Keeping An Open Mind - Taking the CrossFit Level 1 Course for the Second Time, Five Years Later

   “You need to revalidate your CrossFit Level 1”. These are words that no coach who has been in the game for five plus years ever wants to read. My weekends were already occupied by workshops that my office puts on at other gyms, and patient treatment, recently I had the fortune of adding spending time with my new daughter and working on my new house to the list. The last thing I wanted to do is go re-take a two day entry level course in a field of study I have been working to become a working authority in. 

    The Thursday before the Level 1 Seminar, I decided it was time to get my head out of my ass.  I needed to stop being negative about this experience and start looking forward to the opportunity in the experience. I’m constantly telling patients and athletes I work with to stop skipping steps to learn tricks and to start focusing on being exceptional at the basics. I find myself telling this to the best athletes I work with the most, probably because they are the ones furthest removed from learning and being interested in the fundamentals. So I asked myself what made me any better than them in my field? Had I reached my absolute maximum potential as a coach, as a seminar host, or a doctor? No. Did I stand to improve at any or all of what I do if I went to this workshop with an open mind? Yes. So that’s what I did. By Friday night I was excited for the opportunity to go learn the basics all over again. 

    51 people joined me at the Level 1 Seminar; at least 80% were taking it for the first time. My initial plan was to learn as much about presenting a seminar as is humanly possible, after all, CrossFit puts on hundreds of seminars per year, surely I could learn something from their experience. Not only did I end up learning invaluable information about how to put on a successful workshop, but I learned at least one thing from each of the five coaches who was there presenting. 

    Active Life workshops will be more organized and our message will be more clearly conveyed because Nicole Gordon, ran the tightest and most deliberate ship I have ever seen. The Athletes I work with will better understand what I need them to because Jennifer Hunter-Marshall demonstrated the importance of being a concise and dynamic speaker. My squat is improved because Dennis Marshall pointed our movement flaws that I didn’t notice on myself and could not feel without intentional coaching which I don’t make myself accessible to often enough. My overhead position is better and more comfortable because Conor Murphy pointed out that I was pushing too far through the range of motion when I didn’t need to. My hips will be more dynamic because Melissa Reed pointed out that I don’t open up enough at the top of any movements requiring hip extension. 

    My hope and my intention for the weekend was to pick up just one point of value that I could bring back to my patients, coaches, and athletes. My reality is that I am a better coach, a better doctor, a better seminar leader, and a better athlete because I attended a basic, entry level seminar in a field I’ve been living in for ten plus years. 

    It’s important that I share this experience with you because it was a great lesson in perspective for me that I think can be helpful for you too. I went to a seminar hoping to gain something, anything of value. It was a seminar I had attended five years earlier and been living the values of ever since. I had every reason to go with a poor outlook and low expectations, but I chose to attack it differently. I chose to give myself an opportunity to learn and to grow. What I found was that the depth of knowledge I was able to gain by simply being open-minded was exponentially more valuable than what I anticipated. My experience from this weekend is no different than when a coach asks an athlete with years of experience to improve his or her starting position in the bottom of a clean or snatch. It’s no different than when a track coach asks an athlete to stop heel striking. It’s the same as when a patient walks into my office with a problem I have seen a hundred times and I have to remind myself to be mindful during the examination and treatment. 

    My experience this weekend is an experience I hope everyone has as soon as possible. I don’t expect everyone to go take the CrossFit Level 1 seminar, don’t get me wrong. What I mean is I hope everyone takes the opportunity this week to go back to the drawing board with something they already feel very confident in. Strip away expectations and actively attempt to learn and grow. If you are walking into the gym this weekend, aggressively pursue a better squat. Ask a coach to help you even if you have done 10,000 squats in your life. Actually, ask a coach to help you especially if you have done 10,000 squats in your life. Pick one thing this week that you are already very experienced in and choose to approach that task as a novice. Be a rookie, learn, and grow outside the margins of your current experiences. 

- Dr. Sean Pastuch