How Your Weaknesses Can Be Your Biggest Strengths

What makes a good athlete great? And what makes a great athlete elite? The recent CrossFit Games have me thinking about it, especially since Dwight programmed “The 3s” workout last week: Row 3K, 300 Double Unders, Run 3 miles.

As some of you may know, this was a 2014 CrossFit Games Championship workout. At the Games that year, the top woman finished it in 36:07, the top man in 33:03. Amazing! But, what is more amazing to me is this: Rich Froning, who won the CrossFit Games that year, finished in 38:31. Elisabeth Akinwale, 14th fittest in 2014, finished in 47:04.

Had the CrossFit Games solely consisted of the Triple 3 workout, our own Sanitas leaderboard on WODify would have been right in the pack with the best of them.

But the CrossFit Games Championship didn’t consist solely of Triple 3 that year. And fitness isn’t about any one workout, modality, nor movement. I posit to you that what makes a good athlete great (and what makes a great athlete elite) is not their strengths, but their weaknesses. Your biggest weakness is ultimately your most limiting factor, and therefore defines the boundaries of what you can accomplish.

I think we can all universally acknowledge that there is some satisfaction coming from finishing a WOD first or finding yourself near the top of the leaderboard.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge the times you show up to a WOD knowing it’s not your WOD: not your weights, not your movements, or not your time domain. Triple 3 is in the wheelhouse (clearly) for some of the endurance athletes at our gym, posting times that some of the elites at the 2014 CrossFit Games would drool over. However, I saw good athletes at our gym (myself included) for whom that workout is not a strength push through Triple 3. Those good athletes may struggle with double-unders, or running, or endurance in general (like me). But we showed up, and we did the work.

It takes a different type of strength to take on challenges that only highlight your weaknesses. This is where growth happens. Those times posted at the bottom of any leaderboard are important, and praiseworthy. Those are the times of people who are in the process of becoming great athletes.

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