Don’t be a ‘Don’t Get it’ Athlete

By: Emily Beers

I call them “Don’t get it” athletes. DGIs

Every box has them.

DGIs are known for going through the motions during the strength piece because they’re saving their energy for the “workout.” As others are slugging through 5 x 5 back squats at 85% of the 1RM, DGIs—who don’t know their 1RM to begin with—can be found chit-chatting, checking their phones and taping their hands in preparation for the WOD.

“What are we supposed to be doing right now? What’s the workout? When are we starting the workout?” they ask persistently.

DGIs are also the ones who stick around to hit Annie after a CrossFit Total day. “Well, we didn’t really do a workout today,” they explain. “I really wanted a hit.”

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I’m not sure why or when this happened, but somewhere along the way this force took hold of human beings far and wide and convinced them a prerequisite to getting a supposedly good workout—in other words, the secret to getting fit and losing weight—must always involve sweating profusely while usually putting forth a 50 to 60% effort in a metabolic conditioning-style workout.

I believe this is the biggest fitness myth of all time, and as a coach when I hear someone ask, “When are we starting the WOD” in the middle of a strength or skill session, my hear sinks a little and I feel my tear glands acting up.

Listen up, “What’s the WOD” enthusiasts:

If you’re not more scared to do a 5 x 5 back squat than you are of a 12-minute AMRAP of KB swings and burpees, you’re probably not tapping into your true potential.

Talk to any Regionals or Games-level athlete and ask them generally what will help them make more gains? Heavy squatting and Olympic weightlifting 4 or 5 days a week, or random bootcamp-style AMRAPS everyday?

I ranted to my client the other day:

“The conditioning at the end of the hour is just a way to trick you into showing up to the gym. What’s good for business isn’t always what’s good for fitness. So while programming conditioning every day gets more people through the doors, it’s not where your focus should be,” I said.

I was met with a blank stare, so I continued:

“To a certain degree, the conditioning doesn’t matter. Well, it’s not that it doesn’t matter, but it could be anything, really—from 7-minutes of burpees, to 100 jumping jacks for time, to chase your dog around the block. You can give endurance to a horse or a pig, after all. Where your greater focus should be is on the strength and skill sessions. And even the warm-up. This is where you’ll improve your strength, your movement efficiency, your muscular endurance, your mobility—the list goes on. And then when you test your conditioning in a metabolic conditioning workout, you will be able to put those gains to the test!!”

I saw a lightbulb go on.

“Conditioning isn’t where the gains are made,” he said aloud, nodding. “That makes sense.”

So if you think you might be a DGI, the next time you find yourself checking out the lesson plan on your gym’s website and you catch your eyes scrolling down to the “WOD” portion of the session—or contemplating whether or not you should go to the gym because there doesn’t appear to be a “WOD” that day—scroll back up and pay attention to the strength or skill, mobility or warm-up piece on the menu. It’s where the #gainz are made.