The Athlete, The Goal & The Plan: Meet Libby Landry
Written by Libby Landry & Michele Vieux
As coaches, we see many come to us in the beginning of the year with resolutions and goals for the upcoming months and years. And many of us have very similar goals, we thought it would be a good idea to share some common ones with the rest of you in hopes of not only helping you achieve your goals, but also to show you how to turn a goal or resolution into a SMART one.
Libby is a coach at Invictus and has volunteered to take part in this series called, “The Athlete, The Goal & The Plan”, where the person being profiled will write the Athlete & Goal parts and the coach (in this case, me) will help come up with the Plan part. We will pick three to four people with varying goals to follow over the course of a year to see how they are coming along, provide examples to others with similar goals and to talk about how the plan changes as the goal progresses (or even plateaus). Italics are written by the coach and normal font is written by the athlete.
I’ve always been a recreational CrossFitter, so in the past, I always just tried to be a little better, work a little harder each day. I never really set out to hit certain numbers or improve my times on workouts, especially not in the last few years with lingering injuries.
Taking group class is one of my absolute favorite activities. There’s so much value in the support and camaraderie that the Invictus family provides. When I get to class, I let the coach know that I’ll need to modify some movements for that day. If the workout calls for back squats, I’ll likely do some barbell glute bridges or weighted lunges. If there’s T2B, I’ll go strict with fewer reps, for example. The biggest takeaway is that you don’t have to skip out on group class or feel like you can’t come to the gym when dealing with injuries. There are so many ways we can modify.
Anyone dealing with nagging injuries, pain, or just doesn’t feel comfortable with some of the movements could also benefit from this approach. We can always, always find something that fits your needs. That’s the beauty of CrossFit and the reason why your coaches are your most valuable asset. I love to get creative with my athletes who come in needing modifications, it’s like a fun little game I get to play. I ask them how they typically modify that movement and then I find a way to put a spin on it to keep it interesting and the stimulus varied. Now I’m just taking my own advice and not trying to do things I know I shouldn’t.
My top goal for 2019 is pretty simple: train with pain-free range of motion only. I’ve had ACL surgery, some unexplained back spasms, and pinching in my shoulders with overhead movements over the last few years that have severely limited my capabilities.
I chose this goal because I’ve been nursing a number of injuries/aches/pains the last few years that aren’t getting any better. I’ve been thru different phases of trying to train around the limitations ranging from doing nothing to still doing everything and all that comes in between. There hasn’t been a strategy that I’ve tried thus far that has been overwhelmingly productive in eliminating (or at least limiting) the effects of my previous injuries.
This is probably the most important self-care goal I could set for myself this year. Dealing with chronic pain is not a pleasant experience, but it requires conscious effort and diligence to manage it.
Taking on this goal has required a huge paradigm shift that’s been about three years in the making. It forces you to leave your ego at the door (and some of your love for the sport) to take a step back and really think, “hey should I be doing that?” Often times, the answer is no. Do I want to lift every day? Absolutely. Do I want to try and hang with my super fit Games athlete colleagues Ricky and Kaitlyn? Hell yeah. But, all it takes is one silly training session and I’m out for a week. It’s just not in the cards for me and it’s taken me a long time to accept that. It’s not simply just modifying the load, but completely changing movements or altering workouts entirely to fit my needs.
What I realized was that I was focusing on the things I couldn’t do (back squat, Oly, kipping movements) rather than focusing on all the things I could get better at (strict pull-ups, the Assault Bike, lunges). It’s hard to not look at the workouts and be like, “Ugh I can’t do that,” but I’ve been so much happier and content in my training by opening my eyes to the endless possibilities of things that I CAN do. Typically when we modify workouts in group class, we try to preserve the movement pattern and stimulus intended for that day. I may have to scrap an entire workout and start from scratch, but that allows me to get the intensity that I need with the movements that are pain-free.
Coach Michele here, taking over to talk about creating Libby’s plan and how to attack it through the SMART Goal Setting standards. If you don’t know much about SMART goal setting, then I encourage you to take a look at our previous posts on the topic. We also offer a FREE Goal Setting Guide that walks you through not only the SMART process but also how to identify your “why” and other important factors in making sure you attain your goal(s).
One, very important thing to note about this specific athlete is that she (Libby) is a very experienced coach. She likely knows the answers to the questions below and the steps that need to be taken with a little prompting. If you DO NOT, that’s totally cool. But be sure to reach out to a coach or someone who is an expert to help you. An expert could be considered anyone who has the knowledge in the area, someone who has helped another person do what you want to do, or someone who has, themself, achieved what it is you want to do.
Right now, Libby has stated her a resolution but not a goal – she wants to be able to train without pain. One thing that will help her stay on track when she is tempted to do things she knows she shouldn’t is clearly defining her why. So I ask…
What is your “why”? Why is being able to train pain-free so important to you? Or you could think of it as, what would be different if you could train without pain?
It is important to identify your “why” so that you have something to fall back on when completing your plan becomes difficult, and it will. The “why” is probably one of the most difficult things to identify. Often times, people stop short of really digging deep into their why. For example. they might say that they want to lose weight to be healthier. But if they really keep digging, it comes down to wanting to have the self-confidence to ask out that attractive person in their CrossFit class because they are lonely. So when you ask yourself “why”, keep asking “why” to each answer until you have no more answers to take you deeper.
Once the “why” is defined, we can get on to setting the goal in a SMART way. Each step of the SMART plan has its own mini-steps and things to consider within. So I now ask for each of the steps…
(S) Specific: What is it that you SPECIFICALLY want to do? You said you want to train pain-free, which is more of a resolution than a goal. To make it a goal, let’s add some specific things you hope to accomplish – these can be certain movements you want to be able to complete without pain, specific mobility you want to achieve, or even specific areas of your body that have pain you’d like to get rid of.
(M) Measurable: There are many ways you can measure progress and if you have reached your goal if you have specifics listed above. Progress measurements can be anything but you MUST be able to measure them in some way. Some examples are 1) to have no pain or discomfort in your lower back when performing Cat-Cow; 2) your body worker noting improvement during treatment sessions by both the feel of the tissue surrounding the shoulder joint and by performing a simple, range of motion test; or 3) Being able to hang from a bar without pinching in your shoulder. There are a million more ways to measure. What do you think are good ways to measure your progress and if you have reached your goal (so that you can check it off the list)?
(A) Actionable: Yes – it can be achieved! People have done it before. You have likely done it before. And you have helped others do these things. It also sounds like you have the strong desire to achieve this. Now to just list some actionable steps…Look at how you plan to measure above and let’s create a list to be able to achieve these measurements. These should also be as specific as possible. Some of my own examples are (written in 1st person, affirmative statements):
Step 1) Have my body worker take some “pre” measurements and record them. And, have him repeat these measurements at one session per month to note progress. When asking him to do this, I will also tell him of my goal and ask for his help. Besides doing specific work in that area for me and taking the measurements, he can help support me by checking in each time I see him to ask me if I’ve been completing my other tasks.
Step 2) Use my standing desk (instead of sitting) at least half of my work day. To make sure this happens, I will set a timer for one hour every time I am sitting to work. When it goes off, I will stand for at least an hour.
Step 3) Perform 15-20 reps of “Cat-Cow” twice daily – once in the morning and once in the evening. I am enlisting my boyfriend to join me so we can spend quality time together, hold each other accountable and can be each other’s support network. It’s important to note that he also wants to improve in this area. It’s not helpful to enlist someone who doesn’t believe in what you are trying to accomplish.
Step 4) Perform “thoracic twists” for 10 reps per side, twice daily – once in the morning and once in the evening. These can be done on hands and knees or standing with a PVC pipe. Again, this will be a part of the routine that I do with my boyfriend so now we are both spending time together and making improvements to our health.
Step 5) Use a lacrosse ball “peanut” to mobilize the fascia in that area by performing flexion and extension over it for 10-15 reps, twice daily.
Step 6) Perform ELDOA “Small Globe” five days a week for three, 60-second holds. This is probably the hardest and most painful part of the plan. I like to mix them into my supplemental work or warm-up as one of the stations so they become part of my workout and not additional work which makes me more likely to complete them. Again, part of the BF mobility routine. He isn’t a huge fan of these stretches so I will likely be the one holding him accountable here but just knowing he’s counting on me to succeed with this step makes me more likely to complete it myself.
Step 7) Have body work done twice per month. This is the most expensive part of the plan but it is feasible (I checked my budget before writing it down) and I have a flexible enough schedule where I can make it happen.
(R) Relevant: Is all of the above relevant? Mening, does it get you closer to being where you want to be which is “pain free”. If so, how? If not, what needs to change above?
(T) Time-Bound: How long do you think this will take to achieve? You can even set a time for each of the mini-milestones in your plan. When you look at what you write down, consider if it is feasible, what might hold you back, whose help you’ll need.
Important Things to Note About Creating Your Plan
You must thoroughly think out each step and include very specific things to do that will help you reach your goal, including how many times per day, week or month to do them.
You must have ways to measure both mini-milestones and the ultimate goal.
You must consider how attainable each of the steps are by thinking about what might stop you from doing them and coming up with a plan to combat each issue (or by changing it so it IS attainable) and enlisting a support network (boyfriend, bodyworker, or by making it a public proclamation).
You must set a realistic timeframe for attaining this goal. This can also be a difficult piece of the puzzle and one that a coach, or someone who has had success with the same goal, can help you determine. It is important to note that you need to have a realistic perspective of where you currently ARE to determine how long it will take you to get to where you want to be. Your expert helper or coach can also help with this piece.
You must write it in positive, affirmative language using “I will” statements. And even though you KNOW you will achieve this, also acknowledged that it will probably take some time to do so.
You will likely also need to enlist the help of others – one “expert” and one cohort – to help keep you moving forward and also to provide valuable input and expertise.
So it looks like Libby has some work to do to get this plan in place. We’ll check back soon to see where she is, what she’s come up with, and if she needs any help from her coach to get the ball rolling!