Only as strong as your weakest link. We’ve all heard that line before. Whether it be cables on a suspension bridge, athletes on a team, or personal attributes, the saying holds true. As intelligent human beings, we sometimes acknowledge our weaknesses, and on occasion, even try to improve upon them. Given time and dedication, a weakness may be crafted into a strength. How inspiring! But, what do we do when we don’t have that time? What do we do when we are forced to choose between bolstering a strength or mitigating a weakness?
We know that we have to work on our weaknesses. Improving upon a weakness always yields more improvement than making a strength stronger. What’s better – going from good to really good or going from sucky to average? Average is not bad, regardless of the stigmatism that’s been affixed to that label. If I was average at everything I attempted, I would probably be an alien… because everyone has things they are not great at!
My Fitbit challenge this past week was to shock my muscles with something new. I posed the question on my Facebook page as to what new endeavor I should take. I got great ideas like various types of yoga and swimming. I wish I could’ve done the swimming, but my Fitbit is not waterproof. Boo. Actually, I didn’t have time for anything outside of CrossFit, so I picked a weakness that needed attention.
Enter double unders. This is where you jump rope, with the rope passing under you twice with each jump. I honestly hadn’t worked on DUs much since CrossFit Open 14.1 wod. At that point, I didn’t even have one DU, I would just jump high and whip the rope around, hoping that I could accrue two revolutions.
Now that I have my own speed rope (this isn’t my exact one), it’s made a world of difference. The rope feels like it was made for me (which it was, actually). I can move naturally (or at least however natural a freakin’ double under is!) and look semi-athletic doing so. I’ve been engaged in a labor of love with my rope for a couple weeks now.
I’m putting in effort, and the fruits of my labor are manifesting with the woosh-snap of the speed rope. My diligence with the rope and the positive reinforcement of
mastering learning a new skill is a complimentary process, snowballing into what hopefully becomes 10 unbroken double unders.
Back to weakest links, I’ve worked on DUs under “practice conditions”. I’ve had all the time to work at my own pace without the pressure of competition. Of course, competition is not the time to work on a weakness. Competition is a time to showcase our talents and to take what we’ve practiced and apply it to the best of our abilities.
Within the CRUCIBLE of competition, we have our complete arsenal of personal weapons to choose from. What we bring to the fight is generally dictated for us. For instance, you wouldn’t bring a bow and arrow to a hand-to-hand combat fight; you’d bring your sword. If my workout had kettlebell swings and running as the two components… I wouldn’t bring my speed rope.
Hey, guess what, my wod had KB swings and running! It was:
Run 800m, 10 KB swings (53/35)
Run 600m, 20 KB swings
Run 400m, 30 KB swings
Run 200m, 40 KB swings
Now I’m not the most competitive CrossFit athlete, but that night I was ready to compete. Mostly, it was because one of my best friends in and out of the box, Keith, was woding with me and there weren’t many others in class. He was basically my only competition, and, given our friendship and relative similar CrossFit abilities, he’s one of my favorites to compete against.
This leads me to the first of my two main points: your strengths and weaknesses are determined by your situation. They are determined by your competition, by your opponent.
Take a 6’10” basketball player. On the court, that height is a significant advantage over 6’2” me. If we both went spelunking into caves with small crevices to explore, his added height would be a weakness.
Take the last time I did Helen. Then, running was something that was a strength, relative to the rest of the demands of that wod (yes, I know, KB swings there too). The other night, running was a weakness because Keith is a great runner and could beat me running on one leg.
I knew that if I wanted to finish before Keith, I would have to keep him in my sights on the run but would have to really push and surpass him on the kettlebell swings. My weapon had been chosen.
Keith set the early pace for that first run and I knew I couldn’t keep up but I had to keep within striking distance. I ran a quick pace, but not too quick of a pace. I came back inside, did my 10 KB swings, then went back outside to chase Keith.
Fast forward to the last 200m. Keith entered the box while I still had ~100m to go. I knew I had to get through these 40 swings with as little rest as possible if I wanted to finish first; I had to push my strength to the max.
And I did.
In his defense, Keith had no idea I had turned this wod into a temporary vendetta. However, when I saw him sit his 1.5 pood KB down when I had 10 swings to go, I knew that was my opportunity. That was my moment to seize.
And I did.
I pushed through the burn in my forearms and the rip under my ring finger (didn’t use enough w.o.d.welder, obviously) and finished the wod 3 seconds before my best friend and adversary.
This leads me to my second point: push your strengths and survive your weaknesses.
Trying to go all out on a weakness will leave you too depleted to push your strengths. Just surviving a weakness will take effort, but not so much that you won’t be able to really excel when your moment comes.
Every situation presents an occasion for us to use our strengths. It could be a workout, a business call, or when a child asks you why the sky is blue. Just remember, our strength for the given situation could be something we don’t normally consider a strength. Opportunity breeds success.
When the opportunity arises, meet it with your strengths. That’s not to say fight every fight, but the battles you do choose… arm yourself with the appropriate weapon and use your strength to vanquish your foe.
Your turn -> Do you agree with pushing your strengths over your weaknesses? Do you have someone that competitively pushes you when you workout?