As two solid weeks of Olympics watching are drawing to a close, the CrossFit Games season is about to begin, and I’m in the competitive spirit. I’ve been a huge figure skating fan (stay with me here) since I was 5 years old and would brush my figure skating Barbie’s hair (yes, I had Barbies...) while dreaming of one day skating with Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko (it always bothered me that Barbie’s feet were angled for high heels and didn’t fit the skates properly, but that’s a gendered toys rant for another day).
As a figure skating fan, I’ve also go my underpants in a twist over fair play in judged sports, and it’s got me thinking about fair play in CrossFit. Granted, CrossFit standards of movement are a little less subjective than a “components score”, but it’s still down to the judge (and to ourselves) to enforce those standards.
To clarify, when I say standards of movement I’m talking about these sorts of things: squatting below parallel; full extension in hips and knees at the end of any clean/snatch/press; dead hang with your feet off the ground before you do a pullup, toes to bar, or MU; hitting the wall ball target; toes hitting the bar, and chin over the bar, etc.
I’ve attended many a class and many a competition and seen many a sub-standard movement; I'm certain I'm guilty of a few. To this, I could say: “they’re only cheating themselves”, but that would be a big fat lie.... something we say to make people who do things properly feel better when others around them do not. Big picture, it’s true, it’s you workout, not mine, and it does not affect me directly if you do not squat below parallel. In the end, we’re all just trying to be fitter. But if I’m being honest and frank, I care. I care as a coach that you are not getting your best workout, and I especially care as your peer because you are not just cheating yourself, you are cheating everyone around you as well.
You are cheating the person who is at the same level as you and wants to push themselves by chasing your (actual) score. You are cheating the newer member who, not knowing better, will copy your movements. You are cheating the people who see your score on the whiteboard and feel defeated that they can never accomplish what you’ve supposedly done.
But also, in my experience, you really are cheating yourself. Two years ago we had to do 150 wallball in one of the Open WODs. I was rudely awakened to the fact that what I had thought was good squat depth was actually barely passable. I thought if Joseph gave me one more no-rep I might “accidentally” drop the ball on his head. With misplaced irritation, I spent some time practicing to find that perfect “just below parallel” spot.
Then I watched Perry do her squats. When Perry squats, there’s never a question, it’s ass to grass every time and I thought, if Perry can squat ass to grass faster than I can squat to “just the right spot”, maybe I’m missing something here. So I vowed that day to start squatting like Perry Hanlon.
And yes, at first it slowed me down. But by the time that WOD was repeated 1 year later I was stronger, faster, and less easily gassed than the year before. And I did the whole darn thing without one single no-rep.
To some extent it’s the coaches (or judges) responsibility to correct your standards, especially for new members. But we can’t watch every rep of every WOD for every member, and we can’t make you listen to our advice (especially if you’ve gone temporarily WOD-deaf).
In the end, your movements are your responsibility. If you don’t know the standard, ask. Most are obvious: you can see if you hit the target or bar, you know if your feet are dangling off the ground, you can tell if you are standing up straight and if your elbows are locked. As for squat depth, stand next to a mirror, close your eyes, and squat to what you think will just barely count. Look in the mirror. Is your hip crease below the top of your knee? If not, squat lower. If so, squat lower anyway. You’ll get stronger.
Maybe you know the standards, but just don’t give a hoot about scores and racing and all that. You just want to come in, get your burn, have a good time, and carry on with your day. That’s cool, I dig it, not everyone needs to be competitive. But if you really don’t care about scores or standards, consider not putting your score on the board at all.
And if you just care more about your score than your standards.....well, I hope that isn’t the case and if it is....shame.
I’m not saying I’ve never allowed a bad rep before. Just the other day, with this particular blog-post in mind, I confess to counting a couple of 10’ wallballs that did not touch the wall, let alone the target. I’ve also had many stern post-WOD conversations with myself for counting the occasional “close enough” toes to bar. Some days, it’s ok to decide that the RX just isn’t worth that extra swing.
I’m not asking you to be perfect, but I am asking for honest effort and honest self-assessment. Hold yourself to a higher standard than required Every Single Day while you train. It will only make you Stronger, Faster, and Fitter.