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5 Whiteboard misconceptions that are ruining your Crossfit experience

It’s that time of the day again. The clock finally beeps that your eight minutes of torture are up, you slam the barbell down, sweat raining into your eyes and blurring your vision, and you stumble to the whiteboard. Trying to regain your breath, you do some preliminary analysis. Well, Mike finished 30 seconds faster than me, but then again he didn’t do the RX weights. Damn, Taylor beat my time! But did she really? I mean, we all know how she “counts.”

The whiteboard is a central part of the Crossfit experience. Whether your box uses a traditional whiteboard with dry erase markers or the fancy virtual ones that chart your progress, it’s been ingrained in you from day one that you record your scores after every workout. It’s probably second nature for you to check the clock as soon as you drop your last snatch to make sure you catch your time, down to the second, so you can get your score on the board and see how you did compared to everyone else.

So you use the whiteboard daily, but do you ever stop to think about what it’s really there for? Here are five misconceptions about the Crossfit whiteboard and some suggestions for how you should really be looking at it.

  1. The whiteboard is there so I can compare myself to everyone else. What is it about Crossfit that makes it so different from other workout programs? Is it the goofy gear you get to wear or the fact that you now have an extensive collection of selfies taken with barbells in the background? I guess it is for some people. But if you ask most people what they love so much about the Crossfit atmosphere, they’ll probably tell you it’s the awesome sense of camaraderie they get to bask in every time they walk in the door. Crossfit is as much about the community of like-minded people you get to interact with as it is about being the fittest on earth, or whatever. So the notion that the whiteboard exists mainly for you to compare yourself to the other athletes is a little contradictory. Sure, it’s good to have some people whose scores you check to make sure you’re on the right track and you’re giving your best effort, but turning it into an uber-competitive platform for being critical of yourself or for bragging about your superiority over others goes against the spirit of Crossfit. There’s no need to be so tightly wound when it comes to the whiteboard. Relax a little and remember not everything’s a race.
  2. I thought I was counting right but now that I see Timmy’s score I obviously miscalculated. I’ll just say I did the same reps as he did. Grrr. Stop doing this immediately. Quit using your “inability to count right” to justify cheating. You counted right. For whatever reason, Timmy got more reps. So be it. Be honest with yourself and your fellow athletes and put up your real score. Nobody likes a cheater, and sooner or later—whether it be in competition or just being called out in a WOD—your buddies are going to realize what you’re up to. It’s much better to be honest than to be embarrassed when competition time comes and everyone is shocked that you couldn’t really do 140 burpees in seven minutes. Be real.
  3. Sally did Rx weight, so obviously that means I have to too. Obviously nothing. Sally might have 30 pounds on you, or she might have started training two years before you’d even heard of Crossfit. Disregard Sally and her superhuman abilities for a minute and focus on you. Are you ready to do the weight or the movement Rx? If you’re on the fence, the best thing you can do is consult your coach. But remember he probably has 100 other athletes so don’t just run up and go, “How much should I lift?” Bring him your most recent numbers for that specific lift or movement and let him know what you’ve done in the past, and go from there. Whatever you do, do it with the confidence that it’s a choice you made based on your abilities. Don’t worry about the choices others made to suit their fitness goals. You don’t need other people’s whiteboard victories to dictate your decisions.
  4. Last time we did back squats I did MORE than I did this time! I’m obviously a failure and am losing all my gains. Oh, please. The whiteboard is an inanimate thing. It can’t judge whether or not you’re getting better—only you can do that. Maybe the last time you did back squats you had eaten perfectly all day, no cheats, plenty of fats and good carbs to help give you the explosive power to crank out some heavy back squats, but this time you had a rough day at work, got stuck in traffic, got to Crossfit five minutes late and were running on coffee and a protein bar from four hours ago. The whiteboard doesn’t know any of that, so all it’s going to show you is you lifted less this time. Quit being so hard on yourself. Everyone has the occasional day of complete Crap in the Box. Don’t completely disregard it—remember what happened that day and try to avoid those mistakes in the future—but don’t beat yourself up over it either. You’ll have another chance to back squat weight that would put the Hulk to shame.
  5. I have something to prove and I’m going to use the whiteboard to do that. No you’re not. Prove yourself out there on the floor. Prove yourself in the final moments of a crushing WOD, as the sweat pours from every crevice of your exhausted body, in the moment when it would be so much easier to quit or to get hit by a car or something. Prove yourself when you really do lose count of your reps and you start over to preserve the integrity of your workout. Prove it by no repping yourself when you know you didn’t get low enough or get your chin over the bar, even if no one else is watching you and calling you out. Prove it in the real, tangible progress you make every day that you throw everything you’ve got into being the best athlete you can be. That’s what shows, at the end of the day. After you’ve done that, the number you write on the board is practically irrelevant. 

Man up and lift like a lady

Alright, ladies, this one’s for you.

Photo by Greg Westfall

Photo by Greg Westfall

Let me start off by saying I completely understand the apprehension you might feel about even the idea of starting a rigorous training program like Crossfit. Whether you’re intimidated by the heavy looking weights, the sweaty – often loud – men, or the women who look like they could beat you up, I understand your anxiety; I have been there. In fact, we’ve all been there, because we all had to start somewhere.

Before I started Crossfit, I had a million reasons why I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t like the idea of people watching me attempt to do things I thought my body was incapable of doing. I was afraid of hurting myself, of looking stupid, of doing something wrong, of breathing too hard and everybody hearing – of everything, basically. So I get it.

But if Crossfit has taught me anything it has been to question my assumptions – assumptions about myself and about other people. It has taught me that I can’t know my limits if I don’t test them. It has forced me to reevaluate my ideas about my own strength and my capability to improve, as well as challenged me to question my assumptions about the capability of others. Before Crossfit, when someone I’d never seen work out before would walk into the gym, I would look them up and down and make a quick judgment about what I figured they’d be capable of doing. Not anymore. In the box, we’re all equal. By that I don’t mean that we can are all capable of the same level of work. But we are all capable.

Now, I don’t expect to have won you all over with my attempt at being inspirational, so I’ll try to address some common concerns that seem to exist for most women nervous about starting Crossfit.

“I don’t want to get bulky.”

The truth is you most likely have years of training before you even have to think about becoming “too bulky.” What’s more, it’s basically genetically impossible for you to get unreasonably large without performance-enhancing drugs. You’re not going to look like a female body-builder unless you juice like one, or you’re a direct descendant of Goliath.

“I can’t lift that cause I’m a girl.”

Pish posh. You must lift that cause you’re a girl. That’s right – weight-resistant activity is essential for your health as a woman. It will improve your bone density, cardiac health, and – the best part – will help you lose weight because you will burn a greater amount of calories at rest. Women who lift greatly reduce their risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and even diabetes.

“I just want to be skinny.”

Unless you want to develop an eating disorder, this probably isn’t going to happen, nor should you want it to. Just dropping a lot of weight with a nasty calorie-counting fad diet and doing obscene amounts of cardio is not a healthy way to become fit. In fact, you are far more likely to gain the weight back if you try this because you’re depriving your body of nutrients, and you’re basically guaranteed to crash and burn after you quit. The art of fitness is making a change in your lifestyle, not cycling through various 30-day starvation diets. Don’t worry about being skinny; worry about being healthy, and you will see results. Your body will take care of you if you take care of it.

“I’ve had kids.”

Cool, me too. Next?

“I’m worried about people watching me work out.”

My number one problem before I joined Crossfit. I was the kind of girl who would hang out on the elliptical until the weight room was free because I just felt so uncomfortable knowing people could see me. And I think the main reason for this was because I thought they might think I was doing something wrong.

Crossfit eliminates this problem because it teaches you the right way to lift. You don’t have to worry about people thinking you don’t know what you’re doing, because you will be taught how to lift properly before your first class. As far as having other people watch you goes… yes, they will see you, but I can almost guarantee no one will be focused on watching you. Why? Because everyone is doing the same high intensity workout as you are. Do you really think that while they are busy trying to complete 150 wall-balls for time they are going to be assessing what you are doing? Yeah right. Most of them won’t be able to see you through the sweat dripping into their eyes.

I hope this is helpful to you ladies who are thinking about joining Crossfit. Just know that you are not alone in your anxiety, but also understand that we have all had to start from somewhere. As always, if you have other issues you would like me to address, questions, comments, pictures of you using your kid as a kettlebell, etc., please do not hesitate to respond.

Photo Credit: Greg Westfall, flickr

Don’t Hate on the WOD: Addressing common crossfit criticisms

Photo belongs to Wellness One Fitness/Crossfit Great Bridge, the greatest gym in the world.

Photo belongs to Wellness One Fitness/Crossfit Great Bridge, the greatest gym in the world.

Like any up and coming phenomenon, Crossfit has its critics. And they can be loud.

Whether it’s from a lack of understanding, a different take on fitness, or what have you, lots of people seem to have a problem with Crossfit. Before I take on specific complaints that have been made about Crossfit, I’d like to point out a couple things in general. For one, if you seriously hate Crossfit – you think it’s stupid, dangerous, or that it just isn’t effective, then cool – don’t do it! Don’t watch the Games, don’t join a gym, don’t bring it up in conversation with your friends that are into it. This is just common sense for anything you disagree with people about. If you don’t like football, well, don’t play it or watch it. But lots of people love football, and there’s no need to rag on them for playing and watching it. Same rules apply here. Secondly, you are totally entitled to your own opinion when it comes to fitness. I will not jump down your throat if you think hopping on the elliptical is the best possible way for you to get in shape. I might tell you what I think is the best way to get fit, but I’m not going to rip on you and tell you how ineffective I think your workouts are and that you’re wasting your time and you’ll be out of shape forever. In the same respect, please don’t tell me that I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing (I might be, but hey, no need to point it out).

Here are three arguments from The Problem With Crossfit that I thought were the most relevant to a general discussion.

1. “It is generalist.” How can you get better at anything if you don’t specialize in anything?

The thing is, Crossfit isn’t about becoming great at one specific thing. If you want to be great at that one thing, you practice that one thing. So if you want to be an incredible swimmer… swim! Don’t do Crossfit! Or do Crossfit as a supplement to your “thing.” Crossfit doesn’t claim to make you the best at whatever your particular sport or activity is. It only claims to make you an all-around fitter person and better athlete. And it will. Yes, it is generalist – on purpose.

2. “You will get injured.”

Yes, you will (duh…?) Eventually in life you will get injured… unless you never move. And, yes, if you don’t understand your limits, you can hurt yourself doing Crossfit. Find a gym with people who are certified and really – really, really, really – know what they are talking about. If they don’t make you spend some time learning proper form, helping you understand your limitations and scaling things down to a reasonable starting level for you, then yes, you will get injured and you should turn right back around and look for another gym. But, hello, this goes for any physical activity. Crossfit may be more intense than a lot of other physical activity you’re used to, but it follows the same principles as everything else – you need a good trainer, and you need to take responsibility for your wellbeing by understanding what you can and cannot do. I am a dancer, and I have walked into a ballet class, looked around, and walked right back out because of the form I see being allowed in the class. Just be smart about how you train and who you train with. Minor injuries will probably happen – scratches on your face when you’re first learning wall-balls (or if you’re me… always), a sore joint here and there, maybe some bruises. But big injuries should only happen if you’re doing something wrong, so the idea that Crossfit will get you injured more than other physical activities will is pretty bogus.

3. “The whole ‘cult’ thing.”

Yeah, a lot of people think Crossfit is a cult. I’m sure every Crossfitter will admit that a) before they joined, Crossfitters annoyed them a little, and b) we do talk about what we do… a lot. But let’s think about this from a generic perspective. If you have something in common with someone that you both love, isn’t it a topic of conversation on a regular basis? If you and your buddy both love Dungeons and Dragons, isn’t it normal for you to see each other and be like, “Yeah, yesterday I got the to the Cave of Wonders and defeated the ultimate flesh-eating dragon, bro! What’s your flesh-eating dragon PR?” Or… something like that? What I’m saying is we all do the same thing, so we like to talk about it with each other. It’s not a cult; we don’t walk into the box and sign our name in blood on the whiteboard and do a chant to Greg Glassman. It’s a community of our friends that we work out with, and yeah, we’re probably going to talk about our workouts. And sure, to be fair, there are those bros that can’t ever change the subject and are super obnoxious about it, but they’re not exclusive to Crossfit – every sport has its bros.

I hope I adequately addressed some of these complaints about the Crossfit community and have put it into some kind of perspective. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, ideas, awesome pictures of you doing handstand-pushups, or anything not overwhelmingly obnoxious to contribute to the conversation, please submit them here.