The Pursuit of ‘Intentional Perfection’ in CrossFit and Life

The following is an old post with an important lesson worth sharing.  I ran into this article when it was originally posted in 2013, but it feels relevant. Why?  Because anyone can benefit from the pursuit of virtuosity.  And this Canadian breaks it down well.

As I begin to reflect on my first year as a competitive CrossFit athlete, and what it will take to achieve my big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) of competing at the CrossFit Games, two words come to mind.

Intentional.

Perfection.

These two words will be at the core of everything I do in the world of CrossFit in this next season. These two words are my foundation for success, my performance catalysts.

Intentional Perfection. Here’s why…

One thing I have learned through my short relationship with the sport of CrossFit is that it is a game of movement efficiency… In my (humble) opinion, the ability to execute any (and all) movements efficiently is the performance trump card in CrossFit. This is the secret ingredient that separates the good from the great.

Movement efficiency is more valuable than strength, speed, quickness, size, weight, height, explosiveness, metabolic conditioning capacity, or any other physical characteristic… I am of course making the assumption that if you are familiar with the sport of CrossFit you know that work ethic, determination, and mental toughness are all prerequisites to elite performance.

Now, when you combine perfect functional movement with the physical characteristics above, magic happens…

Enter Rich Froning.

One of the biggest learnings I have had since immersing myself in this sport was an observation that Rudy Nielsen, owner of Outlaw CrossFit, made of Rich.

“He does every rep perfectly.”

“He does every single f#$%ing rep, f*$%ing perfectly” (Rudy’s words)

Don’t believe Rudy?

Take a look at the video below which shows Rich Froning completing Isabel (30 Snatches @ #135 for time) as one of the last workouts of the grueling 2012 CrossFit Games.

Make a note of what his first couple of reps look like and compare those to his last few…

Pretty amazing.

When I unpack Rich’s performance of Isabel a little further, I realize we have to demystify what we are seeing with a couple of observations.

  • This level of performance doesn’t come overnight.

  • It isn’t a unique natural gift or talent.

  • There isn’t anything extraordinary or special about it.

Rich epitomizes “intentional perfection”.

What sets Rich apart from everyone else is that he is intentional about every single movement, and that every single movement he performs is perfect. Whether it is the first workout of the year, or Isabel at the Games, there is no difference.

So why aren’t more people like Rich?

Well besides the prerequisites mentioned above which Rich does better than anyone in the world, being intentional and perfect in every movement isn’t easy, and I would argue that it isn’t normal. Whether in CrossFit, or in life, we live in a society that justifies and accepts taking shortcuts. We do this among other reasons because we know we are susceptible to cutting corners ourselves. And in this admission we take two steps further away from that unbeaten path of intentional perfection.

Furthermore, in the sport of CrossFit practicing intentional perfection is humbling. In boxes and CrossFit gyms where the culture values having an “Rx” beside your name over flawless movement the chances of achieving intentional perfection become slim.

So what does intentional perfection look like in practice?

  • It means modifying a workout when you don’t have the foundation to perform the movement perfectly.

  • It means taking off weight to ensure perfect form and technique in lifts.

  • It means reducing the volume when your technique starts to fail.

  • It means intentionally recovering (stretching, foam rolling, etc.) everyday so that you can sustain and build the right functional muscles and pathways.

  • It means going to physio when your hurt instead of pushing through and compensating.

  • It means studying role models and masters of these movements.

  • It means visualizing what it looks like in your minds eye to execute perfectly, time and time again.

  • It means asking your friends and coaches to hold you accountable and call you out when you deviate from perfection.

It means being vulnerable enough to take 2 steps back, knowing that the long term benefits are exponential.

For me, this is the perfect time in the CrossFit season to lay this foundation of intentional perfection. There is no pressure of the Open or Regionals workouts, there is no pressure of making a team, there is only my training and 12 months before the beginning of next year’s adventure.

Finally, to practice what I preach, if you ever see me at a gym or competition and I’m not practicing intentional perfection please come over and give me a hard time!

And if this post resonates, I’m happy to do the same for  you! :)