The Struggle Is Real: Learning From Our Coaches About Becoming Better Athletes

Aug 26, 2019

 by Chris Brown

When it's the end of the day and you're the type to look up everyone's scores from the WOD, you've probably seen a pattern emerge among the athletes at your gym.  Perhaps it has to do with a person who is often the fastest at something or a person who lifts the most. Or, perhaps it's a person that you often compare yourself to, for one reason or another.  

Whatever the case, it's important to remember those numbers or scores only tell part of the story.  What they don't tell are the daily struggles that an individual endures, even if they are the "best" at something.

The people who we might forget still actually face these struggles, or forget about how hard they've worked to get where they are, are our very own coaches.  So rather than being intimidated by what they're doing when it comes to workouts, remember they are just like all of us, and fight for each and every WOD, too.

We sat down with our CrossFit Awaken owners, Chris Brown and Danielle Ring, to bring you some "Monday Motivation"; some real talk about what they've put in and continue to put in to bring us all an amazing gym experience.  

So read on for some intimate information from your coaches about what things they personally still struggle with, what things they have learned over their fitness journey and what sorts of "cheats" they allow themselves:

What are the physical things you still struggle with? (i.e., movements)

Danielle: Snatches, barbel cycling, anything really heavy — I can do it, but it will be slower.  High rep DUs, any 1-rep max; I rarely PR on anything- but I can do 90% of my max a million times. Short explosive movements or workouts. Im better at longer, stead pace stuff.

Chris: I am a bigger guy. I weigh 215lbs, so high-volume gymnastics has always been a struggle. If there is a workout that involves large sets of HSPU (100 reps or more), I will always have to strategize how I will get through them as efficiently as possible to keep up with the smaller competitor next to me. ​

What are the non-physical things you struggle with? (i.e., mental, nutrition)

Danielle: I have done a lot of work on the mental side. When I first started I would cry or hyperventilate when I would run. When I let my mind get worked up, my breathing would get crazy and then I would cry. Now it only happens when I can't do something I know I'm capable of - like in the Open or a competition. I still cry then, lol. I need to work on staying calm when the pressure is really on and things don't go the way I had planned. The mental game is most of the battle. Whether you think you can or you can't- you're right.

In terms of nutrition, I have been working on finding balance. I'm either all in or all out. So I would be super strict and have no cheats or anything, but then when I would have a cheat meal I would go crazy and eat everything in sight. I've been working on balance in between those two things; it's okay to enjoy things sometimes. But I think I wouldn't be where I am as far as health and eating if I hadn't been willing to say no to a lot of things and been a little extreme at times.

Chris: I know how to eat properly to fuel my body so it feels, looks, and performs its best but that doesn't mean I don't like the taste of the cheat stuff like donuts or pizza. I have gained more and more control of cravings over time, but at first it was a challenge for me. One meal, one day at a time. 

As far as my mental game, this is what everyone has the hardest time with. Emotions control a lot of the decisions we make. "I don't feel like it"  This is something we need to learn to separate ourselves from. It's not how you feel, it is about following through with your commitments regardless of how you feel; this is what integrity means to me. It's not about being perfect, but continuing to try to be your best and do what you said you were going to do. It's about keeping your promises to yourself. ​

What do you do to help get through your mental and physical struggles and has that process changed at all over the years? If so, how?

​Danielle: Honestly, I like doing hard things. I like doing things I think I can't do or that  other people think I can't do— I like to prove people wrong. I am very stubborn and never give up. So a lot of it comes naturally to me. I may still feel bad and get down but, but I also thrive off of that and I won't quit. 

I listen to lost of podcasts on mindset, health, nutrition, gratitude, motivation etc. I start every day with journaling and a devotional. I think those things have really changed the game for my mental state. I also don't really drink or party- drinking is a depressant and I'm just a happy well-balanced person without it.  That doesn't mean I don't enjoy a glass of wine every once in a while, but not regularly. Good nutrition is key to your mental health.

Chris: We are always evolving and learning more throughout the process of "becoming our best." So, yes, I do things differently now than I did when I first started my health and fitness journey 10 years ago. For example, I used to write POWER words on posts-its and stick them all over the place in my house, work, and car. This is how I stayed motivated and inspired on a daily basis.  Now, I try to listen to a podcast and read books and articles to learn and stay amped up any time I have downtime. ​

What has gotten easier over time for you? 

Danielle: Nothing.  It's just different.  You may get better at movements and get stronger, but the weight will always go up, or you want to get faster times or move the weight more efficiently. There are always challenges and there always should be. There is always something to get better at. All athletes have areas they can work on. The only thing that's easy for me is going to the gym; that I don't need to think about. Everything after that is still a challenge because I choose to push myself daily.

Chris:  Everything about fitness and health becomes easier over time. Once you start to learn better habits and keep your commitments it becomes a lifestyle, and then it becomes so much easier because it becomes routine. ​

What advice do you have for athletes who feel like they can't do something, whether it be mental or physical?

Danielle: You have to at least try.  Surround yourself with people who care and want to see you succeed. Everyone feels the same way and getting better- no matter how slowly- is better than doing nothing. Never give up.

Chris:  Let's just be real, somethings are scary and seem impossible, but so is getting married, having a baby or supporting a family. All things in life can be scary and seem difficult, but that's why you have friends, family and support to help you through. Nothing in life is worth having if it doesn't take hard work to achieve it. Keep fighting for what you deserve and it will come to you.  It just may take some time, so please be patient and never give up. ​

Do you allow yourself cheats? If so, how and when? Does this help you?

Danielle: The longer I do this the less I cheat.  Maybe twice a month I will have a hard kombucha or glass of wine. Maybe once a month I will have what people will consider a cheat- but nothing hardcore. At this point, a lot of "cheat foods" taste gross to me and make me feel terrible. I would rather make a bomb healthy meal at home. There are lots of healthy "treats" I like to make, but in general I don't need to cheat because it doesn't move me towards my goals and it makes me sick. But I do love to eat lots of food! 

Chris:  There are different stages of cheats. When I first started, a cheat meant a full day once a week of whatever I wanted to eat.  Over time, it became one meal a week of whatever I wanted to eat. Now, it is more like one meal, once a month or two; nothing too crazy. I have gotten better at controlling the cravings. I realize now that those unhealthy junk foods are not productive for what my goals are.