Long long ago, as an aspiring hammer thrower at Stanford, I was fortunate to be coached by a very wise man. Time and again, I’d go to him complaining that my progress wasn’t fast enough, or that I was afraid someone was going to beat me at Nationals, or in general that I just wasn’t good enough yet.

Time and again, his patient response boiled down to: are you doing your footwork?

Now, things that are fun and exciting when you’re training to throw the hammer:

  1. Throwing the hammer

  2. Throwing light or heavy hammers

  3. Throwing anything that’s sort of like a hammer

  4. Weight lifting

  5. Circuit training

  6. Running sprints

Things that are not exciting when you’re throwing the hammer:

  1. Turning left (i.e. footwork) over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Yet, not unlike the air squat in CrossFit, the footwork forms the basis of everything else in the throw. Just like tiny flaws in the air squat magnify themselves as an athlete tries to add weight in back squats and snatches, flaws in the footwork take centimeters or even meters off of the throw itself.

When I think about virtuosity, which Coach Glassman defines as doing the common uncommonly well, I think back to those days next to the hammer ring. I think back to learning to turn left, to feeling the weight of my body through my feet, to paying attention to my posture for every degree of that 360 degree rotation, to trying to repeat exactly the same thing in each successive rotation, even though I was getting dizzy, and even as I added speed.

I have to admit, I didn't fully appreciate those basics at the time. Now, as a CrossFitter, a weightlifter, and even more so as a coach, I’m so grateful for that lesson because with the benefit of hindsight and a little more patience I understand that ultimately our success with heavy weights and high skill movements really does often boil down to how much effort we put into maintaining stability through the last centimeter of our range of motion, through truly KNOWING whether our ribs and hips are staying aligned throughout the movement, and through doing what’s needed to establish full functional range of motion in each of our joints. Meeting movement standards like passing below parallel, or achieving full lockout is of course one part making the rep “count” but the remaining parts are about striving to take responsibility for your body, and ultimately your success.

No particular inspiration for jumping on my soap box, but I do think it always bears a mention: how you do one thing is how you do everything. Get the basics right, and lay a solid foundation for success now and in the future.

WOD for 6-4-2019:

Three Rounds for Time:
Row 250m
16 KB Swings @ 70/53 lbs.
8 Burpee Box Jump @ 24/20 in.