going to happen from time to time. The idea of this continuum is to keep yourself as far away from sickness as you can, so when the inevitable does occur, you can survive it and get back to thriving. The alternative to this is falling into sickness, and accepting that as the new normal. Relying on medications to battle chronic disease, or being dependent on others to help you get on and off the toilet. I get to visit many members of our community from all walks of life as a part of my job, and many of them are living this life of sickness. I can promise you that this is no place you want to end up.

So how can you get out of the rut of living based on the labels or expectations that society or you have given yourself? Consistently challenge them! This will differ for everybody. For some it may mean signing up for a marathon, or a CrossFit competition. For others it could simply be showing up to the gym on a day something they “can’t do” is programmed, say muscle ups, and asking a coach what steps they need to take to work towards eventually performing this movement. Committing to a goal like this is hard because it requires you to check your ego and may require a long time to reach.

The main idea is that we can all find new ways to test our physical and mental strength. Challenge your fears and see how good it feels to come out on the other side with a sense of achievement and a newfound understanding of what you are truly capable of. We can grow individually, and as a community if we commit to pursuing excellence in our health, our profession, and our lives as a whole.

Hopefully you gained some insight on what may be holding you back from excellence in your own life. Stress, sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mindset are never ending battles, but you have many resources available as a member of our community. Make use of your coaches and friends for further advice and accountability along your endless path to excellence.

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