Working Out vs Competing: Where Crossfit Went Wrong

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Oh, CrossFit. You’ve done so much good for the fitness community. You didn’t introduce this notion of “high intensity workouts” ,but you sure did put a spin on working out that made it more fun. You got A LOT (and continue to do so) of people off the couch. You got A LOT of people addicted to working out. So please don’t let everything in this article come off as “negative” toward a brand that has done so much good for the world, but I think it’s time we address the elephant in the room...CrossFit created a monster.

Let’s just get this out of the way for those who aren’t members at a CrossFit gym. What exactly is CrossFit? By it’s own definition, CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. That’s it. Simple right? 

Note: I LOVE this. Again it’s not actually “new” to the fitness world, it’s just an innovated version of ways things have been done in gyms in the past. Nonetheless, it’s great.

...But then you added a scoreboard and turned this shit into a contest of “Who’s the best at working out every day?” And that’s where the monster was born. It’s not all CrossFit’s fault. But similar to the way I can no longer wear workout pants that aren’t LuLuLemon, CrossFitter’s can’t even workout without trying to keep score every day.  

Yes competition is healthy and it can be awesome in so many ways, but what if it wasn’t there? Could you still get a good workout in? Could you still enjoy your time in the gym? Would you keep showing up? Because the reality is this -you’re going to reach a point in life where you have to prioritize something else (family, work, kids, etc.) over your 2 hour gym session. 

Are you okay with that? Are you content with only being able to show up to class, workout for 45 minutes, not even worry about your score on the board, and rush out the door to pick up Baby Oliver from daycare? 

For so many people the “scoreboard” is what drives their workouts every day at their CrossFit gym. It’s a mental stimulus that they crave. But at some point that fades. You wake up one day and you aren’t 25 years old. Instead, you’re 35 years old working 60 hours a week, juggling your kid’s sports schedules, and trying to find time to even make it to the gym 3 days/week because you can barely find the time. You did CrossFit for 5 years when your schedule was a lot more open and you crushed it - top 5 on the scoreboard every day. Hell yeah! But, now you’re a nobody at your gym. The new 25 year olds are running circles around you in every “WOD” that you do, and you’re in the corner trying not to barf up the burrito you had for lunch. Not to mention that you’re barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night, so one CrossFit workout now leaves you sore for 6 days. 

So why keep doing it? 

Are you enjoying it? Not really. 

Is it helping relieve stress? Not at all. 

You’re actually more stressed now because you used to be good at this shit. Now you suck, so you dread writing your name on the scoreboard knowing Sammy Snatch Balls is going to come give you a hard time after every workout because he “smoked you by 4 minutes bro!” 

The reality is this -you have to dig deeper. You have to find a better reason as to why you work out than the scoreboard alone. If that’s what attracted you to CrossFit, I would be willing to bet that on a long enough timeline it will also be part of what makes you walk away from it. 

Whether you workout in a CrossFit gym or not, my opinion is that you should be tracking data on how much you lift, how fast you can run a mile, how fast YOU did a benchmark workout at your gym, etc. Whether you want to compare that to your workout homies or just to yourself from last year, I don’t really care about that either. But, you NEED to dedicate a portion of your training habits to simply enjoying the process. 

Don’t keep score every workout. Just show up. Train your mind and body to be satisfied solely with the fact that you made it to the gym, worked out for 45 minutes without being distracted by your phone, and were able to burn a few calories while you were at it. At this point you’re gonna look better than 95% of your class at your 20 year reunion anyways, so you’re #WINNING right? 

Remember: The girl who trains 3-4 days/week for 40 years and progressively gets  a little better at everything is always going to end up more fit than the girl who trained 7 days/week for 1 year, ran herself into a wall because she trained so hard, and then gave up completely because she fell victim to the monster. 

I’ll leave you with these words that I read in an article from one of the owners of a CrossFit gym in Dallas, Texas:

You have to find your own root as to why you show up at the gym every week, because the scoreboard isn’t enough. The scoreboard mainly drives the ego. But, beyond the ego is a soul and a heart that we all have. Gosh, I guess that's true right? I'd like to believe that behind the hard shell of having a life and job that looks successful is this ultimate desire of the heart to either be of use to someone or to something; To be lost in that effort. 

That acknowledgement, or priority, is way cooler, way more personal, and will drive behavior when motivation isn't in abundance.

The magic is in connecting something VERY important to you. Back to the behavior and habits we initially said was the 'rote answer' for all of us. 

So as the CrossFit Open season is upon us, I challenge you to do one thing. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how “fit” you are.

Go deeper. Find your why. 

Balancing structure & enjoyment - by Coach Manders

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Being a nutrition coach, I hear things regularly from clients feeling that they “failed” or they “cheated” by eating _______ (insert favorite food here) and they have to “get back on the wagon” (cringe. My least favorite saying) because they had a date night, wedding, etc. You get my point.

But here’s the thing.

Life is not always going to be structured. I mean, sure, you could live a life where you literally never leave the house, only eating your cooked foods with zero deviation or enjoyment whatsoever. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to live my life that way. Nonetheless, you are going to have celebrations in your life – and that’s a constant. Every year: your birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving (a holiday literally surrounded by food), weddings, there are always going to be these types of events. That’s not including date nights with your significant other, family nights, and well – just the regular old nights that maybe you just don’t feel like being super strict or you want to enjoy a night of eating something you don’t normally eat.. and guess what? THAT’S OKAY.

As I have always said, there is a time and place for being strict/rigid.. for example: weightlifting meets (cutting weight for a weight class), preparing for some type of competition or event, trying to hit a specific goal that you have been working towards, or simply for the matter of practicing discipline. I do feel that there should always be a time where you practice discipline, and not give in to cravings (otherwise how else would you learn how to say no to things when you need to?) BUT – and there is a big but – it is so incredibly important to learn when and how to be flexible and enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.

Over the last few years that I’ve been tracking macros off and on, I truly believe that the reason I have been able to balance discipline with flexibility is because I’ve learned when to loosen the reigns, and when to pull them back in. Do I track my macros every single day with absolutely zero deviation? No. Do I turn down a Hurts Donut every now and then? Also, no. The key? In my opinion, is that I don’t eat one donut that then turns into an entire box of donuts, that turns into a week of “falling off the wagon” *cringe*. I’m sure this comes with practice (just like anything in life) but the ability to have control and understanding that one donut, or one meal, isn’t going to ruin your progress, is so important.

Now, if you’re someone who physically can’t do this – and when you eat the donut/meal/whatever it is, you find yourself obsessing over it, trying to compensate the next day, or do an extra workout… I highly suggest that you seek professional help or perhaps choose to not track macros at all if it brings you constant stress/anxiety like that. I don’t want any of my clients (or anyone reading this) to live a life like that, because it truly isn’t worth it. Life is much too short for that. So in this case, what I’m writing doesn’t apply to that end of the spectrum.

However, I think if this is something that you want to be able to do long term – live a healthy lifestyle – the first thing is to accept that it’s not always going to be perfect. Nothing ever is! When you get the opportunity to celebrate someone’s wedding, birthday, or maybe just the love between you and your spouse, you should celebrate THAT. Not the food, not use it as an excuse to go absolutely overboard and eat everything in sight, but enjoy what you want to enjoy, and move forward. The more you are able to practice this, the more you will be able to relax around events like those in the future; because let’s face it, there are going to be plenty!

Last night, we had a family date night/bowling adventure and ended it off with some Hurts Donuts. I’ll be DAMNED if I ever sat out on something like that just because it didn’t “fit my macros”. Sure, if I would have known the week prior and I REALLY wanted to try to “fit one in” beforehand I could have attempted, and again, there may be a time or place for that – but not always. Austin and I got a box of 6, along with the whole family, and we broke them up into little bits so we could try a bunch of different ones. It was almost like I had a big multi-flavored donut, and it was SO WORTH IT. Delicious, sugary, and not something that I eat often. Did I get a stomach ache in the middle of the night? Yup. But did I wake up today with guilt/shame or trying to eat less to make up for my over-consumption of calories last night? Hell no. I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that one night of sugary consumption isn’t going to change my body composition. It literally has taken me 5 years to get to where I am now, and it’s not going to just magically go down the tubes because I had some donuts last night.

I think oftentimes living this, living with Austin, and seeing how he doesn’t even think twice about nights like that – has done wonders for my mental health. So I hope that by sharing these types of things with you guys, it will help someone who may be struggling with the same thoughts. At the beginning of my journey, I definitely struggled more with this because I felt as though I was going backward every time I had one of those nights with donuts, foods I don’t usually eat, etc. But after time, I realized that it’s the long term consistency over the years that gets you to where you want to be; not the one night of donuts you indulged in!

So if you have one of those nights – maybe indulged a little more than you wanted to, or had a few too many donuts… RELAX. Bump up your water intake, get back to your regular meals, and remember that it’s okay to enjoy these things now and then!

Have a great Sunday!

xo,

Manders