As the 2016 Crossfit Regional season reaches its climax, I can’t help but be absolutely awed by the incredible feats and physiques on display. Men and women are submitted to grueling workout after grueling workout and keep coming back for more. They appear almost indefatigable and are an inspiration to all of us casual athletes. However, as I watch these men and women perform I can’t help but ask myself if there is a point, at which, the quest to become “the fittest on earth” becomes an unhealthy thing? Is there a point at which health must give way to performance?
Most of us train in order to become fitter and to improve our health. You don’t need me to tell you about the numerous health benefits associated with doing some form of exercise and with becoming more active in general. Along the spectrum of health, both diet and exercise are two things, which have a profound impact on overall well being. Having both of these things dialed in will definitely help you to become healthier. There is no denying that. Is there, however, a need to be concerned with getting too much of a good thing?
When we look at the definition of health, it can be summed us as the absence of illness or injury. In the pursuit of either peak performance or a stage worthy physique, athletes often endure numerous injuries. You only need look at the heavy strapping and taping on display on the competition floor to realise that this is the case. Is it fair to say, therefore, that these athletes are sacrificing health in favour of performance? Would it be true to say that in order to achieve elite status, athletes must push themselves past the bounds of what would normally be advisable?
In any sport elite athletes must subject themselves to physical demands which most of us could not endure. Watch any Rocky movie if you don’t know what I mean! Most of us simply could not withstand the physical and mental stresses, which are required, in order to become the very best in our chosen discipline. This is not a criticism. The truth of it is, in order to achieve the levels of performance or body composition required to take center stage, we must sacrifice a great deal. Not least of all is our health. Social life, work life and relationships also have to take a back seat. For most of us, achieving this level just won’t be worth it.
I have personally struggled with unblurring these lines. As someone who had a problem getting my weight to behave, it was difficult for me to recognise when enough was enough. Not long ago, my coach asked me a very important question. Something which helped me gain a little much needed perspective. He said “Arwen, where are you trying to get to?” I didn’t have an answer for him, and he just let the question hang. I allowed his question to marinate and a few weeks later, when I met with him again, I had a bit more of an idea. We hashed it out together. He basically said that when you get to a certain point with your weight and body composition, you’re going to have a choice to make.
Yes, I could continue to try to drop weight. I could continue to try to lose another bit of body fat, but it wasn’t going to be any fun. It would mean missing out on a lot of the things which make life worthwhile. I needed to decide if seeing a smaller number on the scale was worth missing out on birthday cake and a glass of wine at the weekend. As I have absolutely no desire to be on stage or to take part in competition, it was an easy decision in the end. That’s not to say that I won’t continue to work hard with both my nutrition and my training, but it does mean refocusing my energy away from those particular metrics.
For me, life is about balance. The more effort you put into one aspect, the less energy you have available for anything else. This year has seen me embarking on a whole host of exciting adventures (not least of all talking to you lovely people) None of this would have been a possibility if I can continued to obsess over every morsel of food ingested and fret over every workout. I believe we should give our nutrition and training the amount of attention they require, but no more. They should be life enhancing and not sources of stress.
It is up to each individual to decide where on their list of priorities these things fall. It’s also important to realise that at different stages, they may become more or less important. Be aware that you are a human being with limited resources. Spend these resources in the way that brings you the most joy. Balance your time and your efforts according to your own goals and you won’t go too far wrong. As yourself the question my coach asked me. Where are you trying to get to? Once you have the answer to this, unapologetically race there.
Next week I am off to Madrid to watch the European Regionals, and I will definitely be glad to be sitting on the side lines!