How strong is strong enough? Shifting from training for performance to training for maintenance

Jeroen van Duijn

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Measuring your fitness is important.

It allows you to monitor where you’re at and where you’re going. We test and re-test various lifts and conditioning workouts to give you a chance to celebrate your performance improvements, and we believe these improvements play a big role in what will keep you motivated to stick with your commitment to fitness for life.

But while measuring performance is imperative, it’s certainly not the only thing that’s important when it comes to fitness. And at some point, being too consumed with measuring where you’re at can be detrimental to your psyche, and can start holding you back.

As any veteran of any sport knows, the better you get the harder, the harder it is to improve. PRs become fewer and further between, and you find yourself celebrating quality-of-movement improvements as opposed to 10 kg PRs. (And when you eventually have to factor in an aging body, at some point you’re probably not going to get PRs at all anymore).

Shifting from a competitor’s trying to improve all the time attitude to a “maintenance” mindset can be really challenging for many people. Many of us fell in love with the style of training we do because of the constant push for self-improvement, so to suddenly not be trying to improve your numbers anymore can mess with your mind!

If you are (or were) a competitive CrossFit athlete—whose used to putting in 25-plus hours a week into your training and recovery day—and the day is approaching where you’re planning on shifting your focus to become a more recreational lifestyle athlete, you’re going to need to do some soul-searching in the next little white. If you don’t, you could end up being that obnoxious guy or girl in the late-night beer league basketball game that still plays like the scouts are watching.

You’re going to have to ask yourself, and be able to answer the following questions:

How good is good enough?

How strong is strong enough?

If Im not longer trying to get better, how do I become OK with getting worse?

Here are some tips from someone, who has been slowly shifting (and agonizing about it along the way) from being a competitive athlete to a recreational one in the last two years, that have helped here come to terms with the fact that she’s now in a maintenance phase of fitness:

Re-set and establish new goals:

She went to a BBQ, where the host made every man who showed up, lift a 140 kg deadlift in his garage before he could join the BBQ. She decided to join in with the men and lifted the bar cold. At that moment, she decided she no longer cared that she didn’t have a 170 kg deadlift and that being able to lift 140 kg to earn her way into a BBQ was “strong enough.” She has also since accepted that there’s is nothing wrong with her new goals being to look good naked, and to be able to do cool party tricks like walking on her hands.

Whatever your new goals are, it’s important to keep setting goals. They don’t have to be performance-based at all: Maybe it’s to workout in nature once a week, or to try a new sport every year, or to show up to three group classes a week. The point: Keep setting goals.


Find a new hobby:

If you have so much time on your hands now because you’re not training as much as you used to, find something to replace the time you spent at the gym. This might mean dabbling with various activities for a bit until you find something you enjoy, or maybe you already have something you know you enjoy but haven’t had the time to pursue. Now is the time to try!


Quality PRs:

Learn how to appreciate quality versus quantity PRs—things like efficiency of movement or mobility gain, or even the ability to breathe more effectively during conditioning.


Don’t write yourself off:

Finally, even though you might be training less now than you used to, you still will find yourself getting better at certain things. Don’t lose confidence in yourself. It’s relatively easy to maintain 90 percent of your peak fitness by training a fraction of the hours in the gym. And on fresh days, believe in yourself that you still can hit some personal bests! You will sometimes, and they’ll feel as good as they always did.