What the Superhuman System could have taught me sooner…
Most of you are familiar with my journey back to health at FitTown Jupiter. When I started exercising here in the beginning of 2016 I was tipping the scales at over 200 pounds. I had all kinds of fitness experiences before coming here, but nothing to compare to what we were doing with the high intensity CrossFit workouts (at the time we were CFPB) I quickly became enamored with all of the things I couldn’t do! I wanted to attack every weakness at once and was super eager to test and retest to see how I had improved in each workout. I was coming 6 days a week relentlessly. I was dropping weight quickly, eating healthier, being a more present mother to my sons, and was truly addicted to having every day feel like a PR. I would make the joke: “Well I am definitely hitting a PR today!” because it was always something I hadn’t tried.
Above all, working out here was helping me get back in touch with places of myself I thought I had lost forever. I felt like an athlete again. I felt like I was a champion every morning and proud to walk around in my own body again.
When everything started to slow down in terms of hitting personal bests every day, I started to reach for more and more. What other skills can I tackle? The only thing I had to gauge my fitness on was a leaderboard, the prescribed weights, and the movements at hand. Did I have handstand push-ups? Could I string together sets of pull ups? Could I do everything RX? These are all fantastic things to aspire to, but as a group class athlete I only had a whiteboard discussion to figure it out and go for it. Like Eminem… you only got one shot!
So, me being me and loving to fail… I went for everything! Let’s try to kip, let’s kick out of handstands, let’s flail until my toes touch the bar. Everything is a PR again! I had the best set of coaches who I loved and trusted and I could cheat my way into kipping without them really seeing how strong I was, so if they weren’t telling me not to I just went for it.
Honestly, they should have been screaming NO at me every 8:00am. They were so excited for me, seeing me gain skills by the minute and report how pain free I was, but I was skipping fundamentals and ignoring their gentle signals. I was kipping pull ups without having a single strict pull up. Our gym actually advertised and held a pull up seminar that I avoided attending because they kept saying the prerequisite was having a few strict pull ups to learn how to get better at kipping. I knew I didn't have strict so I shouldn't attend, but I still really missed the message of "strict movement before kipping movement" as a measure of safety! This type of fitness was different from everything I knew teaching group classes at LA Fitness and in the military. I thought I was keeping myself safe enough being pain free while I was cheating my way into kipping reps!
I had one off instances of pain in my right shoulder before, but the signals became undeniable shortly around my best PR Murph in 2018. This shoulder pain started off more like an irritation, but it would go away with rest and I would feel fine to do all activities. For that year’s MURPH workout I easily butterfly kipped all 100 pull up reps during my sets of 5-10-15 for the entire workout. A few weeks after I had this consistent and dull pain in that same shoulder area that I recognized from throwing incorrectly in high school softball. It progressively got worse as I continued working out 6 days a week. I started modifying in the gym to ring rows, swapping knees to chest for toes to bar, and eventually it started showing up in push ups, wall balls, even snatching. I remember a defining moment for me was when I demonstrated a flat ground push up to the BeachFit class I was coaching, and I couldn’t demo a second rep because the pain was so great. I actually had to collect myself from almost crying before I started the workout clock that morning.
I worked my way around this "injury" on my own. I kept modifying, but not with any guidance. I didn’t ask for help with any coaches and didn’t recognize that the things I was doing actually made me worse, not better. The fact was, somewhere along my journey here I was overcompensating in my shoulder for a lack of strength without detecting it until this major problem showed up What resulted was a tear in my labrum from continual grinding from my shoulder being in the wrong position during movement. Thankfully, with the help of Active Life coaching and the saving grace of Zach Summers, I have been able to work my patterns back into a place where I am pain free and live with my self-inflicted defect.
What the Superhuman System would have taught me sooner is that I shouldn't be competing with the other scores on the leaderboard. I shouldn't be looking at the whiteboard as a way to feel like I have measured up because I can or can't perform a specific written skill. It would have given me a reference point to work from and shown me that my progress has value outside of the workout of the day. Me vs. Me.
I didn’t do the work through any strict pull up check points to earn my way into kipping them and I had FULL awareness that I wasn’t strong enough to do strict pull ups.I just didn’t have anything in my face to show me the right path into getting kipping pull ups. I would come in, see people kipping, want to kip too because that would earn me an rx score, and go for it! This was how I valued myself. My score.
SIDE NOTE: if we did put kipping pull ups on the system chart (we didn't) it would definitely be in the sport stage. It is just a measure of doing work faster, but if you cannot do the work strict you should NOT ADD SPEED AND INTENSITY! You will not see kipping pull ups on the stages for our purposes because it is something we value in terms of getting more work done in a workout, not particularly as a skill to be measured. We focus on measuring things as controlled as possible to test your strength in that movement. That is also why you will see most things with a tempo assigned.
We designed the system to help take some of the leaderboard pressure off of what you want to work on and where you want to go next. It can help you see exact where your strengths and weaknesses are so you can get motivated to fill in the gaps. Earn the score for yourself, not for topping SugarWOD!
I have slowly rebuilt my way into pain free movement, but it I know it will always start to creep back in when I stop doing the work to keep my patterns as close to perfect as I can. Maybe I always had something in there from softball that I exaggerated, but I would like to think this system could have saved me some of this continual work if I had it to motivated me to keep score against myself and not others.
I hope you find this helpful and I would love to hear your experiences with this chart and hear about what it is helping you with! Send me your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org