What Does it Mean to be Not That Great?
Written by TJ O’Brien

Hey, I know this will sound like a humble brag at first, but do read on… 

When I started CrossFit I taught myself how to do a muscle-up, I could run for miles, double-under, and handstand walk. The act of working out reinforced a narrative that I had a natural ability to be an athlete, that I was great. 

But the workouts I chose were ones I could excel in – or at least there was some element of the workout where I could puff my chest out and be proud of myself, even if it meant struggling through another section. So even if I faced a challenge, I was still great. 

I jumped ship from doing CrossFit workouts as my main fitness about 2 years ago, and started pursuing gymnastics strength goals like the freestanding handstand push-up, Nordic curl, and one arm chin-up. 

As a “bodyweight master” in the CrossFit realm, and as someone who often got the question “hey, you were a gymnast, right?” I assumed that I’d easily find greatness in these arenas as well. 

Turns out I’m not that great.

In fact, having the attitude of “I’m not that great,” would have likely helped me out a lot by leading me to fewer injuries as a result of pushing myself to do things I wasn’t really ready for. 

Now, knowing you’re not that great doesn’t mean that you workout in shame w/ your head hung low. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t ever be confident in your abilities. 

“You’re not that great” means that you shouldn’t assume you can, until well, you can. 

What it really means is being ok with spending a majority, I mean A TON of time, being very mediocre. 

And that’s because there’s an initial rush of success most of us have when we enter the gym. Everything is novel, so learning to use the barbell becomes a win. So does loading it with 10’s, 25’s, 45’s etc. 

Until…you stop hitting a PR every other week. 

In this way, CrossFit is MADE FOR athletes who want to think they’re great. How? Right at the point that you’d be pushing up against failure if you were pursuing just one thing, the workout changes and you get to try something new and get that “novelty success” feeling all over again. 

Facing failure with no alternative to distract you is an issue that can come up. With the singular focus on something that is a weakness, it’s easy to get in your head about not finding immediate success. 

For this reason, it’s really helpful to have a coach to nudge you along through those difficult moments. 

But also to remember, “you’re not that great.” 

Question why you assumed it would be easy in the first place. You may have found immediate success in school or sport in the past, but that was…the past. The reasons for that greatness were probably just luck – luck your parents put you in gymnastics, luck you like to run, or luck your body was just made to excel in something. 

So get over yourself, don’t assume you’ll master it right away and start ENJOYING working through being mediocre. It’s the only true path to being great. 

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