By Chelsea McCarty
Oh, hello friends. I’m going to begin this post with a little story, so settle in.
For those of you who don’t know, I was a jazz major in college. I played the trumpet (NERD ALERT. Just kidding, playing an instrument is actually really cool and takes a lot of work OKAY?) I was always first or second chair in my high school jazz band so when I got to college I thought I was going to just cruise through the next four years. No one ever told me I was actually very sub-par, so going into college I was extremely over-confident in my abilities. I was killing it in high school jazz band but in a collegiate music school with insanely talented musicians I quickly realized I actually knew nothing about playing jazz and DEFINITELY didn’t know how to play it very well. I knew how to read big band charts and that was it. My peers were on a whole different level.
My first small group rehearsal in college was a disaster.
I didn’t know how to listen to chord changes, I didn’t have any vocabulary for soloing, I didn’t understand how to trade with the drummer, I didn’t know how to communicate with the other musicians. I didn’t know ANYTHING. I’m sure the other musicians in my combo were horrified at their terrible luck of landing me as their horn player. I was a very mediocre trumpet player who was in way over my head. As soon as rehearsal was over I went to the director and said I wanted to quit. He told me to hang in there and to start practicing every day. I nodded and left his office but didn’t know WHAT the hell to practice because I never really practiced that much in high school.
So I just didn’t.
I totally sucked and I STILL DIDN’T PRACTICE. I would walk through the halls full of my peers in practice rooms running through scales, solos, tunes, etc and think to myself “I don’t need to really practice this much. I’ll just eventually get better.” SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t get better. I would show up to combo rehearsal twice a week not knowing the tunes, changes, etc. I was just sort of hoping I would get good along the way even though I was putting in zero effort to get any better.
During one of my trumpet lessons freshman year I was probably trying to stumble my way through a piece of music when my trumpet professor, Charles Saenz, (a total boss and one of my favorite people to this day) stopped me and basically said, [I’m paraphrasing here] “Dude, you aren’t getting any better. What are you even doing in your free time right now? Watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians and eating sun chips? Because I can tell you’re definitely not practicing. You sound the exact same as you did when you walked in here a few months ago. If you don’t practice, everyone around you is going to get better and you’re going to stay the same. Is that what you want?
If you’re not going to put any effort into this then why are you even here?”
I realized he had a point. I had made ZERO improvement in the months I had been at school because I was putting in ZERO effort to try and get better. So from then on, I started practicing every single day. I would schedule time throughout the day to practice. I started getting together with friends to play tunes so I could learn more, because surrounding yourself with people better than you also makes you better. I started listening to recordings, transcribing solos, and spending hours in the practice room. By the time my senior recital rolled around four years later, I was a much more solid and confident player. I could hang with my peers, I could write tunes, I could improvise over chord changes. I had improved leaps and bounds from when I first arrived my freshman year.
So now you’re probably thinking “What does this have to do with anything? Why are you telling me this? You mentioned the Kardashians earlier, who is your favorite?” I’m telling you this because the new year is upon us and it’s time to start setting goals. And my other answer is none of them, every Kardashian is the worst Kardashian.
When you sit down to start thinking about how you want to improve yourself for the coming year, I really urge you to include “come to the gym consistently” on your list of goals. Something I learned from my college experience is that you won’t get any better if you don’t put in consistent work. You can’t just show up once or twice a week and hope you improve along the way. You have to make a plan, stick to a schedule, and show up regularly.
I’m sure all of you have different types of fitness goals.
Maybe this year you want to get a muscle up, or put 30 pounds on your back squat, or increase your aerobic capacity. The hard truth is you won’t achieve any of that if you aren’t constantly putting in the work. The people who come to class four/five times per week are going to make more progress than the people who come in once/twice per week, that’s just the way it is. I understand everyone has busy lives and hectic schedules, but if your fitness goals are important to you then you’ll make time. You’ll find a way to get to class. Put it in your schedule, sign up, and come to class. Carve out one hour out of the day for your personal health.
When I first started CrossFit, I was an out of shape overweight introvert with no real natural athletic ability. I couldn’t do a push up, I could barely run 100 meters without getting winded and I had no self-confidence. I finally decided I wanted to get better so I started training five days a week. I think in the past four years I’ve missed a handful of training days due to illness or vacation. Other than that, I’ve been in the gym five days a week following my programming to the letter. I put in the work and I’ve seen the improvements. I can now clean 225 pounds, my body weight is about twenty pounds lighter than it was when I first started, I can string together muscle ups, and I was on CSC’s regionals team last summer. None of this happened because I walked into the gym with a lifting background or sports background. It happened because I wanted to get better and I did the work every single day. It’s simple really.
So as you’re setting your goals for this new year, I ask you this: Do you truly want to improve? Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to be healthier? If the answer is yes to any/all of these questions, then the solution is easy- come to class consistently. Come to open gym to practice skill work. Come to barbell club and work on your Olympic lifting technique. Get in touch with a coach about scheduling a goal-setting meeting. Come to class. Don’t do that thing where you sign up and then take your name off at the last second. Sign up for class and commit to showing up. This is YOUR health and no one is going to do the work for you.
Musicians and athletes have one specific thing in common: their work ethic. They know if you want to improve at something, you have to do it over and over and over again. And you have to do it every day. You have to make it a habit, it needs to be part of your daily routine. So now I’m going to ask you the same questions my professor asked me: What are you doing with your free time? Do you want to get better? And are you willing to put in the effort?
See you in the new year.