As the saying goes ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link’. If this weak link is in your support network, it can be detrimental to your results in and outside of the gym. I’ve been lucky with my support team. I have an understanding family and set of friends who also do CrossFit and love to also see improvements and make gains. But this wasn’t always the case. What if you haven’t got a strong social support network?
CrossFit is primarily an individual sport and so without a training partner, it can be lonely – especially if you have come from a team sports background. Coming from rugby is maybe why I found it so stressful to begin with. I wanted to get better and everyone to know my accomplishments, but had no support network outside of the gym sphere. Coming from a team sport background, I also find it hard to train alone in workouts, control my diet and cope with injury. With this, I learned to share my achievements with my friends and family beyond the gym. Now, I rely on the support of my friends and family to bring me through stressful times whilst training to become fitter.
Here are four ways in which my social support network have helped me during my CrossFit journey thus far:
I workout with friends who are striving to achieve similar goals. This helps tremendously. If you ask me, there’s not much point in training with friends who want to have a laugh and skip sets because Coronation Street is on at 8pm. We train until the job is done or until our bodies tell us to stop. Not only do my training partners push me to be better, they also provide a wealth of knowledge, help and advice. I used to think that asking for help was a sign of weakness but found that my training buddies are more than willing to help out. Being at the gym every night can also take its toll on your social groups and relationships outside of the gym. However, I have found that sharing the interest of getting fit with your loved ones is vital to achieving your fitness goals. They should understand that it’s important to you if you explain this.
Being around people who are also eating healthy and understand their diets is key. However not everyone is diet conscious and so how do you deal with this? Going into work where people eat sandwiches, soup and fast food for their lunches can make it hard to eat good nutritious food. However, at the gym and home I share the goals with my friends and family to build a better me. I remind myself at work that the better me only comes from eating the right amount of healthy food. Seeing how healthy my friends, family and fitness heroes are helps too. At home we often prep food together so we ensure that what we take to work and eat on a night is healthy and tastes good.
When I’ve been injured, I found that I needed my social support network the most. Being reminded that you’ll come back bigger, faster and stronger is vital. I found that remembering and visualising past performances at competitions helped to build hunger to train harder. This helped me stay positive and mentally strong. Without the guidance of my friends and family, I would have been stressed and in a negative mind-set. Also through the knowledge of my training partners and coaches I have learnt the importance of mobility and stretching pre and post workout. Without these support networks in place I would have not known this, which would have led to injury. I believe that my lack of mobility has been the cause of injuries in the past and it’s only now I am addressing this.
CrossFit competitions can be local, national or international. Like any sport, the better you get, the more you’ll compete and the further you’ll travel. With this, it is vital you have your family and friends to support you physically and mentally whilst competing. This could be as little as a good luck message or actually travelling 100s of miles with you to watch and give guidance and support. I have been lucky enough to have family travel with me to most competitions in 2016. Knowing that whatever happens on the competition floor having someone to share that victory or loss with is priceless and some company for the long drives home, even better! Due to nerves and pressure I put on myself I often get into a bad mood on the morning of a competition. I usually just want to get there and get started. My girlfriend has become a pro at dealing with these mood swings and just lets me get on with it. This year I plan on only doing competitions where family support is available. The difference the support makes is incredible. I always perform better when family and friends are watching.
Social support is vital in CrossFit and training towards tough goals. I have given four examples, but in reality you rely on other people a lot more than your think. To have a good level of support it’s all about communication and sharing your problems with loved ones. Rather than being criticised for opening up like I thought I would be, my questions have always been welcomed by family and friends. Since developing a stronger social support network and leaning on others I have decreased stress levels, started thinking positively and my training results have improved. People inspire you or drain you – pick them carefully.