Life Lessons Learned Through CrossFit
Written by Kaitlyn Kassis

I fully believe that the lessons we learn in sport— even the lessons we learn in the gym on a day to day basis— are applicable to life on a much larger scale. Competing in CrossFit, both as an individual and on a team, has taught me several transferable skills that I will be able to take with me through the rest of my life endeavors that go beyond fitness.

I have seen the microcosm of human emotion that is the competition floor bring out the very best and the very worst in people. I have seen it highlight my own best qualities, and put my weaknesses on display for the world to see. And in those moments, specifically in those low moments, I have been forced to evolve as a person. After competing is this sport for six seasons now, I can safely say that I have learned the most when things went the worst.

Here is one of those lessons…

You have the most opportunity to grow from the things you suck the most at.

This lesson was hammered into my being at the 2015 California Regionals, I was 19-years-old and this was the very first time I was competing on a large stage as an individual. There were two workouts, in particular, that year that I was dreading more than the rest, and they both happened to fall on the final day of competition. Event 6 had strict handstand push-ups, and Event 7 had muscle-ups. Now, let’s just say I was by no means sitting in a qualifying spot by day 3 of competition, but I was in a solid position to not get last place.

Event 6 rolled around on that Sunday of competition, and I managed to squeak out 2 rounds of the 5 round workout before hitting the time cap. I spent the majority of the 16-minute event failing single rep after rep on the strict handstand push-ups. I knew that I didn’t have great capacity when it came to strict handstand push-ups, but there was a part of me that hoped the fitness gods would bestow me with a newfound strength come competition day. Maybe adrenaline would magically improve my pressing abilities that I had avoided practicing up until that point. To my dismay, this was not the case.

To add salt into the fresh wound from the morning event, Event 7 was a clean ladder with a 15 muscle-up buy-in and a 6-minute time cap. All I saw when I looked at that workout was 15 muscle-ups. Looming over my head through the entire competition were those 15 MUSCLE-UPS. The cherry-on-top of my not so spectacular performance.

As I had suspected, after the initial 10 reps, I ran headfirst into a cement wall. I hit complete failure. Half of the time I was unable to lockout my dips, and the other half of the time I couldn’t even get on top of the rings.

Everyone in my heat moved onto the cleans, and I was stuck staring up at the rings. There is nothing quite like being in an arena filled with people watching you fail over and over again to make you want to melt into the floor and disappear. At the end of the day, none of those people cared, let alone had any idea who I was — but I was mortified. Those were six of the longest minutes of my life. I remember at one point scanning the floor for an exit so I could end my misery early. I was choking back tears. After what felt like an eternity, the time cap finally hit and I ran off the floor as quickly as I could. I headed straight for the portable bathrooms, sat on the floor dirty floor and sobbed.

Upon reflecting on the event, I knew that I had two choices:

1) Give up competing so I never had to endure that humiliation again, or…

2) Acknowledge the things that I struggled with and strive towards improving in those areas.

Though it was the more vulnerable decision to admit my weaknesses, and the more strenuous decision to work towards improving my deficiencies — I chose to persist. Through becoming better at swinging on rings and banging my head into the floor repeatedly, I learned some very valuable “bigger picture” lessons.

Though the many, many…many, many, EMOMs I learned the value of hard work.

  • Though the literal blood, sweat, and tears, I learned that I had the most opportunity to become the best version of myself when I chose to tackle my weaknesses head-on, instead of avoiding them.
  • I learned that I could survive enduring my most humiliating nightmare, and come out better for it on the other side.
  • I learned to be grateful for my failure.

Fast-forward to now, strict handstand push-ups are one of my favorite movements — I actually had my highest placement ever this year on 19.3, when strict handstand push-ups showed up for the very first time in the Open.

Through my struggles with muscle-ups (aka struggle-ups) I have grown to love teaching them more than any other movement. I spent hours researching gymnastics drills, and watching countless videos when I was trying to improve my muscle-ups, which consequently taught me a lot of information that I have now been able to pass on to others.

Not to toot my own horn, but I am kind of like the Thomas Edison on muscle-ups— “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” And with that, I learned how much I enjoy helping other people reach their goals and succeed.

In conclusion, the point of this story is, first, that experiencing failure helped me become a better CrossFit athlete and coach — but beyond that, learning to persist through a setback is something that will carry me through life outside of the gym. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn these valuable lessons through competition and challenge everyone to find their own life parallels between what they do in the gym and what they are then able to take with them beyond those walls.

*Also as a coach, my biggest piece of advice if you have a particular movement that you struggle with is to put that movement in an EMOM. It can be as simple as a 10 Minute EMOM of 1 muscle-up on the minute. And then gradually increase the reps as you become more confident in your capacity. Eventually, you can put that movement into a 20 Minute EMOM, alternating between the movement you are practicing on one minute, paired with a conditioning piece like running/rowing/biking/burpees on the opposite minute. This will allow you to accumulate volume while also practicing the movement under fatigue, which better simulates how it will feel in an actual workout. EMOMs are my favorite way to accumulate volume in a lower pressure format, which also allows you to become more confident in that movement.

Notify me of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 15, 2022 1:52 pm

Thanks for the interesting article. I have always had trouble learning and this is my life lesson. When I had problems I often used a service with essay writing reviews for students. It helped me improve my grades and get more knowledge in a short time.

Last edited 1 year ago by DonaldDixon
Basic Athletics
Basic Athletics
August 20, 2019 7:31 pm

2015 was the year you went in with a broken back. Literally.

Scroll to Top