The 5 Phases a CrossFitter’s Journey

If you have been with us for any amount of time you will have probably began to recognise that there are different phases of progressions as an athlete. These stages can all last for different lengths of time, but chances are, every athlete is in one or even two stages at any one time. In some way, all athletes fit along a timeline or progression that leads to a betterment of self, but at one time or another, we pass through several awkward and sometimes painful stages. In my experience, each stage teaches you something new about yourself and the fitness journey. Each stage is unique and something can be learned from each.
As we are all growing and learning, it can be helpful to recognise where you are in your fitness journey and it may help you settle in and enjoy the process or appreciate where others around you are. Or it might even make you smile and laugh a little bit as you remember stages you’ve gone through. Whatever the case may be, here are five primary stages of a CrossFit athlete’s growth:
1: The Newbie
The Newbie is one of my favourite people in the gym. This person is brand new to CrossFit and possibly even exercise, they typically bring with them an attitude that wants to learn despite things being new and potentially cumbersome. These athletes typically aren’t the strongest or fastest, but their determination to get better and learn is contagious and loved by coaches and other athletes in the gym. The attitude to grow and get better is a great starting point moving forward as an athlete and a mentality that can be well carried into other areas of life.
2: The Cherry Picker
Alright, so now the athlete has progressed past the Newbie stage and has figured out how to do each of the movements. This athlete has also figured out what they’re good at, and not so good at. With a growing knowledge of their own ability, this person begins to avoid anything they don’t like. Perhaps this athlete is really strong and can squat a car, but can’t do gymnastics movements well, so they show up when there’s squatting or a barbell in the workout but don’t seem to show up when there are bodyweight movements. While this athlete may always be impressive on the days they show up, it’s only because they cherry pick the workouts and don’t show up when their weaknesses appear.
3: The SugarWOD Champ
This stage is semi-inclusive of the Cherry Picker as well; the SugarWOD Champ hates being anything but first on the whiteboard at the end of the day. This athlete frequently asks questions like, “How many rounds did everyone else get?” or “What weight do I need to do to Rx this workout?” At times, these athletes can be very frustrating for coaches and other athletes, as they turn everything into a comparison or competition to make sure they finish on the top at the end of the day. This athlete probably refreshes their SugarWOD app the night before to make sure they have a good strategy for the workout. So long as they finish better than everyone else at the end of the day this athlete will remain satisfied in their fitness.
But though the SugarWOD Champ may be a little too competitive for their own good at times, these are also some of the most enthusiastic and ready-to-push-to-the-limits kind of athletes. During this phase, you’re probably going to see a lot of PBs, breakthroughs, and everyone around them will feel the excitement when they achieve a goal. On the converse side, however, it’s easy for this athlete to become discouraged or take it hard when he or she has an off day, when the coach has to correct improper form or take the weight off, or when they haven’t seen a PB in a week or two. However, as the athlete settles in, listens to their coach, and trusts the process, you will often see the SugarWOD Champ begin to grow into our next phase which leads us to…
4: The Journeyman
This athlete is in a unique stage of their fitness journey, hence the title. A journeyman is someone who sees their health and fitness as a lifetime pursuit and not just a quick fix to their diet or an easy way to get fit fast. This stage has actually has similarities to the Newbie as they recognise the necessity to ask the coaches questions, to learn how to move really well, to recognise the importance of the long-term benefits of exercise, and to focus more on the process than the quick PB’s. Fitness is a long process and a journey, it takes time, effort, and a great level of self-motivation. The journeyman is commonly seen before or after class working on drills or accessory work to help supplement the areas they are lacking in and puts a greater emphasis on quality in movement and overcoming weaknesses.
5: Master of the Craft
These athletes are few and far between. They represent a small group of individuals who have stood the test of time, many failures, possibly some injuries or setbacks, and still press on. This athlete spends a significant amount of time perfecting their movement so that as they get tired in the middle of the workout their technique still looks near perfect. This athlete knows how and where to push, exactly how to meet each of the movement standards, and has a unique ability to adapt to any task thrown their way. This stage is one that is coveted by many and achieved by few. The Master of the Craft is the Jedi of fitness and is commonly looked up to as the example and highly respected by those in the other stages.
So it might be easy to try to go ahead and place yourself in one category, but in all honesty, we each resemble several parts of each stage. These stages may last for weeks, months, or years. But here’s the big take away: We are all on a journey.
As a part of the growing fitness community, it is important to recognise each person’s journey. Part of what makes CrossFit so unique is the fact that people of all ages, in all different stages of fitness are able to come together and work side-by-side, joined by the fact that they are all doing variations of the same workouts. The sixty-year-old lady who’s never worked out in her life doing jumping pull-ups is still pushing herself as much as the twenty-five-year-old guy doing chest-to-bar pull-ups with a weighted vest on. So no matter what stage you’re in, if you’re pushing yourself to do your very best and if you’re learning something every week, you’re the perfect CrossFitter in my opinion.