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It’s Not A Sprint… It’s A Marathon

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

As some of you may know, in my free time I enjoy training, coaching and competing in CrossFit competitions all across the country. If you asked me what my favorite of the three were though, I’d tell you it was coaching every single time. In fact, every Friday morning for the past 3 years, I’ve left my house at 4 am to go coach a core group of dedicated athletes that push themselves to the limit virtually every single day.

This past Friday was no different than any other in terms of class time, and my plane out of Denver was on a four-hour weather delay that would have me landing around 3 am. I could have easily sent a text to another coach asking them to cover for me, but this workout was special. It was a Hero Workout that our gym does every year called Hot Shots 19 to honor the nineteen City of Prescot (Arizona) firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting team, that tragically lost their lives on June 30th, 2013 while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. It was the deadliest wildfire in Arizona’s history, and we do this one because a lot of our athletes at the gym are firefighters with an emotional connection to the workout.

Originally, the workout is written to be done individually, but since CrossFit is all about community, the firefighters were a team, and we all compete as a team, our gym modified the workout to accommodate a team. Therefore, our version of the workout is below:

Hot Shots 19 (3-Person Team Version)

18 Rounds of:

30 Air Squats

19 Power Cleans (135lbs.)

7 Strict Pull-ups

600 Meter Run

Time Cap: 1 hour and 15 minutes

*One athlete must wear a 20-pound weight vest and you must switch who wears it after each round*

As you can tell, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to coach this workout so instead of taking a nap on the plane I opted to begin prepping my coaching notes for the grueling workout that the athletes were going to embark on. I wrote down three key points of emphasis: Strategy, Technique, and Pace.

For the athletes, providing them with a strategy on how to tackle this workout was going to be critical for them to be able to complete it within the allotted time. Prior to beginning, the teams needed to devise a plan that would best utilize each team member’s strengths all while minimizing their weaknesses. As a coach, I always encourage (and emphasize) the need for each of them to leave their ego at the front door and work together to complete the task at hand. One person can’t do it all, and it’s always a better outcome when they work together.

The next significant piece to this workout is technique. One thing that I’ve always loved about CrossFit, aside from the comradery, is that at first glance a lot of great athletes would go unrecognized in public. In fact, some of the best athletes I’ve ever coached haven’t been ex-football players, they have been either stay-at-home moms or tech gurus that have spent thousands of hours working on their form and technique, choosing to perfect every movement before letting their ego add weights to the bar. With just one glance at the whiteboard, you can tell that there are a lot of moving parts, and every movement requires attention to specific muscular and anatomical function. In a workout like this, the athlete that pays close attention to detail in how their body is moving is going to beat the biggest and strongest athlete every single time.

Last but certainly not least – pace. I’m not sure if you’ve done the math just yet, but I’ll break it all down for you. Our version of Hotshots 19 consists of 540 air squats, 342 power cleans, 126 strict pull-ups, and 6.75 miles of running… all while wearing a 20-lb weight vest. In essence, this is obviously not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If any athlete tried to start out going as fast as they possibly could in the first five minutes, they would have collapsed by minute eight. By the same token, one round every ten minutes won’t get it done either. It’s all about finding a slightly uncomfortable pace that your team can sustain. In fact, the teams with the best times of the day seemingly kept the exact same pace throughout the entire workout. Across all 18 rounds, their first round was the exact same speed as the last. That’s a great indicator of a seasoned team that’s perfected their strategy.

By now you’re probably thinking, what on Earth does this have to do with Economic Development? Did I open a Health and Fitness blog? But in all honestly, the metaphors are quite relatable. As an EDO executive, you’re constantly faced with new challenges to overcome. These challenges are the workout. As a coach (or consultant), I’m telling you that before trying to conquer those challenges you need to devise a strategy. A strategy that utilizes the strengths of your key partners and EDOs, and thus minimizes your own weaknesses to work toward that common goal of a prospering community. Let the strategy guide you to success while being strategic and technical in your approach. Also, don’t think that you must put a “check” next to every box within that very first year of the multi-year strategy. Remember, it’s not the biggest and strongest that will win, it’s the ones that have spent hours and hours perfecting their technique that will be successful. Your investors understand that a well-formulated strategy will take some time, so work towards getting “small-wins” for them while working towards perfecting the overall strategic goal.

And lastly, the weight vest. It’s a metaphor for the added weight that will be on your shoulders at times. Whether that extra weight is from your investors, public officials, staff, or all of the above, just know that while that weight will be lifted at times, the added burden is just conditioning you for even sweeter success in the end.

So while you’re enjoying your Fourth of July weekend, I encourage you to do a couple of things. First and foremost, take a moment and appreciate all of the heroes that have made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be able to enjoy this great holiday. And then really take a step back and ask yourself if you have a strategy that will put you on the best path for success. If so, are you being technical and deliberate in your approach? Are you on pace to achieve your desired outcome? If the answer is “yes” – great! If the answer is “no” – I’m sure you’re not too far off, and probably just need a little coaching.

Happy 4th of July from the RDG Team!

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