CrossFit Open: It Is Not About a Number

Foreword: For those who are not in the CrossFit world, there are still some points that you can relate to in this post so please, read on. And in case you are wondering what the hell is the CrossFit Open? Think of it as like the equivalent of the qualifiers for the Olympics. There are the elite (like the top 1%) who will actually qualify, but it is open to anyone who does CrossFit. 

Also, 18.1 is the numbering convention of workouts (2018, 1st workout). The workout was 20 minutes of as many repetitions of:

8 Toes-To-Bar

10 (5 each arm) Dumbbell clean and jerks

14 (men)/12 (women) Calorie Row

 

For someone who resisted signing up for this year’s CrossFit Open as much as she could, I have to say, as much as it pains me, I am…. gratified that I did. And if I am being totally honest, I have to acquiesce that I did not hate it. I mean, I did legit feel like I might black out at least twice during 18.1 (breathing would have prevented that!) but I got it DONE! And more importantly, I am satisfied with what I accomplished. This experience of course inspired me to share some words of wisdom. (Or is it wisdom? It may just actually be reality checks. You can be the judge of that).

  1. Strategy, strategy, and strategy.
    I knew that rowing would be the most challenging part for me and the most time consuming. And had this been a year ago, I would have been a total stress case and just focused on how bad I am at rowing. Not this year. I did not let rowing mess with my confidence and instead I strategized. It was about mitigating the weaknesses to not let them define my performance.Fortunately, I also was able to go to a very timely rowing clinic the Sunday before 18.1 was announced, and I FINALLY learned what is meant by “it’s all legs”. I never had figured that out in all the 6 years I have been doing CrossFit.  I always swore my legs were strong based on what  I could squat and deadlift, but it seemed irrelevant anytime I got on the erg. Now that I had picked up a new rowing technique that was indeed 80% legs and did not require my shoulders to get to work, I took that knowledge with me into The Open.Now, the knowledge and technique did not mean that I became any faster in the last week. It just meant that I could be more efficient on the erg, and that when I got off, I was not wrecked. And I was able to save my arms and shoulders for the other 2 movements that needed them. That was part of my strategy. I was not after speed per say (because height and weight is a real disadvantage with rowing). I wanted to be efficient and not wrecked after each round.

    When it came to toes-to-bar, I stuck with sets of 5-3 from the get go. I could have done all 8 unbroken for a few rounds at least, but I wanted to preserve my grip. And so I was still able to fly through them in record time (not to toot my own horn but to toot my own horn, someone asked me after seeing me do them if I was a gymnast).

    For the dumbbell clean and jerks, I realized after the first set of 5 with my right arm that I needed to break before switching sides. If you want to expose any weakness, do a movement with a dumbbell instead of a barbell btw. I did not want to fail on any or have to break in the 5.

    I stuck to my strategy like peanut butter on bread and my rounds were fairly consistent. And for that, I am happy. I have done this and seen people that even when they strategize, they do not execute on it. They may start off fast and furious and feel good the first few rounds and then drastically decline. I did not want that to happen. And it didn’t. Cheers.

    I felt pretty calm during 18.1 which says a lot. Past years I think I was spastic and inconsistent and far more psycho about it. Being able to stay focused on strategy takes discipline and trusting the process, which is something we all can and should do more of.

 

  1. Efficiency is just as important as being fast and explosive.
    As I mentioned with rowing, it was about being efficient. Hopefully over time I will get better with being able to go faster for meters or calories, but for now, focusing on being efficient is more important.For a workout such as 18.1, when it is twenty minutes long, being efficient means being able to sustain a pace. Some people have a tendency to go fast and hard out of the gate and burn out pretty quickly. I see this in workouts.  I often am lagging behind others and then find I have lapped them. It is usually because I was pacing and being efficient while they may have over-estimated how much they had in their tanks.  And I think this comes with experience in CrossFit. It has taken me probably 5 years to figure that out. I used to have this idea that being first at the beginning meant I would have a faster time, but it does not always correlate to that. One of my goals has been to be more efficient and consistent.There are still times for being fast and explosive, for sure! It just takes some experience to know when. I went for that tactic when I had about 10 seconds left to get on the rower and get a calorie or two before time was up. But again, if I had rowed like that during the workout, I would have gotten about half the rounds I did.

 

  1. Ask “How did you do?” instead of “What was your score?”
    I am deliberately omitting my score from this post or anything I post on social media. I am making a concerted effort to shift the focus of the Open on people’s accomplishments and not their score. For a few reasons.Disclaimer: Everyone has a different school of thought when it comes to The Open. Some people want to measure against others as a benchmark. Some want to be #1. Whatever it is, it’s all good with me. I personally subscribe though to the school of thought that for some, if the focus is on a number, it diminishes the work they put into that number no matter what that number is.There are people who could never do a toes-to-bar before the Open and guess what? 18.1 forced them to get over their fear or out of their head and go for it. And to me, even if they get “just” 1, that 1 rep is a freaking amazing accomplishment. Going by a number alone does not always tell the full story.

    So I have been asking “how did you do?” because I want an answer that is not just “200” or “250” or “300”.  Tell me about your triumphs. Tell me about what proud moments you had. Tell me what you learned you need to work on.

 

  1. Rep schemes and order of movements in The Open can drastically change anyone’s score. The Open workouts could easily have different results if the rep scheme is different or the movements show up in a different order. Imagine if the toes to bar reps had been higher. Maybe they were 15 reps per round. The scores could drastically change for those who find toes to bar to be more of a struggle or had the rowing calories been higher, that too could have shifted people’s scores.Look at 17.4 from last year. The workout was an AMRAP 13 of:­­55 Deadlifts
    55 Wall balls
    55 Calorie row
    55 HSPU (handstand push-up)

    When I did this last year, I struggled through wall balls and rowing, two of my weaker movements. (Height matters!) I never made it to HSPU, which is a bummer since I am actually respectable at those. And there are people who got a higher score than me because they did get through rowing, even if they could not do a single HSPU.

    But say the order was reversed and HSPU was the first movement. That would have meant that a lot of people who did RX would have to had to scale. And even people who struggle with HSPU may never have gotten past them. My point, which is not to knock anyone, is this. There is an element of the luck of the draw so to speak. An open workout can easily play into strengths just as easily as it can into weaknesses. So does that mean someone is better or stronger because they happened to have been able to get even just 1 HSPU than someone who never got off the rower? Absolutely not.  Does it mean you are less strong because a weaker movement showed up first? Absolutely not. It’s just the way the WOD was programmed that was a more favorable order in a chipper (or less favorable depending).

 

One week into the 2018 CrossFit Open and overall I am far less mental about it than I have been in prior years. It has been a big shift for me in mindset which is really why I finally allowed myself to be okay with signing up.  I am treating it like it is really about me (I mean, I have an element of being competitive but I am not letting that get the best of me). It is about overcoming hurdles and acknowledging and celebrating what I do, no matter the score.

We have 4 more workouts to go. My goal is to stay sane. Stay positive everyone!

Advertisements

4 Reasons Athletes Stay at a CrossFit Box When Perhaps They Should Consider Switching

Foreword: I want to stress something key because I do not by any means want to sound self-righteous or like I know how to run a CrossFit box. I am basing this post on my own experiences and conversations I have had with many other CrossFit athletes.

I have blogged about why people leave CrossFit boxes (link here) and so it only makes sense to follow it up with reasons why people often stay, even if they really do need to leave.

  1. Loyalty. This is legit a common reason. Often members feel like they would be abandoning their box or owners or coaches by leaving. They have been there perhaps from the beginning or they feel that the they owe it to the box to stay. Perhaps they have seen gains or perhaps they are friends with the owner.Guilt comes along with loyalty and I totally get that. It is like any relationship or friendship. We feel like the other person stuck by us through some tough shit and it would make us pretty crappy people if now that we are not “in need” we are abandoning them.

 

  1. Athletes don’t know what “better” is. 

    I see this often with first time CrossFitters. They love CrossFit and where they are but they also have no benchmark to compare it to. So they stay.For many, their first choice was stellar and they may be there until the end of time. Which is amazing. It just does not always happen like that for everyone.

    I bring this up because at some point for many athletes, they do get a taste of what else is out there. Often it is in the form of a drop in. Maybe athletes go home to visit and drop in at a local box. They start comparing that box to their own and notice the short comings (I like to refer to this as “box envy”). Maybe they experience more methodical, dynamic warm ups that they do not get at their home box. Maybe they notice the coaches are giving far more specific cues. Maybe it is the physical space and they are jealous of the high ceilings for rope climbs. You get the idea. It can be a million difference reasons that attribute to box envy.

 

  1. Fear of losing the community we have come to love. 

    I have experienced this and I have heard people say the same countless times.  “I am not happy anymore at this box, but I do not know want to lose the friendships and community I have built here.” And I think there are a few ways to look at this.Evaluate your goals. Are your goals being met even if perhaps the environment leaves something to be desired? Can you reach your goals if you stay even if it means having to compromise on something else to stay with your community

    People and circumstances in life are fluid. This is just a given. It is like when we stay at a job even if we hate it, but loves our boss. And then that boss leaves and we feel shafted. I look at it like yes the people we are around are extremely important, but the fear of losing them is not always a reason to stay. We get very comfortable with our workout buddies and coming into any class and feeling familiar. Anyone in your community though could leave at any time. It just happens. I personally feel that it is a balance and if you truly are not happy or not getting out of CrossFit what you want, I do not think the community should necessarily be the thing that keeps you.

    Also, remember, the community you built, that did not happen overnight. You had to build that. And you can build it again.

    Guys, I get it. I’m a few days into my latest box change and I have not yet found my community. I think the other athletes are still trying to figure out what my deal is or if I am just dropping in from somewhere far ,far away. And that is totally cool. Camaraderie happens organically.

 

  1. We feel like we are “cheating” if we go for a test drive. 

    There is guilt even before we make a decision to leave. Typically athletes want to have their next box lined up before making a switch. Naturally we start doing local drop-ins to kind of test drive other options. But heaven forbid the box we go to even has an inkling that we are thinking of switching. We fear being ostracized or not coached (because why should they bother investing in us if we are half way out the door?) And so often we just stay. We stay out of fear of being almost devalued. We do not even look because of this fear.In my humble opinion, if that does happen, that your box sort of turns on you, then take that as a sign you DEFINITELY should be switching boxes. I have had both experiences.  I have had an owner who wanted to know why I was leaving so he could make some changes and address them. And I have had owners who were basically like “ok cool got you cancelled.”  (aka don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out).

    This personally has never stopped me from looking around. I am on my 4th box (and I really believe this could be “the one”). If anything I had actually been fairly vocal about it this time around which thank goodness I was. The box I have switched to was not even on my radar as an option, and because I had posted in a Facebook group about looking for a box, one of the owners actually reached out to me. So sometimes, you just have to get over the fear because that could potentially prevent you from finding what you really need.

 

Deciding to do CrossFit in and of itself is not a trivial thing. Many of us CrossFit because we want to be the best versions of ourselves. We want to constantly push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of. We CrossFit because we want to be healthy, fully functional people at all ages. We CrossFit because our health and fitness are freakin important.

Switching boxes is also not a trivial thing.  I cannot stress enough the importance of being at the right box for YOU. Switching boxes multiple times does not make you needy or high maintenance. It is you recognizing what your needs are at that point in time. What you needed last year may not be what you need today. There should be no shame in making a decision to leave a CrossFit for another because at the end of the day you only get one body, one brain, one life. You have every right to do what is best for you even if you feel that there may be some drama or baggage associated with it.  I say screw it because nobody can tell you what is right for you but you.

Sometimes It Takes Stitches to Find the Right CrossFit

I have done a lot of really clumsy, stupid, embarrassing shit that I normally can just laugh off without thinking twice about it. I have had countless near accidents that were probably a hair away from cracking something open or needing stitches. Basically I have tempted fate many MANY times, and it finally caught up with me. In the most embarrassing way I ever could have imagined. It also gave me cause to pause (and re-evaluate).

As you probably know, I have been on a serious quest to find a different CrossFit box to switch to. I have taken this more seriously than when I have gone car shopping or even job searching (well in a past life at least!)  It is my health and well-being that are going to be affected and well, I take that very seriously.

Finding a CrossFit box is more than just finding a place to workout that has the right class schedule and is less than 7 miles from where I live. It is about finding the right environment, coaches and programming that are going to keep me getting progressively stronger all the time. I want to look and FEEL better every year because I do not want my 20’s or 30’s to have been my peak. (I say this about my experience, but I also encourage everyone to take that into consideration. A lot of people stay at a box often that is not the right fit for a slew of reasons, one of which is they may not even know what better is. This could be another blog post in and of itself so I digress).

I had found a box that I was going to try for a month, but I was not 100% sure if it was the right fit for me. I figured I would not know until I tried and was set to do just that until I had posted a blog I wrote earlier in the year called “4 Common Reasons CrossFitters Divorce Boxes” (link here) to a CrossFit Masters group I am in on Facebook as the members share information and questions. Anyways, I am glad I did it because an owner of a box that is just under 7 miles from where I live reached out to me to drop in. I think he just really wants masters athletes there which I am happy to represent (although after my embarrassing incident, he is surely going to reconsider).

I did drop in and I did like it. I was excited too because he invited me to come back the next day when he would be working out. I should mention, he’s a Regionals/Games athlete. I felt like I got invited to hang with the cool kids. So when I got there for my second drop-in, it kind of felt like meeting CrossFit celebrities. (It was him and 3 other equally bad ass coaches). Despite feeling intimidated, I was digging the vibe. It was a bit exhilarating to know I would potentially be a member at a box where there is that kind of caliber (and for the record, I am NOT insinuating I am ever going to be a Games athlete! I just mean it is inspiring as a unicorn to be working out alongside that talent and coached by the best of the best).

The workout that we were going to do had chest-to-bar pull-ups.  After the warm up, I figured it would be wise to do one or two before the actual workout since truth be told, I am not the best at them. I hopped up on a bar and swung (probably violently as I tend to do that to make sure my chest makes contact with the bar). It happened pretty fast so I’m not 100% what went down (or up) exactly, but at some point in my swing, I smacked my forehead at full force into another bar maybe 6 inches above the one that I was on. Yeah, I somehow managed to not see that when I picked my spot to do a pull-up.

I do not even know how to explain the pain of having my head go crashing into pure metal other it felt like this sort of slow shattering sensation. It was then very quickly followed by pure shock like “What the FREAK just happened?”  It is also possible that due to shock or denial, had someone not said “hey get down, you are bleeding” I would have proceeded to attempt another pull-up. (I never said I am the brightest bulb on the porch).

When I got down from the bar, I went totally numb at that point other than a little tingling in my nose which thankfully I did not break. I was being asked if my head hurt while we were attempting to stop the bleeding. I felt no real pain at that point. Just sheer and total humiliation. (And I probably said at least a dozen times, “I am fine. I am just so embarrassed.”) My ego hurt far more than my head, at least for the ten minutes until I left to go to Urgent Care.  I was also annoyed that I did not even get a workout in which made me even more so embarrassed. (Have I mentioned how embarrassed I was??)

Anyways, I did have to get stitches (3 of them) but it could be worse. I did not break any teeth. I didn’t crack my skull. It is just a bit of a gash prominently on my forehead that may or may not scar. (Also for the record, I typically cannot hit a target to save my life. You should see me trying to do wall balls. Yet, I somehow managed to hit my head dead center. I aced that one).

So I will probably be known as the new girl who needed stitches from a pull-up, but it also made me realize a few things.

For the first few days after my sweet little injury, I was freaked out about the realization of just how many things can go wrong. Because like any sport, there is always the risk for injury. I have already had my share of injuries, and really wanted to believe I was beyond that. I realized I could either continue to wallow in self-pity and fear what may or may not happen, or I could just get over it. I chose the latter. I knew that it would take more than 3 stitches to keep me away from CrossFit.

Despite how much of a drama queen I may feel like, it has made me very aware of something that I did not really want to admit to myself. I had lost my zest for CrossFit. Over the last few months, I have not been enjoying it. I have just wanted to get in and get out.  I have not really cared a whole lot about what my WOD times have been or how many reps I have done or even how much weight I have used or if I felt stronger than yesterday. And that is no way to be.

The fact that I am still looking forward to going back and becoming a member is very indicative of how much I am in need of a change.  The reputation of their box is astounding and getting a small taste of it has like reawakened the bad ass hidden in me (well I guess re-awaken is up for debate. I am not a bad ass, I just want to feel like one. Again).

I know that when I can get past this little blip (because in due time, it really will be just a blip), in the long run, I will get stronger there. I also know that I am sure to discover my areas of weaknesses and problems with technique that will be hard on the old pride too, but a necessary evil to get better. If I can handle walking out of a box after 15 minutes to get stitches, I can handle anything.  My point? The experiences that leave us humbled are often the ones we need the most.

 

 

7 Rookie Mistakes CrossFitters are Guilty Of

I am coming up on my 6 year CrossFitversary and one thing I know for sure is that I have not perfected it. At all. I know there are so many tips and tricks out there for how to have optimal workouts that do not even necessarily have to do with actually learning the “how” in movements and skills. I am sharing with you 7 common rookie mistakes that we all have made or will make at some point. Let’s change that shall we?

 

  1. CrossFit should never get “easier”.

You may improve at a skill like pull-ups or double unders. You may be able to increase the load you lift, but that does not mean CrossFit gets “easier”. It means YOU get STRONGER, and so you need to always be scaling your workouts UP and challenging yourself.

  1. Ditch those running shoes when you walk into a box.

You would not wear weight lifting shoes to go running so why would you wear running shoes to lift weights? They just are not constructed to be meant for what happens inside a box. I have seen people come in running shoes that I am convinced would actually fly them to the moon.

I found this article (which I recommend reading in full for more details) http://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/heres-why-you-should-never-lift-heavy-running-shoes.

There is a key point made in the article, “Running shoes and weightlifting shoes are on opposite ends of the footwear spectrum, and those differences impact your performance. The most basic—and most important, when it comes to lifting—is that running shoes are cushiony, while lifting shoes are hard.”

  1. Not taking advantage of an extra few minutes to stretch.

I see this often and it makes me a little nutty. Athletes arrive a few minutes early to a class, and just sit around or socialize. Stop that! Stretch and work on mobility. Even those 2 or 3 minutes of stretching can make a world of difference (and your body will thank you and even perform better).

 

  1. Focusing on going heavy instead of moving well.

Guys (and girls) I get it, your egos may suffer a bit at the beginning. A guy at 180 pounds may be lifting less than a 120 pound female.  And that might hurt a bit. IT IS OK. That will pass. You’ll get stronger faster if you actually take the time to learn how to do movements correctly.

And for those who have been doing this CrossFit thing longer, you are not exempt from this reminder. I always say it is better to go lighter and have good form than go heavy and look like an a-hole.

  1. Mtyh: The strongest CrossFitters are those who have been doing it the longest.

Newbies sometimes think that the number of years someone has been doing CrossFit automatically puts them at the same level as others with the same tenure. For instance, everyone at the 1 year mark should be able to do strict pull-ups, handstand push ups, and Fran under 5 minutes.

Years doing CrossFit is the not the defining factor for how strong someone might be. This would be fake news.

Yes, years may equate to being more proficient or have better form, but it is not universal. In fact, so many people when they start, unlike my point in #4, focus so much on going heavy that they end up hitting a plateau. Because their form is no bueno they aren’t going to get any stronger. And often leads to injury (take it from me) which sidelines people, setting them back a bit.

My point is this. When you start CrossFit, do not worry about how long you’ve been doing it or how long your boxmates have.  Or what you “should” be able to do. Everyone has different time frames and all you should do is focus on yours. That is how you will keep kicking ass. And if you do feel like you are not where you want to be, then use that to light a fire under your ass to set and hit some goals.

 

  1. “It looks easy on paper.”

 

If you ever say this, then it is likely you are going to eat those words. Even basic movements on paper might look easy peasy until you try to do them for time or max reps. Here is a workout I did a few months back that on paper, a lot of people underestimated how hard it would be because the weights were not heavy (and by not heavy, cleans in particular, were scaled downed significantly compared to the weights that they typically are for RX workouts).

 

Seven Rounds For Time:

15 Kettlebell Swings 1.5 pood/1 pood
15 Power Cleans 95#/65#
15 Box Jumps 24”/20”

 

When you go to a box that has solid programming, you learn to TRUST it. In a workout like the one above, there was a method behind it. While the weight was light (and box jumps low), it still was a lot of volume.

 

And when you do have those rare days that are really as easy as they are on paper, trust that it is part of a plan. We all need days where we do not go all out, and it will show in good programming. They make allowances for that to help us recover (and most likely get our money’s worth the next day).

 

  1. ­­­Always CrossFit with the same people.

When you find the people who really push you to workout, yes, they are going to 100 percent keep you coming back. I get that. I mean I am loyal to my 6 am peops because we just have an established vibe and support system happening.

And I get that people often pick a consistent class time based on logistics and schedule. For shits and giggles though, every now and then, try a different class. Or if you are always in the same class and you tend to pair off with the same person, try mixing it up. Share a rack with someone different. Do a partner workout with the person you spend the least amount of time with.

You may be surprised and learn something new from someone different or find you push yourself harder. Maybe you always workout with someone at your same level. Maybe though you could workout with someone who is stronger or faster than you. You will be surprised at how that energy will push YOU to do that much more.

Mix it up.  Get out of your routine and comfort zone with who you workout with. As CrossFitters we might be beasts, but we won’t bite.

 

Ok my CrossFit friends. Change perspective a bit, because really that is all that these 7 are asking of you. And go get it.

CrossFit: In the Name of Pride

Everyone who has done CrossFit has heard this joke probably a dozen times:

 

“How can you tell if someone does CrossFit?”

“Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”

 

Damn straight we will. If you back squatted twice your body weight or did 10 strict pull ups WITHOUT ASSISTANCE, wouldn’t you talk about it? #respect

 

Yogis talk about yoga. Cyclists talk about their killer rides. Runners talk about the half marathons they just crushed. And CrossFitters talk about CrossFit. When it comes to us CrossFitters though, there is a perception that we talk about it so much because we like to brag. Which truth be told, I cannot deny there is some validity to that. Really though, no matter what our sport is, we all talk about it so much because we have immense pride for our accomplishments.

 

I would say most people who join CrossFit are average people, meaning we aren’t former elite athletes and we may have not even been in the best shape of our lives the first time we walked into a box. In fact, a lot of us who start CrossFitting are there because we have big goals and dreams. And often we also come from a place of insecurity.

 

As I have been networking a lot with CrossFitters around the country, I am hearing more and more of the most inspiring stories. Women and men are starting their CrossFit journey knowing they have 50, 60, 100 pounds even that they need to lose to be healthy. Many are coming off tragedy like losing a loved one or even a divorce. Many are starting after recovering from devastating injuries and years of rehab. My point is that people are coming in when they are not their best (and that is putting it mildly), yet they dig deep to find the courage and motivation to go. They not only show up, they work their asses off. They do things they did not dream they would ever do. They start doing push-ups. They start being able to run. They start squatting to full depth. They start losing weight. They start seeing muscle. They start feeling good about themselves. They find happiness.

 

So yes, CrossFitters are going to talk a lot about CrossFit because they are turning their insecurities and their challenges into their redemption. CrossFitters are finding inspiration again. They get so much respect from others and are setting great examples. I posted a few videos on Facebook of myself doing some different lifts, and I had a woman reach out to tell me that I inspired her to go back to CrossFit. I know I got far more gratitude knowing I influenced someone to make a big change more than the 100 likes I got. CrossFitters help each other. It’s just in our nature.

 

I truly believe that CrossFit athletes are contributing to changing outdated ideals. We are showing and telling the world it is ok to admire and respect different body types. It is ok treat our bodies like the temples that they are. It is ok to sacrifice and compromise to make fitness and health a priority. It is ok to be part of a “cult” when said cult is providing a community like no other.

 

Personally, I absolutely 100% love talking about CrossFit so much because it connects me to other people. It supports the idea of women boosting women (instead of women tearing women down). It shows strong is sexy. And, as someone who is obviously short, and who easily feels intimidated in most situations by other people’s heights and proportions, it helps me build my self-esteem. I find great power in pushing my body to lift things that are beyond expectations for someone of my own size. And so yes, I want to talk about this. A lot. Because other people need to hear it.

 

Maybe it’s not tragedy or severe weight loss that is drawing people into CrossFit. No matter how they came to be there, they likely are defying what they believed their own bodies can do. I love hearing about people’s triumphs no matter if they are 20 or 40 or 60. No matter if they are trying to lose some extra baby weight or train for a tough mudder. I love hearing about it, and I do not want CrossFitters to ever stop talking about it. Our accomplishments are all relative and every one of them is deserving to be screamed from the rooftops.

 

So please understand that not every CrossFitter who is posting on Facebook about their workouts or talking about it at the water cooler are just meatheads. Many of us, like myself, are just damn proud. It is that simple.

 

4 Common Reasons CrossFitters Divorce Boxes

*Foreword: Since I anticipate being asked by several inquiring minds if this post means that I am not happy and switching boxes, let me clear the air and emphatically say, no… and yes. No, I  am not unhappy. Yes, there is truth in that there is a possibility I may make another box change, but that possibility is always there. (Ok so I just answered that like a politician…)  Your next question is, am I directly correlating the points below to where I currently CrossFit? Again, no and yes. I have been a member of 3 boxes, I have dropped into at least half a dozen other ones and I have friends at boxes around the country. So know that this post is not commentary on any one box in particular. It’s my collective experience and feedback.  Of course there are parallels to where I CrossFit now (admittedly both negative and positive, but that’s also any box).  When you read this blog, you will see that CrossFit is not cut and dry and it’s a journey. If this post causes any waves, I view that as a positive. I am ok with being  a wave.

Anyone who loves CrossFit will attest that it is a journey, and that is why it is not surprising that many of our journeys take us from box to box. It is really easy to fall in love with CrossFit and to fall in love with the box you sign up at. It is also just as easy to fall out of love. I wish there were published stats as to the percentage of athletes who switch boxes but if I had to guess  in my unscientific opinion based on experience and observation, I would venture to say it happens more times than not. Possibly at least 50% of the CrossFit population changes boxes. I personally have switched boxes twice in pursuit of adjusting to my own journey and doing what made the best sense for me at those times.

This begs the question obviously: what do athletes and members look for in a box? More importantly, what keeps members loyal and happy?

  1. Coaching.  Strong, great, dedicated coaches are an absolute must have. Great coaches can really keep members happy. They have positive energy and are encouraging. They are 100% focused while coaching. They treat members equally. They know athletes’ strengths and weaknesses so that they can give proper cues and instructions.When I think about why coaching is so important, I find two distinct reasons: One is to of course keep athletes safe and continuously progressing.  We perform complex and technical moves that when not done correctly lead to a high propensity for injury. NOBODY wants that, and so we rely heavily on stellar coaching.The other reason is because CrossFit  is a business and athletes are paying members. We expect the same professionalism we would get anywhere. This may be harsh but it needs to be said. Just like coaches expect a positive attitude and a can-do mentality from athletes, it’s reciprocal. Coaches expect athletes to come in and give it their all, and that is no different than what athletes expect of their coaches. Athletes do not want to be coached by someone who is paying more attention to their phone than the athletes working out.  And I get it. We are all human, including coaches. People can’t be “on” 100% every day. Off days will happen, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

    When an athlete feels like their coaches are checked out or not giving them the right amount of attention, it is to be expected that they are going to sign divorce papers to find a better suited box.

  1. Programming. This is possibly my #1 criterion these days. People want to get the most out of the hour they spend a day at their box. They want programming that is methodical and part of a bigger plan. Athletes want to constantly be challenged and see improvement.  Athletes want consistency without getting burned out. We want to be pushed beyond our limits smartly, and conversely, we do not want to walk away from a workout feeling like it was a warm-up.It happens that athletes may even outgrow programming at their boxes. I have seen blogs and posts and have had conversations on this topic.  Often athletes find they need to switch boxes to either train with more competitive people or have more competitive programming. I do not look at it necessarily as a slight to any box. Every box has to cater to a different demographic. For example, I drop into a box back east where many of their members do not have prior weight lifting experience and can get spooked by heavy weights. So their programming caters to that.If I am being honest, one of the reasons I have left th­­­e first two boxes I trained at was because of inconsistent programming. The programming each day was good, but collectively I did not find it to have a long term plan. While I respect there are benefits to having different coaches program on a rotating schedule, I found, for me, it did not work. Some months might be heavy on gymnastics while others may be highly focused on squats. I rather do everything regularly but more strategically and evenly distributed. I am highly prone to injury (and I am no spring chicken) which means I need to treat all muscles equally. I cannot afford to favor or discriminate.
  1. CrossFit is a business. I alluded to this in my first point about coaching. Members pay for a service so like any other business transaction, they shell out anywhere from $100 to $400 a month to get something back in return. So in addition to remarkable coaching and programming, there are many other factors that play into expectations when it comes to thinking of CrossFit as a business.It is like when I go to get my hair done or my nails done (yes I love my nails), I expect  the space to be clean, sanitary and safe. It shows pride and maturity by having a smart, positive space. Being a business also means that there is a schedule that works for athletes. Logistics play a big part in why people join a box and why they leave. Unlike global gyms where you can go whenever you want, having a class schedule that works for you is key in picking and staying at a box. When class schedules change (or jobs change or athletes move houses), it will happen that a box switch is inevitable.Being a business means constantly changing. I work for an Entertainment-Telco company, and I see this theme loud and clear every day. If we still sold only traditional cable and installed land lines, we would be out of business. To change, that means the owners and coaches need to be attuned to what the trends are, what the CrossFit market demands are, and what members and aspiring members require. CrossFit is ever evolving and continuously exploding which is a marvelous thing! Keeping up with it though I can appreciate,  is not easy but it is an absolute necessity. This is the perfect time to mention a perk of having a diverse membership. We come from all different walks of life with different skills and talents to offer. People who CrossFit WANT to help their box not because they expect monetary compensation. They want to help because it is their community and they have a vested interest in assisting to make it the best ever. Members are essentially a whole pool of business resources that should be tapped.
  1. Speaking of community, that is another reason it itself why people join and leave boxes. It is like dating: sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. Much like how boxes have to cater to their demographics, athletes need to find the demographic and vibe that works for them.Community in the world of CrossFit also implies that members look for more beyond just the classes, coaching, programming and the business side of it. Most boxes heavily promote their members and offerings on social media. They keep people connected so even if you go to 6 am class, you still may interact (albeit virtually) with the 7 pm class. Community also means Paleo challenges, burpee challenges (yes this is a good thing), social events and a slew of other non-workout specific activities. They all promote happy and healthy living, which is fundamentally what CrossFit is about.Good boxes in my opinion are inclusive. Anyone should feel welcome in any class they walk into. The responsibility of this does not just fall on the coaches and owners.  It is something that all members need to be accountable for.

Even though I do not personally own a box, I would be willing to bet many owners would agree that enticing members to join a box is hard and keeping them is even harder. My advice to owners and coaches for whatever it is worth is to listen to your members. Listen to your colleagues. Listen to what social media says. With boxes sprouting up everywhere, there are a lot of options for athletes. People will leave if they do not feel like their needs are being met.

To athletes, know that every box is unique and sometimes it takes being immersed in one to decide if it suits you or not. Athletes who CrossFit ultimately want to be their best selves mentally and physically, and should have the freedom to decide what environment, what box, will best foster that.

When I left my prior two boxes, I had very different experiences with the owners. One treated it more matter-of-factly  and basically just gave me the terms of my termination and the terms if I were to decide to rejoin. The other appealed more to the human side of me. He was heartfelt in wanting me to stay and was genuinely interested to know why I was choosing to leave. He listened to my feedback and vowed to make changes and even offered me a free month to give it another chance. While I politely declined, that box has been thriving, and so I would say it’s a testimony to his abilities as a good business owner.

Anyways, I digress.  I have so many points I can still make but I will leave you with this. Like anything else, there are pivotal points in any journey where you need to reevaluate where you are and where you want to go. Both times I switched boxes they were really hard for me to do. It is like switching jobs or moving or starting/ending a relationship. There are pros and cons but ultimately you have to do what’s best for you. I strongly believe if people can find all of the 4 mentioned things (good coaching, good programming, a business centric box and community) they are more inclined to be a loyal happy member.

 

 

7 Quirky Habits of a CrossFitter

When you work out regularly with the same people, you will inevitably notice their quirky habits, like the guy who always picks the same spot on the rig for squats. Or the woman who makes sure the weights on both side of the barbell are matching in color and facing the same way (sound familiar Ashley Heiselt of CrossFit SouthBay?). I have even seen someone sweep his platform every time before he lifts.

I admit I have my own set of quirky CrossFit habits, and I dare you to confess that you share some of these!

 

  1. Frequent refusal to be an adult and decide how much to lift in a workout. It’s like I don’t trust my own judgment as to whether I should RX or go lighter. I occasionally (by occasionally, I mean every day) ask my coach how much I should lift. I don’t want to sandbag but I also don’t want to die. Maybe it is because of a lack of confidence or not wanting to be that ahole lifting more than she should? Is it as a simple as I am just a nervous nelly?
  2. I really hardly ever wear pink, except when I work out (ok and on my nails but that is perfectly acceptable). Growing up in an obnoxiously pink room, I have developed an aversion to it. I typically do not allow it in my life yet when I survey my workout clothes, I see pink socks, pink pants, pink shirts, pink shoes, pink headbands. I even have pink barbell clips. It’s like a bad Dr. Seuss story.
  3. Because I work out at 6 am, I am asleep before 10 pm. I have been known to count my expected hours of sleep every night to ensure that I am adequately rested before lifting a heavy barbell over my head. I have always been sleep obsessed and CrossFit has given me good reason to keep it in check. Also, after once dropping a barbell from overhead on less than desired sleep, it skimmed my entire calf knocking me on my behind in pain. So yeah, sleep matters.
  4. CrossFit requires recovery and being that I am no spring chicken, I need extra help in that department. I recently started having a teaspoon of fish oil a day. Flavor it something fruity all you want but at the end of the day, it’s still herring and sardines that I am sucking down. For anyone who knows my weird issues with food, this is a big deal.
  5. I have been known to plan out the night before how much weight to the pound I will be lifting the next day in the strength portion. Every pound matters and I am not going to cheat myself nor am I going to make it any harder than it needs to be. Back when I did the Hatch cycle for back and front squats, I used to map out the plates I would need for each set. It’s one of the few things I have ever been OCD about.
  6. I own my battle wounds. I constantly find bruises and scratches that other people may found horrifying. I own them as they are a reminder of how much I pushed myself and challenged myself. Whip marks on my calves from triple under attempts, bruises on my chest from cleans. Even my tiny knee surgery scars I am proud of in a weird way. They remind me of where I have been and how far I have come.
  7. I compare everyday things to CrossFit movements. I estimate the weight of my grocery bags and the distance in which I must lug them to a farmer’s carry. I ask my nieces and nephews how much they weigh before I pick them as if I am about to do a kettle bell swing. I also find it funny when I throw visitors’ luggage into the trunk of my car and they in alarm say, “Oh no, let me help you!” Trust me friends, I have lifted more than that bag weighs.

 

Ok so those are (some) of my quirks. What are yours?