The Long Game

by Michael Plank

The phrase my parents use most often when talking about my childhood athletic abilities is: “painful to watch.”

It’s totally accurate. This picture marked a massive success for me in that my eyes are open (barely) and I’m facing the ball instead of closing my eyes and turning away. My dad threw this ball from 8 feet away directly into my glove and I still barely caught it. I got hit with soccer balls a million times. I missed easy baskets virtually always. And I tripped and fell nearly every time I tried to run anywhere. Even today if there’s a pickup softball game at a family picnic, Lauren reminds me that it is super obvious when you watch me move that I didn’t grow up being any good at ball sports.

Now though, I’m a halfway decent athlete. I can do double-unders and muscle-ups, walk on my hands, clean and snatch, throw, catch, and shoot with some accuracy, run with some speed and jump with some height. So how did I go from that gawky kid in the picture to where I am now? Here’s the secret…

I just never quit.

That’s it. This is my 12th year doing CrossFit. When I started, I could barely jump over the rope once, let alone do a double-under. I couldn’t do pull-ups. I was terrified of box jumps. I fell down and dropped the pvc every time I tried to snatch. I wasn’t strong enough to do strict push-ups. My mile time was almost double what it is now. And I was 50lbs heavier than I am today.

At the end of year 1, I was lighter and stronger.
In year 2, I got my first double-under.
In year 3, I figured out how to do kipping toes-to-bar
In year 4, I got my first muscle-up.
In year 5, I got stuck and felt like I didn’t make any progress at all.
In year 6, I broke the plateau and set new lifting PRs. I finally got cleans and snatches. Then we had a baby and all those lifts dropped back down.
In year 7, my fitness started to come back. I did Murph for the first time.
In year 8, I learned to walk on my hands.
In year 9, I got my first triple-under.
In year 10, I was in the best shape of my life.
In year 11, I hit lifetime PRs on my lifts and made Brown overall on the Level Method map.
In year 12 (right now), we had another baby and a global pandemic and my fitness dropped again.

And just in case you missed it, note that those are years 1-12, not months. That’s more than a decade so far. It’s had highs and lows, and now it’s at a low. But I don’t care. Because I’ll be working on my fitness all year this year and it’ll go back up. And, God willing, for another 12 years to come, and then another 12 after that.

And here’s why any of this is relevant…

All the time, we see people get super frustrated because they’re not where they want to be. I get that. I really do. Virtually everything in life right now we can have immediately whenever we want it. But not fitness. Not health. Not weight loss. It just doesn’t work that way.

Quick fixes are a gimmick. They almost never last.

But over the course of a year? 5 years? 10 years?

You can work absolute magic.