Missing the Mark (The Target Analogy)

I often use this analogy during the Fast Track / Beginners course, when people look like they’re getting frustrated at struggling to grasp a complex move.

It was delivered to me on my CrossFit Level 1 course, and I thought I’d share it with any of you who haven’t heard it before.

Look at the following diagrams. They represent results (rifle/archery?) from 3 peoples target practise.

It may look, on first appearances like the one on the left is doing great and the others less so, but the question to ask is: who is learning/improving the most?

The person on the left hand target is close to 100% accuracy, but that means that they can’t improve at this level of challenge and will need to either go further away from the target, or try firing off shots faster (depending on their goal) to find enough challenge to make improvements.

The person on the far right, we will say, is achieving about 20-30% accuracy. Whilst this is very challenging for them, they are not getting enough on target to learn when they’re doing it right, so progress will be very slow and they will probably be learning bad habits. They will need to move closer to the target, or take more time over preparation to improve their accuracy before returning to that level again.

The person is the middle however, is achieving about 80% accuracy, and this is what experts believe is the learning zone. They are getting enough on target to be able to spot (consciously or unconsciously) what they’re doing right, but are still making some near misses, which means it’s at the right level of challenge for them to spot the small mistakes and learn from them.

The reason this is so relevant for us as CrossFitters is that much of what we do is technical and hard to master. It’s been said that perfecting your Snatch is as tough as learning to Pole Vault! But it’s precisely for that reason that it’s so valuable. Most gym users, who sit on their resistant machines which dictate their movement for them, or repeat exercises that are simple and not challenging, aren’t working their motor fitness whilst they’re training. Therefore, they’re neglecting important parts of their fitness (coordination, balance, accuracy and agility).

So, if you feel like you haven’t nailed a movement yet, don’t despair. Rejoice in the fact that you are missing the mark and therefore in the learning zone, where you will be improving. If myself or other coaches thought you were too far from the mark, we’d tell you to take your weights down, slow the pace or substitute exercises. But, if we’re encouraging you to keep trying, it means you’re on track in our eyes.

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