Are your training buddies pacers or yard sticks?
What’s a pacer? In a foot race, a pacer is a runner who will set the pace for a group of runners who have to the goal of finishing each mile of the race within a certain range of time. So suppose you average an 8:30 mile, you would find a pacer that is assigned to the 8:00-9:00 minute per mile group. As long as you keep up with the pacer, you are mostly guaranteed to meet your goal. Pacers are great for runners who are new to racing or who are doing a long race for the first time. The first time I ran with a pacer, I set a personal record for my 5k time.
When I started Crossfit, I sought out pacers for certain movements and skills. Often Crossfit pacers are people with similar or slightly better skills. You play off each other and push each other to be better. Most of my pacers have been crossfitting for about the same amount of time as me or maybe a little longer. I do have one pacer who is also a coach. Sometimes, she’s a pacer, but more often, she is a rabbit. I can’t catch her, but her example gives me a goal to shoot for in the long term.
Pacers can come about organically or by design. When preparing for a competition, you need your pacers to keep you motivated and to keep you on track. If you need to get better at a certain skill, your pacers will model that skill for you or at least be there to help you improve by providing constructive feedback. Your pacers will probably also be some of your best friends in the box. You will have each others’ backs outside of the box.
But what if, instead of a pacer, you have a yard stick; that person with whom you constantly measure your success against. If your yard stick gets a PR, you must get a PR. If your yard stick goes all out and does the WOD at Rx+, then of course, you have to do Rx+ even if you’re not really capable of it. What happens when your yard stick has success at certain lift or skill and you don’t? How does that affect your relationship with your yard stick? How does it affect your view of yourself? Is your self-worth dependent on how you perform in relation to your yard stick? Do you see the problem?
Here’s the thing. We usually pick our pacers voluntarily and intentionally based on similar abilities and our own level of comfort with our pacer. The flip side is that a pacer can turn into a yard stick subtlety over time unintentionally.
So what do you do? You don’t want to risk poisoning the community with toxic yard stick relationships; stalking the whiteboard to find opportunities to one up your yard stick at every turn. Or worse yet, poisoning your own relationship with your yard stick because of your own internal struggles.
Here’s the easiest solution: get a new yard stick; YOU. The great thing about Crossfit is that we’re always collecting data. You only have to measure up to your potential, not anyone else’s potential. So view your growth as your own…and then chart it. Then retest because we love to retest in Crossfit. (Be honest, how many times have you done Fran?) Now, accept this important truth: you only have to be better than the you of yesterday. And some days, you don’t even have to do that.
Freeing yourself from having an external yard stick will do wonders for your training. But it’ll also help keep the joy alive inside of you and it will help you remember why you walked through the door that very first day.
Now, go do YOUR best on that next WOD.