Eat More. Do Less.

The Benefits of Stepping Outside Your Box

Most of my day is spent in an office at a desk, but occasionally I get out of the cage and have a chance to do a little traveling. Enough to keep it interesting, but not enough to get sick of it. I’m fortunate to get a good balance. When I started my exercise routine, I told myself I’d keep up my workouts on the road. Promises, promises.

West Little Rock Crossfit

West Little Rock Crossfit

I’ve only had a half dozen trips or so in the last 8 months. Several of these have been single day trips where I didn’t have a chance to workout. One hotel had an amazing gym…if you paid an extra $14 to work out. Nope. A couple of other hotels think a treadmill and a balance ball are a gym. Nope. And after a long day of work on the road, it’s hard to do burpees and push ups on hotel room carpet. Nasty.

Two weeks ago I found myself in Little Rock on a business trip. I rolled into town about 5:00pm and checked into the hotel. Because I knew I’d have my own car, I looked up some local boxes near my hotel and contacted them about dropping in. The crew over at West Little Rock Crossfit welcomed me and then put me through the ringer just like I was one of their own.

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I was a little nervous walking into an unknown gym. I still consider myself a newbie, as I’d only been doing this for about 7 months. Sure, I know most of the movements, but I’m still improving my technique, I don’t lift as much weight as those with more experience, and there are still a lot of things I just can’t do (double unders, rings dips, muscle ups, unbroken pull ups, and the list goes on). But I figured I could fake it, and putting ego aside, just admit when there was something I had to scale. The first two sets were heavy, but manageable. Then I got a couple of pointers on my elbow and foot positioning and the weight instantly was lighter on my next few sets.

Luckily, I was familiar with everything except a couple new items during warm ups. Of course, the strength training movement was one of my nemeses, overhead squats. But I’ve been getting better at them, so I didn’t think I’d look like a complete tool. And I felt even better when only one person put more weight on the bar than I did (ok, it was a small class).

I went in for a workout, but what I didn’t expect was the perspective I’d walk out with.

The Benefit of Stepping Outside Your Box

I am grateful that I ended up where I am at my current box. I didn’t try a bunch of places, I just joined where my wife was already a member. She joined because a friend was already a member. I got lucky. Our coaches are phenomenal at both coaching and programming.

Crossfit often gets a bad name because of the lack of formal training needed for someone to become certified to open their own place. My box isn’t like that. I tend to think the programming would stand up against some of the best boxes in the country. Overall plans are built out well in advance according to a philosophy and system that comes from decades of personal experience, formal education, and professional coaching of athletes. Our head coach has a proven track record of making athletes better.

I used to say they were good at pushing me beyond my limits, but that isn’t really true. They are great at pushing me beyond what I THOUGHT were my limits and showing me that I am more than what my mind lets me convince myself that I am. This is training gold.

But what I also realized from my trip to Little Rock, is there are benefits to training in new places when you have a chance. Does this mean you should rotate boxes in your city every month? Of course not. But should you visit a few places and do a drop in class before making a decision? Absolutely. But beyond that, seek out other places to train when you travel. You might be surprised what you find.

Here are a few reasons to “step outside your box”

Maybe your coach is bad and you don’t know it

You start Crossfit and you get stronger, you lose a few pounds, and everything is great. Truth is, if you haven’t been working out, that should happen no matter how bad the programming. But you also run the risk of injury if your coach doesn’t know how to correct your technique. If you spend 6 months doing Crossfit and visit another box where the coach spends most of the class correcting your form, you might be in trouble.

Different philosophies

Different coaches come from different backgrounds. I recently listened to a podcast with world champion power lifter AJ Roberts and he talked a little bit about how many different styles of training there are that are good and effective. But not one size fits all. You can buy 5 different brands of jeans in the same size, but chances are, one is going to fit better than the rest, even though they all cover your butt.

Maybe they put it another way

Your coach may show you a thousand times how to set your back before your deadlift and you just don’t get it. But another coach shows you the same thing a different way, and it clicks. Happens to us all as we learn. You’ve probably had one teacher explain something and it didn’t make any sense, but another teacher showed you and you got it. Crossfit isn’t any different.

They see your mistakes through fresh eyes

I’ve lost a lot of weight. It took awhile for coworkers to really start seeing it because I’m around them everyday. If your bench press form is terrible and you make a huge improvement, it’s easy for those you train with to notice how much better you are rather than how much more you have to learn. A fresh set of eyes are more likely going to evaluate you against textbook form than how you stuck your elbows out like chicken wings when you started six months ago.

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Maybe It’s a Toxic Environment

I’ve heard of boxes that are more like high school cliques than anything. If I want drama, I’ll watch Cops. When I go to workout, I don’t want to have to worry about feeling out of place because I’m in a group with three guys that always train together. I tend to workout with the same handful of people that are at my level (actually, better than me), but I wouldn’t have a problem being paired with any person at our box. That’s awesome.

It’s Uncomfortable

Just being in a new environment can push you out of your comfort zone. Everything and everyone is unfamiliar. Our coach likes to tell us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being around different people can make you more open to fresh ideas and coaching tips. There is an innate desire to please so you pay close attention and focus on doing the movements exactly like you were shown.

You Might Learn Something New

My adductor muscles tend to get sore when I do snatches or overhead squats. When I was in Little Rock I picked up a new stretch in the warm up that specifically targets that muscle. It sucks, but it’s effective. Now when I have to do either of those movements, I have one more tool in my arsenal to help me prepare.

Make a home, but don’t be afraid to vacation

You need a base of operations. Your box will become a second home and the other members, your family. If not, you aren’t in the right place.

But don’t miss an opportunity to learn from someone new when you can. One of the things that makes the Crossfit community great is the willingness to share information and ideas with everyone else. Training methods aren’t horded. Most people you will meet genuinely want you to be better. If you have a great idea that helps someone, you lose nothing by sharing it, but that person may gain much by receiving it.

3.2.1…GO

Have you ever had the chance to train somewhere else? Or did you change locations to find a better fit? Let us know in the comments!

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