Without a doubt my favourite part of CrossFit is the Olympic lifting. It’s something about the explosiveness, the power of getting something that heavy over your head, and above all it’s the refined technique that I love the most; the fact that you really need to put in the graft and learn these lifts. There’s no luck involved.
There’s a myth that CrossFitters have bad Oly form but that’s just not true – my coaches are obsessed with not only our technique but their own technique too, and give very insightful pointers. It might be easy to do your first couple of Olympic lifts, but once you start reaching heavier weights you realise that good form is everything – there’s no cutting corners with these kind of dynamic lifts.
Taking a step away from the fact-based how-tos on the blog of late, I’m having a little ramble on why I think learning to Olympic lift is so hard, and in turn, why learning in general can be so hard too. This is just my opinion on why I think I find Olympic lifting challenging so I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions on this, and whether it’s something you experience too.
Honestly, most of my lifts feel pretty rough. I’m definitely still a n00b – I started an Oly lifting programme on my own after finishing my marathon last May, and have only been coached since July – so I guess it’s to be expected that nothing is spot on yet. Sure, lighter weights feel decent, but weirdly I find it harder to lift with a lower weight. There’s no need to be explosive and fast at that weight so you’re not really learning how to do the lift properly, though I understand why we have to start lower – you can’t just set people off throwing heavy weights above their head!
So, I am now at a point where I feel like I am getting less from lifting lower weights, but my technique isn’t good enough to hit higher weights. Every one of these rough heavier lifts I learn from, though – every time I’ll think, “I tipped forward in my dip” or “I jumped forward” (or maybe a coach will tell me these) and I’ll try and correct it. Of course, after correcting one thing another crops up, and the cycle begins again.
That’s why in general we learn best from making mistakes. You think about what happened, what was bad or good about the situation – normally focusing on the bad, we’re human after all – then you decide how to do it better next time. You can do this after the event, and sometimes you do it while the event is happening (for more on this, check out the works of Schön or Kolb).
Sometimes – by sometimes I mean maybe twice, ever – I’ll attempt a lift and bam, everything will be absolutely perfect, I’ll hit the weight I was going for. This happened for both my current snatch and split jerk PRs. Great work, right? Well, maybe not. Both of these lifts I’m thinking of happened so fast that I can’t actually place what it was that I did so right to hit the lift. Also, my ego desperately just wants me to claim the victory – you just did it right, okay?! Leave us to bask in the PR glory!
But actually, success is the thing we can learn most from, though unfortunately it’s hard to do for the reasons above. You do something wrong – it’s your fault, let’s figure out what it was we did wrong and make it right. You did something right – must have been luck, let’s just carry on as we were.
I love working towards success in Olympic lifts – the challenge gives me great satisfaction – but I would loved to have been able to slow down time and figure out what I did so well in that snatch or split jerk. if I could figure it out then I’d be able to repeat what I did. Or were they just luck… Just a coincidence that all parts of my body were in the right place at the right time? Of course, coaches can tell you what you did well, but it’s not the same as knowing what good technique feels like, reflecting on that feeling, and putting it into use in the future.
There are so many memes out there in Instaland egging us on through our failures; that there is no such thing as failure as long as you learn from it. It’s about time we learned from our successes, too, as well as celebrating them.
What do you think? Do you learn from your successes as well from your failures? What advice can you give me to start learning from success?