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Going Backwards to Move Forward

Nicole Cowell goals motivation


Sometimes we must go backwards to go forward.

There will be moments in our fitness or lifting journey where we stall at something. Moments when we know that what we are doing just isn't working. We may have been trying for months (or years) to get something and it just isn't coming. What might be even more frustrating is we might look like we are close and to an untrained eye we might look like we are doing well, but to a coach who watches closely, they know we are still so so far.

If you find yourself in this position, when you look deep and know that what you are doing isn't working then the only thing you can do is change what you are doing.

To change what you are doing you have to be prepared to go backwards for a while. To lift less for a while. To not be able to do something at all for a while. To be slow for a while. To sacrifice a Rx score for a while. To sacrifice your position on the leaderboard for a while. You need to keep your eye on the big picture - of becoming a better, well rounded athlete - and not worry about your score today.

The people who are willing to sacrifice short term performance for long term benefit will be better in the long run. But unfortunately many people are not willing to do it.

I have seen this so many times, both with my own training and with others I have coached. For me, this was most apparent and most humbling when I was learning muscle ups.


I did a gymnastics course a few years ago and when I did the course I already had muscle-ups, I did them with a false grip and I could link a couple together but they were still a weak movement. My main issue however was that I was short. Being short and using false grip was a bad combination! My biggest fear when I was preparing for the teams competition at Regionals in 2014 was whether I could jump up to the rings! The struggle was real! This gymnastics course taught neutral grip muscle ups (or non false grip) so it was perfect for me.  So I attended this course and learnt what I needed to do to master the neutral grip muscle up.


Sounds easy right? Well it was not. Neutral grip muscle ups are harder, you have less stability on the catch and you have to kip to a higher position. I knew what I had to do but for a while I couldn't do it. For the next 6-8 weeks I couldn't do any muscle ups. I kept failing at neutral grip and if I tried to go back and do some with a false grip it felt wrong. I was in no mans land.

I said to myself at that time that I was going to master this new skill and I told myself I would not go back to using false grip again. So for 6-8 weeks I failed rep after rep. I felt embarrassed in classes when a muscle up workout came up and I would just get stuck on the rings. I remember in comp team training we had a workout that was a whole bunch of work with max muscle ups at the end - your score was the number of muscle ups. I remember the coach calling out to me to get my score to write up on the whiteboard and I said "zero" and he said "what?" and I had to yell back "ZERO". Those were not fun moments, I wasn't proud to get a zero when I knew I could do muscle ups but I had to tell myself the board didn't matter. I needed to get better and for me to get better I needed to do this. I knew that this is what I had to do if I wanted to progress in the long term. I couldn't keep doing things the old way and expect to get better at the new way. I had to stop the old, and only practice the new. I had to go backwards to go forwards.

So I kept trying and kept trying and then one day they came. Now I could jump up to the rings with no worries. Kipping was easier, linking was easier, I just got better.

Functional fitness is a competitive sport. It breeds and attracts competitiveness. For those of us who recognize our own competitiveness it is hard for us to willingly go backwards, to check our ego at the door and tell ourselves it's ok to not get a great score today if it means improving ourselves. But if you have something that isn't working then you might need to ask yourself do I need to strip this back? Do I need to go backwards to go forwards? If you do, then be brave enough to suck. Be brave enough to go through the challenging and humbling times to come out the other side a better athlete. Short term pain for long term gain. It will be worth it.

Happy training!

Liberte Lifestyles Director Owner Nicole Signature

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