The Standard

One of the more important aspects of Crossfit training program is the concept of a “standard” that must be met for success to be achieved.

This standard typically involves moving through a full range of motion, or lifts performed at a specific weight, or tasks completed in a certain time. The standard removes ambiguity and allows any outside observer to understand who did what, and how well they did it.

When I started Crossfit, we used a whiteboard and everyone recorded their own results for other athletes in the community to see, and this process helped us all maintain a standard of integrity and competition that is essential to any athletic undertaking.  The idea behind a whiteboard is to show our community what is possible. Putting your name on the board shows a willingness to be held accountable to a training program. Putting your name on the board shows you are an example of “going the extra mile”, inspiring others to chase after your effort. You offer your effort to public record, so our community can witness your achievement and be encouraged to achieve their own greatness.

Recently, though, the concept of a standard has lost some significance.

I’m not sure if it is because of the general cultural shift towards “participation” awards, or if it is because someone’s fragile ego can’t handle being held to a recognizable standard, or if people want to “win” so badly, they will reduce the quality of their athletic expression for a chance to sit at the top of the leaderboard. Whatever the actual reason, I’m here to tell you that I don’t like it at all, and it is my job as a fitness professional to do whatever I can to resurrect the standard and ensure everyone understands how important this idea is to each of us individually, and to our community as a whole.

When I observe someone struggling to uphold the standard,  because of forces beyond their control, (fatigue, exhaustion, etc.), it is my job as a coach to encourage them to aim higher, to reach a little farther, to be the very best they can be, to continue upholding the standard.

When I see someone dismiss the standard with intent, it damages my faith in humanity. If you are the kind of person who shaves reps on a chipper workout, or doesn’t perform movements through a full range of motion because you are “moving too fast”, what kind of person are you out in the “real world”? Do you kill kittens for pleasure? Do you hate everything good and right and true? If you make the choice to cheat on situps and fudge the count on Fight Gone Bad, what other injustices to you manifest in your “real life”?

Instead of reducing your ego and embracing humility as a teacher of lessons, you inflate your ego and feed it. Everytime your name sits at the top of the leaderboard, regardless of uncounted reps and complete lack of movement integrity, your chest puffs up, your look around for someone to brag to, someone to gloat over, you congratulate yourself as the best! That kind of behavior stunts your personal growth as an individual, but it also impacts the community around you. Other athletes witness the travesty of miscounted reps and reduced range of motion, and they begin to question the standard, and they begin to consider “the easy way” as an option. Your nefarious ways challenge the integrity of Crossfit methodology and corrupt the sanctity of of our training environment.

But I desire as a coach is for your Crossfit experience to facilitate the understanding of your ego, and then teach you how to get comfortable with humility and the reduction of the ego. Every successful learning experience is riddled with failed attempts, and if you “cheat” around these failures, if you convince yourself that your half-effort equals success, then you never really get the benefits of those learning experiences. My encouragement to you today is to uphold the standard. Don’t let your nagging ego get in the way of your progress, and continue to put in the hard work that always produces success. If you can’t succeed with talent, you can always triumph with effort!