Stages of Competence: The Learning Process of Movement

There are stages to the learning process. Take a look at any given movement in your CrossFit Toolbox. How well you perform it, especially amidst the grip of fatigue, will tell you a lot about where you are on this spectrum of learning.

Unconsciously Incompetent (You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know): You just started at CrossFit PHX. Everything is brand new. Even if you have a background in lifting or athletics, there are still elements and concepts that are new to you. You have no idea what to expect.

Consciously Incompetent (You Are Aware of  What You Don’t Know): You’ve been introduced to movement that you didn’t know existed. Furthermore, you see a need to develop proficiency in that movement in order to become better. Workouts are exponentially harder, not because of your fitness necessarily, but due to a lack of efficiency and time under tension. This is the “make or break” stage. This is the point where people tend to either fall in love with process or run for the hills, because of how vulnerable they feel. However, this stage is also the most critical in development of technique, mechanics, and overall fitness.

Conscious Competence (Practice): You are getting better. However, movement efficiency still requires active thought. You have to look at foot placement. You have to spot where you place you hands on the bar. You take a couple practice kips to make sure you’re properly engaged gymnastics work. You tend to focus on things that happen automatically, like breathing! Even though you can perform a movement with the correct start and finished position, everything in between is sometimes good, and sometimes not as good. This is where you will spend the majority of your time, as you accumulate the “10,000” repetitions required to master anything, as they say.

Unconscious Competence (Mastery): You have your 10,000 reps, and probably even more. You can pick up the jump rope and get it going without  a second thought. You no longer have to focus on your breath, you are using only the muscles required to work though a set or movement pattern. Nothing more, nothing less. You now actively seek the state of Conscious Incompetence because you want another challenge or to develop a weakness that you may, or may not, know you have.

Take an introspective look at where you’re at in any given movement, or modality. Realize that we are all on this spectrum somewhere. It is indeed part of the process, so enjoy it. Treat it as a game, and play around with the elements you need to learn. Sometimes we get caught “adulting” and that takes all the fun out of the process. The fun is in the challenge of getting better. See you in Open Gym!

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