June was a good month for me in CrossFit World. I hit PRs (that’s personal record for the non-CrossFit among us) on a couple of lifts (and even PR’ed the same lift twice in a month). I did a couple of gymnastics movements for the first time that I’ve been chipping away at FOR.E.VER (pistol squats and ring dips), strung together a few strict pull-ups (video on my instagram …this is a BIG deal) and made big improvements to my kipping ones (also a long time coming. Gymnastics are my weakness).
I’m not telling you all of this to brag. More so to say that it was a long journey to get there. And those victories tasted oh-so-sweet because they came at the end (I hope!) of what was a months long, both mental and physical funk (and not the cool uptown kind that Bruno and Mark sing about).
You don’t have to be a CrossFitter to find something to be in a funk about – we’ve all been there. They can be mental, emotional, physical, spiritual – sometimes all of the above. They can be as short as a week or two, or can last several months or more. Sometimes there is a legitimate reason for why they start. Other times you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Whatever the case, it’s easy to want these funks to be over, and stat! Being in a funk does not feel so funky. But there are surprising lessons to be learned from embracing the funk (no, I do NOT mean you should get comfy and throw yourself a pity party. Step away from the pint of ice cream). Simply be honest about where you’re at. Remind yourself that it will end (even if you have no idea of how or when). Then take steps (however teeny tiny) to pull yourself out of it.
First, some background on my own personal, blog post title-inspiring funk. As of writing this, I’ve been CrossFitting for just under 4 years. As you can imagine, I’ve had my share of ups and downs, injuries and comebacks. I’ve experienced the same honeymoon period that any new CrossFitter enjoys, where you’re drinking the Kool-aid and living your CrossFit dreams, constantly learning new skills, and the PRs come fast and furious.
My pre-June funk started sometime last fall. It was a challenging year (when I say “year,” as I’m a teacher, I often mean September-June, FYI) for many reasons that I don’t need to go into here. One of which though was that I was sick – a lot (even for someone who deals with dozens of germy kiddos on a daily basis for a living).
All that sickness meant I was more tired, and at times needed to take more breaks from the gym (which if you know me at all, isn’t necessarily a bad thing #crossfitaddict). I’m not sure if there was a definite starting point, but I began finding myself mentally making excuses of why I couldn’t go all out. Why I “needed” to take it easy on a particular day (which may have been completely legit at times).
This is all well and good, but doing that over and over lead to me being “scared” when I saw workouts written up on the board. Needing to take it easy led to thinking I couldn’t do it. PRs not only slowed down, but dried up entirely. I found myself repeatedly using the terms “washed-up,” “past my prime,” or “has-been,” to describe myself. Even if I didn’t use them out loud, this is what I was telling myself over and over in my head. Before I knew it, a few initial thoughts of doubt had lead to me being a full-time resident of Funkytown.
Now that I’ve contextualized a bit, how did I (and how do you) claw myself out of that Funkytown valley onto the mountaintop of awesomeness?
Recognize that both highs and lows are fleeting. I can’t expect to have a month like June every month. It’s not maintainable over the long term. And really, without months in the PR dessert, would the month of June have felt so amazing? I don’t think I need to insert an inspirational quotation here, we’ve all heard about how the mountaintop experiences aren’t as sweet without going through the valleys, or been reminded not to compare highlight reels to behind-the-scenes… yada yada yada.
And on the flip side, the funk can’t last forever (although, boy it sure feels like it sometimes). On the days when it seems like you’re going to be camped out in the dessert for the foreseeable future, when your slump is impossible to overcome; remind yourself that life has seasons. The highest highs have come and gone, and so will your lowest lows. Be patient. Stick it out. You’ll get there.
It’s not all peaks and valleys. This is a variation of something I’m telling myself often/ writing about in one form or another these days. A different way to put it: embrace the middle. It might be too much to ask for to go from the depths of a funk right to a mountaintop. You might have to settle for middle ground. But, the older I get and the more life I live, I’m realizing that oftentimes, the middle is a pretty ok place to be. You will have mountaintops and valleys, and learn from both of them, but there’s also a lot of life in between (and you can learn stuff there too).
If a linear, black or white, all or nothing thinker like myself can learn to embrace the middle, I’m pretty sure you can too. And isn’t middle ground better than Funkytown anyway?
Just keep swimming. Dory knows what’s up (this is me trying to be creative and find a different way of saying “keep putting one foot in front of the other” ’cause I already said it way back here). I say it again because it’s true, and it’s one of the best pieces of advice I know. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to give up and surrender to the funk. I wanted to throw in the towel, call it a day, and have a good cry. But I didn’t. Even though it didn’t feel like I was making any breakthroughs, progress or improvements, I kept showing up. I kept putting in the work. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, those breakthroughs came (huh, guess I was making progress all along…). If had stayed home, quit the gym, and cried on the couch? Yeah, probably wouldn’t have happened.
Don’t make success your only/ultimate goal. Ok, this sounds weird at first, but hear me out! I love CrossFit. I love working out and being strong, and I love it when I PR a lift, or do something I’ve never done before. But that’s not the only reason I love it. I also love all the people I workout with. Even when I’m “not getting any better,” and may be frustrated as heck at my lack of progress, I can still be having a good time. Success is a goal I’ll always be chasing but it’s not my only “why.” Good friends and a good sense of humour can go a long way in a funk. If you’re camped out in Funkytown, might as well have a good laugh, right?
So I’ve made it out of a funk…now what? Truthfully: I don’t know. I am fully aware that probably July won’t be as crazy amazing as June was (but then again, who knows?). Really, whether in a funk, on the mountaintop, or in the middle; the above advice is pretty applicable. I’ll keep on moving forward, showing up, and putting in work. When it goes awesome, I’ll celebrate. And if not? I’ll come back, re-read this post, take a deep breath, and claw my way back to the middle ground. After all, I’ve heard that’s a pretty good place to be…. 😉