I have been doing CrossFit faithfully for 7 years now since I discovered it in 2005. Started off doing it 3 days on and 1 day off going as hard as possible on each workout until I realized about 6 months later than I was not adapting to the program as fast as I liked despite a clean diet, proper sleep and normal levels of stress. Despite my best efforts, I felt sore and worn down most of the time, which is no way to enjoy life. So I switched my training routine to 2 days on and 1 day off and instantly felt better. For the first 2 years, I followed the mainsite (crossfit.com) until I started following the programming of other experienced gym owners, which lead me to eventually write up my own programming that I tested on myself and the mix of athletes who trained at Steve’s Club and CrossFit Tribe.
As we know CrossFit involves constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity. This means most workouts are done as fast as humanly possible. A typical workout will involve a time-oriented (ex. 12 minute AMRAP) or a task oriented domain (ex. 5 Rounds for time). It is not uncommon to hear of CrossFitters puke after a workout or drop to the ground to the point of almost passing out following a tough and highly “intense” workout. While many crossFitters will push themselves this hard for the “rush” or the “high” experienced with the post effect of a high intensity workout, others go the distance to either hit a PR (personal record) or to beat the score or time of the person next to them. As the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman once said, "men die for points."
Standard protocol suggests that each member’s name is written on the white board next to the workout so the coach can write the members time directly next the name after the coach hears the words “time” (which is code for “done”). Of course, this means that the entire class knows at the end of every workout who crushed the workout and who just flat out sucked. The results are on the board for everyone to see. There is no hiding in the herd.
As a competitive envirnoment is strongly encouraged to bring out the best in each athlete, all too often it brings out the worst in the athlete. In order to avoid finishing last in an AMRAP or having an embarrassing score on a time oriented workout (which everyone will see on the whiteboard), many athletes end up cheating on the workout and/or cutting corners with the integrity of the movements.
This is especially prevalent for the kids who train at Steve’s Club. They commonly miscount reps, short change rounds and carry out crappy form all for the sake of finishing first, or not finishing last. It is rather hard for me to call them out or yell at them for doing this, when I am the one encouraging them to go HAM after I screaming 3, 2, 1 GO…..upon pressing the button to start the clock.
However, I since changed the format of the workouts as a small social experiment.
Rather than writing down athletes names on the board, putting the words FOR TIME next to the workout, and setting the timer to record the fastest times, I have done just the opposite. No names on the board, “NOT FOR TIME” next to the workout and there is NO TIMER set. I just put the clock on a 20 minute countdown to let everyone know they have 20 minutes to do a workout that should take most athletes around 12 minutes when done as fast as possible (the 20 minute CAP helps to ensure I end the class on time).
Since implementing the new format, I have been amazed at how effective it is. The athletes are much more focused on the quality of the movements and less in a state of panic to multi-task by completing the movements, counting the reps and trying their very best to not finish the workout last. I mean who really wants to finish last? Worst yet, who likes to feel humiliated by having their name on the board for everyone to see? The fact is no kid or person likes to finish last and feel embarrassed.
So I just wanted to share this major insight with you as I continue to live, learn and grow as a coach and athlete. In fact, I am upset at myself for not changing to this format sooner.
The rat race is over and may the real fun and learning begin!