As you most likely have heard by now, four-time Games athlete Julie Foucher suffered a complete tear of her Achilles Tendon while cycling through the box jumps of event 3 at the Central Regional. Foucher, 26, had previously announced that 2015 would be her last season as a competitive athlete as she turns her attention to becoming a doctor. Still, it was tough to see how emotional Foucher was once she realized that her quest for the Games podium had come to an end through something that was completely out of her control. Even so, Foucher refused to let her injury dictate the manner in which she was to leave CrossFit as a competitive athlete. A few hours after tearing her Achilles in event 3, Foucher returned to the competition floor wearing a protective boot. She would go on to participate in the remaining four events of the weekend as best she could (in event 4 she walked 250ft on her hands in 2:17.1, then muscle-snatched 85lbs in event 5), before she finally said goodbye to her competition career.
“This weekend definitely didn’t go as planned, but in many ways it was the perfect ending to my CrossFit Games competition career. I experienced an entirely new level of the CrossFit community, and I had more fun on the competition floor than ever before. Congratulations to all the qualifiers; it’s an honor competing alongside you. Thank you to the volunteers, support staff, and every single person who reached out with an encouraging word or smile this weekend. Thank you to my sponsors for their unwavering support. I’m so blessed to be part of this community, and I am excited to see what’s in store for the future.”
Foucher may have hung up her Reebok Nanos for now, but there is plenty we can learn from an athlete—and person—that has had such an amazing CrossFit career.
Strive to be consistent
As a competitor, Foucher’s stat line is incredible:
|2014 CrossFit Invitational||1st Team USA|
|2014 Central East Regionals||1st|
|2014 CrossFit Games||3rd|
|2014 Central East Regionals||1st|
|2012 CrossFit Invitational||1st Team USA|
|2012 CrossFit Games||2nd|
|2012 Central East Regionals||1st|
|2011 CrossFit Games||5th|
|2011 Central East Regionals||1st (Team)|
|2010 CrossFit Games||5th|
Aside from 2013, when Foucher took a year off to focus on medical school, she has been incredibly consistent, never finishing outside of the top 5 at the Games, Regionals or the Invitational. Of course, it’s easy to simply say ‘be consistent’, but what we’re really saying is strive to eliminate any weaknesses in your game. We’ve said it before and we will say it again—the best CrossFitters are not specialists, but generalists. And generalists are balanced across the board, performing consistently well in multiple workouts that test varied fitness skills.
CrossFit’s main goal is to improve an athlete’s General Physical Preparedness (GPP). To measure an athlete’s GPP, CrossFit uses their “First Fitness Standard”: The 10 General Physical Skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. As Greg Glassman (CEO and founder of CrossFit) writes in the famous “What is Fitness?” article in the 2002 issue of the CrossFit Journal, you are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. That’s how you should view your standing in CrossFit—by your development and proficiency as an overall athlete. Start by looking at the areas in which you are strong. These could be individual tasks and/or movements, or, if you feel confident in your abilities, it could be one of the ten fitness skills themselves—such as stamina, for example. Next, you need to do an honest analysis of where you struggle the most. Once you have this list, you can now plainly see what is holding you back from becoming a solid all-around athlete in CrossFit.
Of course, being consistent doesn’t just refer to working on each of your skills. It also relates to being dedicated to your diet, to your recovery, and to getting to the gym on a regular basis. With consistent focus on each of these areas, you will see steady progress in every aspect of your fitness.
Learn how to move well
Foucher is the epitome of a CrossFit generalist—she doesn’t really have any weaknesses. She can move heavy weight, has a high level of endurance and has some of the best gymnastic skills in the sport. But she didn’t start off that way. Take a look at this video on YouTube where a young Foucher is put through a series of lifts by her coach, Doug Chapman. Obviously Foucher is moving fairly well, even in the early stages of her introduction to CrossFit—but one can see how much work she has done to get to the caliber of athlete she is today. No one gets to the Games four times without being able to move exceptionally well, and Foucher’s ability to control her body—regardless of the environment (gymnastics, Olympic Weightlifting, rowing, running)—has directly contributed to her success.
We should all seek to display the same body control and movement patterns as Foucher, and that means forgoing the weight and getting back to the basics. Honestly, when is the last time you went through the 9 foundational movements and forced yourself to get in to the right body positions? It’s not as easy as you think. Often, an empty barbell or even a PVC pipe is a better learning tool to gauge how we should move. If you can’t move properly with an empty barbell or a PVC pipe, you won’t magically become better when you grab a 135lb barbell—it doesn’t work like that. CrossFit SouthBay has an excellent line to solidify this point: “If you continue to train with dysfunction you are only strengthening your dysfunction and your body will eventually fail.” Meaning, if you have a flaw in your technique but continue to train with progressively heavy loads, that flaw will become more and more profound until one day it causes an injury.
Return to the basics and work on the nine foundational movements as often as possible (air squat, front squat, overhead squat, press, push press, push jerk, deadlift, sumo deadlift high pull, medicine ball clean).
Prioritize and commit
Training to compete at the CrossFit Games while balancing medical school is a challenge that few would take on, but Foucher has been doing just that for several years. In fact, Foucher always had a plan to retire from competitive CrossFit after the 2015 season to focus on becoming a doctor. Her fervent dedication to this goal was revealed in 2013, when she decided that the time and work demands of the second year of medical school outweighed the commitment necessary to continue competing. She prioritized school over the Games, and decided to forgo the competitive season that year. Of course, that’s not to say that when Foucher competed, she wasn’t all in. After all, she did complete the 2015 Regionals with a torn Achilles.
The vast majority of us won’t be going to the Games, but we still have many distractions in our lives that force us to make decisions on what to prioritize. For example, the CrossFitter who intends to compete at competitions regularly will obviously have different commitments than the athlete who is doing CrossFit casually. But even within your training you have to have objectives that require prioritization and commitment. If you want to get a muscle-up, you can’t spend the majority of your time working on your rowing skills. Have a goal, have a deadline, and commit to working to achieve it.
Foucher’s path to becoming one of the elite CrossFit athletes didn’t happen overnight, and her goals of graduating and becoming a doctor won’t be achieved until 2017 (per her website). Patience is a hugely important virtue to possess. If you want success immediately—whether that is professional, academic or athletic—you’re bound to get frustrated. Many Games athletes have repeatedly said that one of the biggest mistakes they see people make at their affiliates is only setting themselves ‘big goals’—not little ones. Those big goals—getting a muscle-up, a sub-3 minute Fran, a bodyweight snatch—take time to achieve, and a lot of failure. You’d need to have the patience of a saint to go through repeated failures before finally achieving a ‘big’ goal without anything to keep you happy in the interim. Not that there’s anything wrong with setting lofty goals, of course. But to save your sanity, you need to set yourself smaller milestones that can be achieved in the space of a month, week, or even a class. That way, you give yourself some sense of achievement to hang on to as you build towards your overarching objective.