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Rest Day

Jacque's recent backpacking trip to the Wind Rivers in Wyoming

  • There are only two slots left for Ken's Gymnastics class starting this weekend. For more information check out the event page.
  • Congratulations to Rickke M for winning the Herondale Farm Meat Raffle yesterday. Thanks to all who came out and talked to farmer Jerry. 
  • Happy Birthday, Shane B!

The Sophomore Slump

by Noah Abbott

It’s inevitable. At some time during this great journey that is Crossfit, things are going to get tough.  Your strength numbers stop shooting up, and your metcon times stop plummeting down.  At a certain point what Mark Rippetoe calls the “Beginner Effect” wears off, and you are now faced with the daunting prospect that each gain, each skill mastered, and each second shaved will be done so at the cost of a considerable investment of time, focus, and will.  

Often, concurrent with this realization, you will look around and think “why isn’t this happening to anyone else!”  The guy you share a squat rack with has added 40 pounds to his squat this exposure, while you’ve risked an aneurysm to add 15!  The girl you did foundations with just hit 100 consecutive double unders, and you approach the jump rope like its an anaconda looking to wrap you up and eat you!  You thought you were great at this stuff, and all of a sudden it feels like you barely deserve to wear the ol’ skull and crossbones and call yourself a CFSBKer.

For many, this phenomenon occurs somewhere between 6 and 18 months into an athlete’s development, although it can certainly happen sooner or later, depending on your previous training history.  Often times this double edged revelation- That a) shit is gonna be hard, and b)that on the giant Crossfit spectrum your abilities rate closer to Jason Schwartzman’s than Jason Khalipa’s- results in a drop of motivation, general malaise, and sometimes a loss of CrossFaith.

Congratulations!  You are now a Crossfit Sophopmore, and experiencing your first Sophomore Slump!  At this time it may be meritorious to examine the roots of the word Sophomore.  Although commonly used to refer to the second year of high school or college instruction, it derives its name from the greek sophisma, which means “acquired skill, clever device, method” which was further derived from sophos, meaning “wise or skilled.”  Previously you made gains randomly, almost accidentally, and every lift or metcon was a PR.  Now, as a Sophomore, you must practice sophisma and train methodically and with greater perspective to ensure continued success.

Redefine Goals and Timeframes

At the start of your Crossfit career, goals were short-term challenges and triumphs.  Kicking up to a handstand, one (or ten, or twenty) push-ups or pull-ups, squatting to depth- these were things that you could identify, work on for a relatively short amount of time, and achieve.  For further development as a Sophomore, a redefinition of goals is necessary.  

Previously, we planned forward to achieving a goal.  “I want to squat 200 pounds by the end of the month.”  Looking forward, I challenge you to plan backwards.  Identify your goal, figure out how many training days you can allot per week or month to work on it, and set a long enough timeframe that you will be able to keep progressing slowly and steadily towards success.  Make sure to start submaximally (using weight/reps/etc lower than your current max) to make sure you have room to grow.  The more you can delay hitting the ceiling of your current ability, the more room your ability will have to grow. By starting low, aiming high, and giving themselves ample time to grow Smart Sophomores avoid Ceilings (I think I just made up a new saying!).


Even with perfect planning, great focus, and sustained intensity, some movements,workouts, or even time/weight modalities (Grace vs Murph) will always seem to crush us.  Mobility, diet, sleep, injury history- all of these things blend into potent cocktails that besiege the fledgling (and intermediate, and expert) Crossfitter.   Instead of getting frustrated why not try and re-frame the problem:

First, embrace every exposure to them as an opportunity to practice perfectly and gather experience and insight about a difficult adversary.  Relish in attacking your weaknesses, and try your best to attend days when those weaknesses are programmed, or program them yourself during open gym days.

Second, actively try to maintain perspective about what Crossfit means in your life and your personal reasons for why you keep showing up to a funky old warehouse to get sweaty.  Aside from the infinitesimal percentage of elite, competitive Crossfit athletes, most of us come to the gym for reasons that all fall under the umbrella of “Improving Quality of Life.”  Increasing work capacity, being able to participate in new and challenging activities, looking better naked- all of these are broad, life-oriented goals that we work towards every single time we come to the gym, whether its a day when we hit a PR or where we bail on every set.  

Last, remember what a great privilege it is that you have a life that allows you to spend a nice chunk of time each week picking up heavy stuff, running, jumping, and making yourself Mas Sexy (and I mean that in the broadest sense of the Spanglish malaproprism).  There are a vast number of people out there too overworked, underpaid, untrained, ignorant or otherwise unable to do the things we take for granted.  Your worst day at the gym is better than a day sitting on the couch mainlining Pringles.

Just Show Up

Which brings me to my last point and word of advice during slumps, Sophomoric or otherwise.  JUST SHOW UP.  Every day you are in the gym working is a day you are improving, even when it doesn’t feel that way.  Tangible increases in strength or speed are important, but so are intangible gains in familiarity with movements and a greater understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.  Broadening your knowledge and confidence is just as worthwhile an endeavor as broadening your back and thighs.  Sometimes you will surprise yourself with gains you make when you feel like you are standing still.  Plus, your friends want to see you, sweat with you, and laugh with you, and, if you don’t show up, your coaches will have nothing to do but compare deadlift scars and throw chalk at each other.

A Long Crossfit Road

Hopefully after reading this, some of you will feel rejuvenated, and apply these humble tools to break out of the funk you are currently in.  Although this article deals with the concept of a Sophomore Slump, rest assured there are Junior Slumps, Senior Slumps, and a wealth of postgraduate, doctoral, and extracurricular opportunities in Slump Science as well.  Now you have the weapons to fight back.   Redefine your goals and adjust your timeframes to allow steady progress towards said goals. Strive to maintain perspective and always reflect on what Crossfit means to you, why you do it.   Most importantly, even when it’s tough, find value in simply stepping into the ring.   So equipped, all of these Slumps will be just small road bumps on a long road.  Trust me, one day you’ll look back at this stuff, and laugh.

Reader Comments (20)

Snatch topped out at 78. I got 80 last week but after yesterday's OHS/clean-fest I wasn't going there.

HBBSQ 150x5x3. Definitely still have room to grow here. I may take a 10# jump next week.

No time for the cash-out, (un?)fortunately.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Great stuff, Noah. Thanks for the inspiration. I don't have to look back to laugh, I'm laughing now! I'm about a year in and I went through a sophomore slump a few months ago, and currently in a "JUST SHOW UP" mode right now, trying to figure out what my next goal is. I'm getting really close on good kipping pullups, but I'm still a mess with Double Unders. I need to get there a little early or stay a little late and do those every day so I don't continue to embarrass myself. :)

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Milk

Amen, Noah! Great words to live by. I especially like the sentence-" Most importantly, even when it’s tough, find value in simply stepping into the ring". I think we need a CFSBK tee shirt with the logo "JUST SHOW UP" and a good pic to go with it. And, ... so, I'm not the only one who throws chalk at David?

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

that friend speaks my mind. tshirts. yes.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGracie

Certainly feeling there are things that are ebbing lately. Not sure if it's age or what. Also things I start to make improvements on go away in the next cycle and so they slide back down. Old injuries haunt me and recovery doesn't happen fast enough some days. While I have fixed and improved in some places I feel like my numbers are still hovering in the same place more or less for the past 6 months.

I have looked back through my workout log and some of the numbers I have done seem either the same or even less than I have done in the past.

It is what it is, maybe it is just a slump

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith W

The re-post of this article is pretty well-timed for me. I've been struggling to make time for all the things that are important to me, and with my progress at the gym coming to a bit of a plateau, it is really tempting to skip workouts. I think, "What's the point, I won't do as well as I want to anyway. Might as well do other stuff instead." Which is a really great way to not to make any gains at all.

So I tricked my dumb brain by coming in for a 7am class, before I was conscious enough to talk myself out of it. So early. Not sure if I can make a habit of it, but I am going to try.

Did yesterday's performance WOD rx'd in 12:32. You could hardly call what I was doing in those last 400 meters a "run" (more of a "limping jog" or "drag-assed-trot"), but the overhead squats went wayyyyy better than they did in the OHS/toes-to-bar couplet from a week or so ago. Progress!

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Mc

Great words of wisdom! Great t-shirt idea!!

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecca Wolf

6am with Nick and McDowell. Snatch: 95, 115, 135, 145F, 145, 145, 145. Shoulders were a bit tight from yesterday's OHS workout, though the warm up reps felt solid. The first rep at 145 got too far back and I had to bail in front. I made the second rep, but it was all kinds of ugly and I had to chase it around the platform. The third rep at 145 was a power snatch. Just didn't get under the bar. Decided at that point that I had been attempting to pull too high. The fourth rep was solid: didn't try to pull the bar as high, pulled under nicely and had a solid catch. Nice to end on that note, but could have gone up in weight if I'd demonstrated that form earlier.

HBBS: 225x2x5, 225x10. Felt much better than last week. Cash-out was fun, though a bit cold (hint, it's outside).

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I'll take one of those shirts......

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert F.

Hi All
I have 4 tickets for "The Meltdown w Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani" this Saturday night at The Bell House.
It will be a super funny comedy show...I am bummed i can't go, but i leave for a work trip that morning.
If anyone wants them, let me know and i can email you the tickets. I don't want them to go to waste!
Robyn.a.obrien at gmail. com

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn O

FYI Lenny Lopate is just now talking to john Durante of paleo manifesto on wnyc

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRichard G

Great article Noah!

The privilege to come to the gym is an important reminder. I feel so lucky to be able to make fitness a significant portion of my week, and even luckier to work with the best coaches and coolest collection of people.

I am also a firm believer in "just show up." It was the only thing that got me to the gym consistently in the beginning and I still use that rule when I’m feeling slumpy. Even if I do a crappy job, someone cheers me up so it's still a win.

The other thing that I try to hammer into my head is to pick 1 thing (or 2 or 3 but not 20) to focus on. I am not making gains on everything anymore. And like others have said, a good number of things have slid back. It’s easy for me to feel bad about that if my objective is to get better at everything.

Just showing up helps to keep things in general from precipitous decline. Setting a goal or two keeps me motivated and experiencing a victory here or there.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I heard them mention the interview this morning, would love to hear the recording on npr.com or something later. I read and enjoyed John's book.

Went climbing at BKB with Ken today. Was feeling a little sore and stuff so I kept the volume and intensity low


I think that's all I did? Afterwards we did some backflips.

Excited for my massage with Inka later today!!!!!!!

November 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

9 am relaxing yoga session with Whitney. Enjoyed it and felt nicely calm after. Which probably wasn't the ideal state to jump right into yesterday's WOD.

10 am with NoDowell. WOD rx'd in 13:28. All rounds of OHS were 10/5. Cleans were unbroken except for a regrip drop at 10 in the last set. The runs felt slooooow, even the first one. I did not feel too sprightly.

I was 3 lunges into the cash out with a 35# plate when David told me to put it down, grab a 55# and start over. I tried to whine my way out if it, but he was right. 4 sets: 15, 10, 12, 13.

My neck has been getting stiff after OHS lately. But other than that a good morning.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen W

First post in awhile...

Probably the fourth or fifth time I've read that article from Noah. It always helps me reset and remember how lucky I am to be able to be a part of this community and to have made what gains I have.

The toughest part about the sophomore slump for me is that not only does progress come in fits and starts, but the really high days are often followed by extreme lows. In the past seven days I experienced massive achievements (muscle-up! bodyweight clean!) and the worst performance I've had in a WOD ever (DNF by a mile on an already scaled Diane). Tuesday was a good reminder that getting frustrated mid-WOD fixes absolutely nothing, and that anger is no motivator (at least for me).

Back in the swing of things with MeLo's 8:30 yesterday. Chased Andrew and Zach, who flew through this one, and finished at 13:18. All OHS unbroken, which was a really pleasant surprise. 10/5 for two sets of cleans and then the last 15 unbroken. Lunges with the 55lb plate.

Then a super fun dance party and freestanding handstand workshop while the Foundations class finished up. Excellent way to end a Thursday.

November 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterRyan

9am PT with Noah- worked on snatches; not feeling so good today and was having trouble actually putting it all together and getting under the bar, On the plus side, it seems all my work on mobility is beginning to pay off and I am able to actually achieve acceptable depth on my overhead squats, which is amazing as I did not think that would ever happen.

Joined in with the group class at 10 with McDowell for HBBS- 150 x 5 x 3. I used a belt this week which helped. It felt really heavy but I think I might be able to add a bit more next week. This is a High Bar PR for me so yay!!
Fartlek mile felt so short compared to all of the rowing I have been dong this week.

Great article- I saw that this was re-posted last night- I was wondering if David did that because of the comments from a few people who are having a shitty week and I thought it was very nice of him to do that. Either way, great timing.

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Intelligence Squared is having a debate on "what to eat" - paleo vs veggie/vegan diet


November 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterk2h2

Yes to one of those shirts. I nominate Noah as Screech for the image.

For my metal buds: /www.invisibleoranges.com/2013/11/death-metal-english/ we have a 101 on death metal english. Its kind of awesome.

My favorite thing about Death Metal English is that it isn’t subject matter-specific. Of course, it works best when you’re talking about Satan, or Lovecraft, or murder or whatever. But you can turn pretty much any phrase or sentence into fodder for a sick death metal song using the same tropes:

I would like Jeremy to start using this:
Normal English: “I need to take a nap”

Normal English: “Commuting to work”

Normal English: “This bok choy isn’t very good”

Normal English: “Thanks for explaining the train schedule”

Normal English: “You have to mow the lawn”

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I might have lost an iphone 5 charger at open gym; if anyone finds it, can you please leave it at the front desk?

Thank you!

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle B.

Wow Charlie congrats!!! And I also want the t shirt!!

November 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

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