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When It Comes to Fitness, Don’t Skip Steps

Coach Emily speaks about playing the long game.


The university system has it dialled: We take 100-level classes through 400-level classes, where prerequisite classes are required before we're allowed to sign up for the next level.

Fitness is the same.

Or at least, to avoid the chance of injury, and to ensure you learn things correctly without compensating with wrong muscles, for example, and create bad habits, the prerequisite system is the way it has to be.

Yes, it can be frustrating when you ask your coach if you can learn how to do a clean or kick up to handstand, and they say not yet until you have gained some more strength and your shoulder and spine move a little better, but we have your long-term best interest in mind.

For anyone who gets frustrated sometimes when it doesn't feel like you're progressing fast enough, or you're super bored of logging ring rows, think of yourselves as lucky. The truth is, I wish I had been in your shoes when I started this fitness stuff. 

When I see Thea and Ben, I become envious. They’re learning how to move and progress the correct way in their early teenager-hood. By the time they’re in their 20s, they will already be well-oiled, bulletproof machines. They already kind of are; have you seen how beautiful Thea's clean is?

I started this fitness stuff back in the day when we were less mature in our coaching approach. In fact, I started before I even moved back to Vancouver and had picked up some bad habits even prior to arriving.

I learned things incorrectly and all out of order and it kicked me in the butt on multiple levels.

Let’s take a muscle-up, for example.

Back in the day, I learned how to do a muscle-up with a giant kip before I could even do a strict chest-to-bar pull-up. Sheer determination got me through the rings. But what it did was create a ton of bad habits and I never really learned how to properly use my lats when I pull.

On top of this, I was competing at the time, and the rule eventually became such that your heels couldn’t raise as high as the rings on your kip, which mine did. As you can imagine, relearning a movement I had been doing for three years in a certain way was incredibly hard.

Second, my back has always been an off and off issue for me, as my default position is to extend my spine during many movements, especially overhead movements, like a simple shoulder press, or push press or jerk, or a handstand push-up. It’s a constant battle to eliminate this habit, and it caused me a ton of issues with my back for years.

It comes down to the path to embracing the path to mastery.

In his book Mastery, George Leonard describes how to love the path and the progress, even the plateaus. While most people become dabblers or hackers or obsessives, who eventually fall off the long term path to mastery, those who embrace the sometimes frustrating path, eventually prevail and achieve mastery.

So keep coming in and putting in a consistent effort, accept where your body is at now, graciously embrace the inevitable boringness and the plateaus that come along, celebrate the wins, and, stay the course.

The future you will thank you.