Tino Marini and Lauren Fisher from CrossFit Invictus in San Diego

Three Types of Success
Written by Kim McLaughlin

Breaking personal records (PRs) is great; they do wonders for your self-esteem. They boost your mood and can change your outlook on your entire day and your training program. Who doesn’t like to post a video on social media that shows the world that you have actual PROOF that you’re making strides?! PRs show the results of all of the hard work that you’ve put in day after day.

But what happens when it’s the last few days of your training cycle and everyone around you seems to be crushing it – adding more and more weight to their bars – and you’re still stuck at the same weight you’ve been at for the last year and a half? You try and try but you DON’T hit a PR.

What now? What’s your focus? Do you ditch your current training program and try something else? Do you stop training altogether? Is it even worth coming back to the gym if you haven’t made any PR gains?

This is the moment in our training where a lot of us start in with negative self-talk. We’ve put so much time and energy into what we’ve been doing at the gym that it’s discouraging to not see the results we want. But ask yourself – are you looking in the right place or are you even looking for the right results? Even though you may not be hitting PRs left and right, are there other notable improvements you’re missing?

When it comes to improving in the sport of CrossFit, there is more than just the max weights or fastest times that you should be focusing on. There are at least three types of success – PRs, technique improvement, and consistency – and we should be celebrating all of them.

  1. PRs – Adding weight to a bar, increasing the number of max strict pull-ups in a minute, cutting your Fran time…all of these things are measurable and can tell you right away if you’re improving. Numbers don’t lie; if the weights are getting bigger, the times are shrinking, and/or the reps are increasing, you are seeing measurable improvement. Go celebrate!

  1. Technique improvement – You may have hit a 160 pound snatch on a random day in June eight months ago, but how good did it look? For some, PRs aren’t always exactly textbook form. After months and months of training and drills, however, muscle memory starts to kick in and your lifts actually start to look like recognizable Olympic lifts! Your butterfly pull-ups start to look like actual pull-ups and not some version of a flopping fish! This is technique improvement and it is just as important, if not more so, than hitting a new max number. Whatever the piece is that you’ve been working on, with good technique you can become more efficient and more consistent with a movement. Better technique means that more PRs are just down the road. That’s something to celebrate!

  1. Consistency – Getting your first muscle-up or hitting a 300 pound clean is very exciting but if you’ve only ever done it once and you haven’t come close to doing it again, it becomes almost like a fluke. You start to wonder if it actually happened in real life or if you dreamed it up. Instead of trying to reach for that number or rep scheme that is way out there, focus on the numbers and moves you have been able to hit over and over again. Knowing that you can walk up to a bar and clean 285 pounds every single time without a second thought when you might have only had a 50% success rate with this same weight a month earlier is HUGE! It’s not the 300 pound PR you’re trying to replicate but consistency can give you confidence in competition and these numbers are also a reflection of success in your training. It’s important to not only focus on your max lift numbers but also on your consistency hitting those and other numbers near that max weight.

All three of these successes are closely intertwined – technique improvement leads to consistency which leads to PRs; but improvement in any one of these areas is reason to celebrate. In training, just like in life, it’s important to enjoy the journey and not just focus on the destination. Celebrate the milestones that lead to your end goals. Taking a look at your technique improvement and consistency can keeps training fun and frustration levels down. It allows you to realize that you’re improving even if the PRs aren’t coming as fast as you’d like.


Photo Credit: Anna Aberg

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Elieza Briones
Elieza Briones
September 10, 2015 11:48 pm

Wild NRG agrees that it is simply optimizing general fitness over a broad area of physical activity. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Gino Goossens | Master Athlete
Gino Goossens | Master Athlete
September 3, 2015 1:33 pm

Love it! “Your butterfly pull-ups start to look like actual pull-ups and not some version of a flopping fish!” We’ve all been there. Great read Kim!

Cj Martin
Cj Martin
September 2, 2015 10:26 am

Great article Kim!!! I love this, and it is so true!

Dominic Sandner
Dominic Sandner
September 2, 2015 12:13 am

Awesome read. It’s easy to hunt for bigger and bigger weights (in oly) rather than working on improved technique and consistency. This is especially true for me.