What To Do When You’re The Worst

I’ve started taking CrossFit classes and, for the love of all that is holy, I suck at it. Without any doubt in my or anyone else’s mind in that gym, I am hands down the worst in our class. It’s not fun; in fact it’s outright embarrassing. Two classes in, there’s a very clear bell curve as to where we all stand, and I’m not even sure I’m on it.

So what do you do when you’re clearly the worst? What are your options? Well, there’s the obvious… quit, but I’d like to be around to see a decent amount of my kids’ lives. I’d also like to stop memorizing where all the mirrors are so I can avoid catching site of myself in them. There’s really only one option: keep going. You have to start figuring out what you suck at and get sucking. Be the worst long enough and you might get caught up. Get caught up and you might be able to excel, but know that excelling is a hell of a long way off.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to something or if, like me and my health, you’ve dug yourself into a hole… There is no easy way. There are no shortcuts. There’s just the time, the dedication, the suffering and worst of all, the humility you’re going to have to need to stick it out long enough suck less. You’re going to have to be okay with being the worst and you’re going to have to be okay with that lasting a pretty long time.

There are things you can do. Figure out exactly what it is that causes you to lag behind. Put in extra hours that the others won’t need to put in. Use whatever shame you’re feeling and stick it out. It isn’t going to be fun, but as is the case with me and CrossFit, if you’re willing to even consider suffering through it, it’s probably what you need.

I wish I had better news, I wish it were going to be easier, but it won’t be. It will be really to push through, but if you do, the ability to persevere alone will worth the cost of your suffering (or in my case free up mental bandwidth that is currently being wasted on avoiding my own reflection). But until then, we’re going to have to learn to live with being the worst, because unfortunately there’s just no other way to get better.

28 Responses to What To Do When You’re The Worst

  1. Just because getting fit is a goal of yours, that doesn’t mean that cross-fit classes is the correct path. There is an almost unlimited variety of ways to get more fit. And it sounds to me like you started with something you either should be working up to or avoiding forever. I’d suggest stepping back a bit. Building up a walking or biking program and a weight routine would give you the satisfaction of seeing improvement while you figure out what you’d like to move on to when your body is ready.

    • Oh, to be clear, I’m enjoying the experience, I just suck at it for the moment. I’ve tried several other approaches and often get bored. This approach seems to play nicely with my need to mix things up and hatred of traditional gyms, so I’m really looking forward to it. I just have to play a whole bunch of catch up. Which is something I’m looking forward to!

      • In that case you’re way ahead of me. I virtually never enjoy what I’m not good at, especially in front of others! As a person who had to deal with getting fit and healthy at 62, I know that the younger you are when you make the commitment, the easier it is. There are lots of us out here rooting for you big time!

        • I tend to struggle at just about everything (it’s a skill) so I’ve gotten used to it over the years. Thanks for the support and here’s wishing you the best in your own efforts!

  2. Keep it going mate! I’m in the same boat after sitting at a computer desk for the last 10 years and letting my fitness suffer. Having a daughter who’s 2 and another one on the way hasa whats given me the kick up the bum I needed! Keep us updated.

  3. Truer words have never been spoken! I recently started training for the Ironman 70.3, and even though I’m in a beginner’s group I am the worst in two of the disciplines with no indication that I’ll ever catch up. The solution? Keep on sucking, finish the race, and stick to the programme until there’s a newbie that sucks more at it than I do…

  4. I just wanted to give you some encouragement … in some ways I’m kind of your future self. At the start of 2011 I was an unfit desk-jockey. I have mild attention issues (not enough for a full-blown ADHD diagnosis, but enough to give me problems). I’m not sure what your exercise history is, but I had never been particularly active, never really played sports. I had taken up running about 18 months earlier and lost ~40 pounds, and then slowly found about half of it again.

    So I started CrossFit.

    And, like you, I sucked at it. Just jumping rope was just incredibly hard. I couldn’t string two wall-balls together, and that was with an eight pound ball! A box jump over 15″ seemed impossible. Pull ups? Out of the question. The first time we did 1RM presses I almost kiled myself getting thirty kilos up. I had no upper body strength.

    But I kept going. Three times a week. I got sore. I got stronger. I got faster. Then I started going every morning. My numbers got better and better. I had muscles. I started wearing T-shirts without another shirt over them. I slept better. I didn’t ache. I felt younger.

    Now, about 20 months later: I’m in the middle of the pack at my gym, most of the time. There are things I’m good at and things I still suck at. I’ve competed twice, and while I came dead last in my division both time, each competition saw me back at the gym with a ton of motivation.

    So: stick with it. It will always be hard, but you will get better.

    (The bad news: it didn’t really help with my attention issues. But I wouldn’t stop doing it for anything.)

    And feel free to contact me if you want advice from someone who was in your shoes not too long ago.

    • Hey Mark, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. Our situations are very similar (although I played a bit of sports WAY back in the day). I did the running, lost the weight and then fell off the wagon due to boredom. Right now, I’m loving the experience even though it’s kicking my ass and it’s encouraging to hear that the middle of the pack is a possibility. I’ve got a long way to go and I may be reaching out to you for help (or at least just the encouragement to stick with it), but in the meantime, I’m learning the ropes, suffering through the burpies and looking forward to my final “foundations” class. Game on!

        • There are two parts to this: In what way is the CrossFit approach to training better than “conventional” gym workouts? And: Why is it worth going to a CrossFit gym to train rather than working out in a gym or at home?

          Because, of course, you could do CrossFit-style workouts — for example, those posted daily on crossfit.com (or crossfitendurance.com, or if you’re particularly psychotic, sealfit.com) — anywhere there is suitable equipment. It doesn’t have to be in a CrossFit gym.

          My answers, in reverse order: I train at a CrossFit gym because: (A) it’s equipped for CrossFit workouts, has a tolerance for (in particular) dropping weights, and has open, flexible spaces uncluttered by machines. (B) there are coaches there who can teach the many unfamiliar movements for athletes interested in CrossFit but who don’t have a solid grounding in gymnsatics, powerlifting, kettlebells, Olympic weightlifting, rowing, and many other activities. And (C), because showing up to a class every morning with the same people builds a great sense of community and support, which is tremendously helpful in the difficult work of becoming fitter.

          But why CrossFit at all? I like it because it is explicitly intended to make you fitter. Not just stronger or faster or more powerful or more flexible … fitter overall, better able to tackle any physical activity. And because it aims for all-around ability, the training activities vary tremendously, and every workout is different. Even the commonly-repeated “named” CrossFit workouts (like “Fran” or “Christine”) might be repeated in a different context — “Christine” after finding your one-rep max deadlift is very different than doing it after running a mile or working on handstands, for example. CrossFit culture is also inclusive, valuing each individual’s effort relative to their own skill levels.

          In spite of having tried to go to the gym and “get in shape” several times in the last twenty years, CrossFit is the only thing I’ve stuck with, and the only thing that’s gotten me the kind of results I’m happy with.

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  6. There is a price we pay in becoming who we are. There are two moments when we pay this price, first is a moment of discomfort, and the second is the moment of shame. You only need to pay one price.

    Most of the people go the easier route, because it is right now.

    At some point we have to pay the price. We choose when.

  7. [...] What To Do When You Are The Worst “The city is going to survive, we are going to get through it, It’s going to be very, very difficult time. I don’t think we yet know the pain that we’re going to feel when we find out who we lost, but the thing we have to focus on now is getting this city through this, and surviving and being stronger for it.”~Rudolph Giuliani [...]

  8. A fellow CFSBK member who sucks as well! I’d just started to not suck quite as badly when I decided to switch jobs and fell out of the habit of going to gym. Now I feel like I am back to square negative one and it’s embarrassing because I don’t even have the excuse of being new. But I really want to break through and not only get back to where I was but get better and maybe even excel at a few things. thanks for writing a post I can absolutely relate to!

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