Virtuosity in Life

In this 2005 open letter to CrossFit trainers, Coach Greg Glassman discusses the importance of virtuosity, defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.”

Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques.

What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach’s efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals. Rarely now do we see prescribed the short, intense couplets or triplets that epitomize CrossFit programming. Rarely do trainers really nitpick the mechanics of fundamental movements.

While this may not apply to climbing quite as much as other sports, it is an important thing to consider in everything one does. As a former gymnast, fundamentals were hammered into me and I spent years just working on them. Yet even with that habit firmly in my own psyche, I still catch myself wanting to jump straight to advanced crossfit movements when I don't have the basics nailed yet. Some argue that Crossfit as a sport ruined Crossfit as an exercise program. That may be true, but isn't that like a couple of under qualified climbers jumping on Half Dome for its classic RNWF route and then blaming the rock when the climbers have to bail?

Ultimately its up to the individual (in climbing) and the coach (in crossfit) to know and set appropriate boundaries and enforce proper progressions before moving to advanced skills or climbs.

Virtuosity by Greg Glassman