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The importance of failure in CrossFit

By Daniel Alba

We have all been there. Looking at the barbell before a lift or feeling nervous before a workout. Why do we have these kind of feelings? Because we care. We care about what we’re about to do and all the work we’ve put to get to this point. But more on this later on, let’s go back to when we started our CrossFit journey…

Remember your first CrossFit class? Unless you are superhuman or incredibly lucky, chances are you started with a failure. You were probably breathing so hard that you felt like your lungs and heart were about to explode. Your muscles were burning so much that it almost paralyzed you. And mentally you were so weak, that a 5 minute workout had never seemed so long. And all of that only from a couple of squats, some running and an empty barbell.

But this is what it’s all about. No matter who you are or where you come from, what your athletic background is or how much in shape you consider yourself to be in, it’s all about getting a reality check on your level of fitness and giving your ego a huge beatdown.

So this is where it all starts… failure.

But this failure sparks a fire. Never in your life have you felt so ashamed of your physical performance. So what do you do? You get to work.

Whether that is working on mobility, strength, endurance or just starting a regular physical activity, you work.  And as time goes by, you slowly start noticing the results. You gain a little bit more depth on your squat, you gain a couple of kilos on your squat or you lose a couple of kilos of bodyweight. You might even start seeing some definition on your abdominals, and that might motivate you to rethink your nutrition… See where this all goes? It is a chain of good events that link to one another.

Unfortunately, it cannot go all well ALL the time. There will be bumps along the road, and there will come a time (and the longer you carry on, the longer these will last) where you will stall and progress will halt for a while.

These, by experience, are the most frustrating times as you come to doubt yourself about what you are capable of doing.  This pause in progress can show itself in many different ways. Your lifts might not be going up, or even worse might be going down, your times in a workout might increase or you feel a general sense of fatigue. You don’t feel as motivated to come into the gym, or even on days where you do it turns out to be a disaster.

The truth is, that all of this is normal. All of these points of failure are actually indicators of 2 things: that you might be doing something wrong and this is the opportunity to make a change and get to know yourself a bit better. It also means that you have improved and are ready to “level-up”. But in order to “level-up”, you need to question yourself and work a little bit harder to be ready for what’s to come.

I remember when I started CrossFit, I used to weigh in at 120 kilos and was never a gifted athlete. Actually, I have never been naturally good at anything.  After my first workout that included a 400m run, some KB swings and some push-ups, I felt destroyed. My body was achy for days, and my ego was crushed. Although anybody could have just given up on the spot saying “Oh this is too hard for me, it shouldn’t be this hard. I’ll find something else.” I carried on and worked my ass off.

I have been doing CrossFit for the past 4 and a half years and in that time, I have had a lot of moments of doubt, of success and also of failure. I have seen my bodyweight go down from 120 kilos to a very stable 100 kg. I have seen my lifts go down or stall for many months, and also have had some injuries that have stopped my progress for several months. I have set some huge PR’s
that have given me so much happiness and pride. But most important of all, I have found my passion and what makes me get up in the morning with a smile on my face.

Regardless of the moments of doubt, injuries and months of non-progress, I carried on persevering and training. And I assure you that these moments of failure are a fraction of the years and years you have ahead of you to improve and continuously show yourself how good you can be.

Take it one training session at a time. Set yourself some goals and never lose track of them. Each hour you come in and spend training hard with focus, do it with purpose. Regardless of your goal. Make it the best hour of your day. This is the best way to continue to make progress, and I guarantee that you will achieve your goals this way.

So, why do we care so much if we miss a lift or if we get crushed by a workout? Because we care about all of the hard work we have put in to get to that point.  We care that all of our countless number of hours come down to one lift, or to a 10 minute workout.

The truth is that this is something we should all be proud of. We have shown devotion, determination, focus and a relentless desire to get better at something we love.

That is not failure, but a huge success.


Rue de Lyon 27, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland
email: info@crossfitgva.com
phone: 079 304 5056