If you have been doing CrossFit for any amount of time, odds are you have run into the question, “What is CrossFit?”
As you spew out a few popular movements that non-weightlifting and fitness freaks might understand, there is a remote possibility that what occurs in a CrossFit box was accurately depicted to your audience. Assuming that your answer was coherent enough, the next question is almost always, “Why do you do THAT?”
Some times I feel that the innate pressure that a CrossFit work out creates to compete with yourself and others, get that PR and to push your body to its limits in gym allows for the purpose behind the journey outside the gym to be lost.
Why is it exactly that we do this week in and week out? Why is 30 minutes of cardio and segmented body workouts not good enough anymore? Why do we pay money to do what can only be described as torture, at times, and then show up the next day for more?
In short, because it works.
The secret though, is it only works if you know what you are working towards. What is your purpose? What are your goals? Wanting to lose weight? Wanting to increase fitness? Wanting to be a better parent or partner?
Those are all valid questions and a place to start, but what does it all mean?
So you want to lose weight? Join the club. But what is it about losing weight that is desirable?
What do you want to do with your body and mind that you couldn’t do before?
This is the ultimate question that only you can answer for yourself. And it needs to be answered.
CrossFit can be the tool to help get you there, but you still have to decide the ultimate destination.
Over time, I obtained a vision of myself and my body that became disproportionate to reality. CrossFit has allowed me to change that reality, but more importantly, change my vision. The ceiling and what I know I am capable of has risen. I have higher expectations for what I can do and what I want to do.
I remember going on a hike last spring that I had hiked the year prior as well. My first go-a-round was a struggle. I breathed heavy and my self-consciousness took away from the joy of being in nature and surrounded by friends. After walking into the gym nine months prior and attempting the hike a second time, it was a completely different experience. I was aware of the beauty around me. I joked and laughed with the people I was with. I found different objects to press overhead. I was able to enjoy this amazing activity and be grateful for my ability to participate in it.
I eventually paused at one point and silently reflected, “This is why I CrossFit.”
As excited as I was to hit a 475 pound deadlift PR last week, applying what we do in the gym to improve our lives outside of the gym is pure euphoria.
CrossFit is a tool. A wonderful and powerful tool to get you to where you want to be. However, even powerful tools need conscious and aware operators to be effective. CrossFit can be the tool to help get you there, but you still have to decide the ultimate destination. While you’re on your way to your destination, don’t forget to stop and enjoy the process.
So, where are you going and why do you want to get there? Where is the byproduct of all your hard work in the gym going to take you? Ultimately, what do you want to do with your body that you couldn’t do before?
Yesterday evening at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington, I had the honor and privilege of attending a seminar presented by the founder of CrossFit. Known by most as simply “Coach,” Greg Glassman shared insights into how the CrossFit phenomenon was created and the importance in establishing a free enterprise system in which affiliates thrive.
This was the first time, aside from CrossFit Journal videos, that I have heard Glassman speak. Overall, I found his demeanor likeable and his perspective straightforward. He was not afraid to discuss the economics of the business and fielded questions that many folks have put on the table, such as issues around saturation and brand protection.
“an opportunity so rich that it became an obligation.” -Greg Glassman
Throughout his speech, there were several nuggets of insight that I found particularly interesting. Glassman discussed that business owners should focus on pursuing excellence as opposed to money. “Excellence is the beacon. Excellence is the light house,” Glassman said. Excellence is the only thing that is constant and should be the focus of all that we do. He said, “Markets move capital to excellence.” Glassman pointed out that by building a brand and culture that exudes excellence, the money will follow. This process cannot happen by focusing on money first. Focusing on excellence allows individuals to pursue a passion. Glassman said that his goal was to establish “the best training program every created.” This perspective allowed him to provide a value to his clients that other gyms and personal trainers did not make a priority. He focused on excellence without ever realizing he was becoming an entrepreneur and the wealth soon followed.
Glassman said that, “Business is presenting uniquely attractive opportunities.” I absolutely loved this definition. You typically read that business is about solving a problem or taking an existing idea and manufacturing it more efficiently or for less cost. What types of opportunities are businesses offering their clients? I work in Higher Education and even through that lens, this perspective is applicable. If you are not able to provide a unique and attractive product/service/experience to customers, you will not be in business for very long.
Glassman shared his experience in Africa, building schools, and how the CrossFit community banded together to raise money through the CrossFit for Hope work out. The work out generated nearly $1.7 million in donations. He discussed how much power there is in giving. A quote that truly stood out to me about this experience was that he felt it was “an opportunity so rich that it became an obligation.” Wow. A millionaire founder of an exponentially growing fitness program made it a point to discuss how giving is enriching to the point that he feels obligated to continue doing so. I find that to be a powerful perspective.
Towards the conclusion of his talk, before taking questions and answers, Glassman discussed his marketing philosophy. He said, “The best marketing is when you are so good that people won’t shut up about what you do.” There was laughter in the crowd as I am sure most people have heard the joke, “How do you know that someone does CrossFit? Because it’s all they talk about!” Glassman said he doesn’t recommend marketing. He recommends branding. Focus on your brand and clearly communicate to others the value that your company offers people. His goal was not focused on maximizing the rate of return on his investment, but to “maximize the healing.” He knew that if he focused on healing his clients by providing “the best training program ever” and optimizing their nutrition, the marketing would take care of itself.
Glassman set up a free enterprise model of affiliation, as opposed to franchising his brand. He has almost single-handedly created a platform in which thousands of individuals have become entrepreneurs. He expressed that the overall “pie” of revenue generated by the CrossFit brand and community (Affiliates, shoes, supplements, apparel…etc. All companies that are positioned as targeting the CrossFit population) is estimated at $1 billon. The CrossFit brand slice of that pie is roughly $50 million. Glassman conveyed that the overall goal is for the pie to continue growing, while his slice continues to shrink. Glassman has put his opportunity for obscene wealth on the backburner to empower those in the community.
I was not quite sure what to expect from this seminar. I decided to come in with an open mind and worst-case scenario was that I got to listen to the founder of this life-changing activity that we have come to know as CrossFit. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to listen to a millionaire speak for roughly $10 a ticket, right? I could not have been more appreciative for the opportunity to hear him speak. I felt rejuvenated and excited as we walked back to the car. These “business” lessons are extended beyond the boardroom and the bottom line. These words are how we should be living our lives.
Focus on excellence. Seek opportunities to give that are so enriching it becomes an obligation. Pursue your passion. Provide uniquely attractive opportunities. Pay attention to the process and not the end result. If you’re good at what you do, people will not shut up about you. Do not market, brand. Maximize healing.
And most importantly, as Glassman said, “Love the hell out of your clients.”
A special thank you to the Freedom Foundation for hosting this event.
The 2013 CrossFit Open kicked off with the first WOD (Workout of the Day) announced on March 6th. For a lot of people, this is a big deal. For most people, they have no idea what this means.
The CrossFit Open is the first stage in the ultimate goal of crowning the "Fittest Man and Woman on Earth." This is done by allowing individuals from around the world the opportunity to register and complete a series of five work outs, announced every Wednesday night, for five weeks. Athletes register for $20 and have the opportunity to complete the work out at a CrossFit affiliated gym and submit their scores online. If folks do not live near an affiliate, they are able to simply video record themselves doing the work out and submit a video.
The world is broken down into regions. The top 30 men and top 30 women in each region from the five Open work outs are invited to compete in Regionals. The top 3 men and top 3 women from each region then are invited to compete at the CrossFit Games in California. You may have seen this on ESPN.
This will be my second year competing in the Open. Last year, with a full four weeks of CrossFit under my belt, I signed up not realizing what I was really signing up for. I have no intention making making it to the CrossFit Games or even Regionals, so why would I sign up?
I think that it is imperative for us to take a step back every once in awhile and test fitness. Every day training is typically for the purpose of building fitness. We need to measure our results. Expose weaknesses. Create new goals.
The first work out was a combination of two work outs from last year. The snatch (an Olympic Weightlifting movement) ladder last year comprised of 30 reps x 75 lbs, 30 reps x 135 lbs, 30 reps x 165 lbs and as many reps as possible at 210 lbs. I was not at a point last year where I was able to snatch 135 lbs. This year, after 70 burpees and 30 snatches at 75 lbs, I was able to snatch 135 for six reps before the time limit ran out. I would call that a success. It is gratifying doing something that a year ago your body was not able to do.
I am excited to see how I can make gains in other areas this year. The work outs are sure to be intense and test our physical capabilities. If I can show improvement or perhaps set a new PR, that is a victory in these games for me.
It’s that wonderful time of year where we get to turn a page and see a blank book in front of us. We can accomplish anything what we want, say goodbye to the past, and every one is forward thinking with an eye to the future.
It’s also the time of year where folks set resolutions, trying to make the most of this New Year we are about to embark on. With over one-third of United States adults being obese, it is no surprise that weight-loss and fitness top the typical lists of resolutions. Since most resolutions fizzle away by the middle of February, perhaps there are some ways we can try and set ourselves up to succeed in 2013.
Don’t Focus on Weight Loss
So you want to lose weight, awesome! I believe that folks will see a significant improvement in their life by shedding a few pounds. People consistently talk about having more energy, sleeping better and generally being a more pleasant person to be around. Losing weight is a laudable accomplishment that takes commitment and dedication, but I do not believe that it is the most optimal resolution that you can set for yourself.
The fact is that your scale will lie to you. What most people mean when they say they want to lose weight is that they want to change the composition of their bodies. They want to lose fat and gain muscle. I see countless examples of individuals who are incredibly thin and therefore, do not weigh very much, but they also don’t look healthy.
Rather than focus on weight loss, focus on performance. Find an activity that you naturally love doing (swimming, running, biking, lifting weights, dancing…whatever!) and make time to just do it! Find a marathon, triathlon, weight lifting competition, 5k…something that is in the next 3-6 months and train for it. Focus on your training and the fitness and weight loss will take care of itself. It’s much more satisfying crossing the finish line of something you had to put in hard work and discipline for than simply staring at numbers on a scale.
It’s a slight, but significant paradigm shift that you will experience when your mindset changes from “I can’t eat this,” to “I can eat this, but I’m choosing not to.”
Don’t be insane: Try something that scares you
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Still have that gym membership that is 6 months old? I doubt that you are going to make that a routine if you have failed countless times before. I also doubt you are going to accomplish your fitness goals if your routine involves messing around on the elliptical for 30 minutes and then jumping in the hot tub and sauna (my old routine).
Try something new. And better yet, try something that scares you. For me, that was finding CrossFit. I still remember just about a year ago walking through the door of Lynnwood CrossFit and being terrified. I had no idea the impact that it would have on my life from being a part of this amazing community. Step outside your comfort zone. Find a group class or something that you’ve always wanted to try and just try it. Being around a group of like-minded individuals is empowering and will help you accomplish your goals.
Visualize accomplishing your goal
When we try something new, often times we are our biggest critics. We have that little voice inside your head that tells you that you can’t do it. That’s okay. That voice will go away. Spend a few minutes each day visualizing who you want to be. What do you want to look like or what will it feel like once you accomplish your goal? Focus on where you’re trying to go and embrace where you are right now. You’ll find that fitness and weight loss is more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Getting off of the couch is the hardest movement. Learn to love yourself and take pride in your accomplishments and successes.
Immerse yourself in the community
Read blogs. Watch documentaries. Find people on social media. Read books. Make new friends. Get involved within the community and you dramatically increase your odds of succeeding. You will want to quit and you will go through ups and downs. Having like-minded individuals that know what you go through will make the ups even better and will be a buffer for the downs. The more involved you are in your goal, the more likely it will stop being a “goal” and simply become a part of your life.
Food is not a reward
I used to fall into the trap when I would stick with my fitness plan and nutrition for a period of time, I would reward myself with a cheat meal (or day) that always seemed to include chocolate peanut butter ice cream. I realized that this type of "reward" that I was limiting from my diet made me feel deprived and took my focus off of what my ultimate goal was.
Don’t use food as a reward. Yes, schedule in cheat meals and days when you can have a treat, but only when they are planned. Instead of food, think about activities or ways that can help support you in your journey. Do you love biking? Perhaps once you reach a milestone you reward yourself with a new bike, or riding shorts or jersey. Love to run? New running shoes could be on your horizon. Fit into a certain size of pants now? Time to get a new pair of jeans and throw away the old ones. These rewards take the focus off of what you “can’t have” and put the focus on what you’re working towards.
It’s a slight, but significant paradigm shift that you will experience when your mindset changes from “I can’t eat this,” to “I can eat this, but I’m choosing not to.”
Don’t Give Up
Write down all the reasons why you want to do whatever it is you are set out to do. Keep this list accessible and read it every time you are thinking about giving up. Add to it as you begin your journey and as your perspective changes. We all have our reasons to improve fitness. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Best of luck to you in 2013!
I’ve been on this amazing journey of getting into CrossFit since January. I’ve even gone as far as to obtain my Level-1 CrossFit Trainer Certificate. Although I have seen significant gains physically, I cannot begin to explain the mental enhancements that I have experienced. As I inch my way closer to being a part of this amazing community for one year, it made me think about what parallels we can draw to real life. What lessons and experiences can I take with me when I leave the gym.
Lesson 1: Your body can do more than your mind thinks you can.
I’m on round one of a four round work out, thinking, “How am I going to get through this? I cannot get through this.” But to this day, I always have. I have always finished the work out. I haven’t always been first and I’m typically quite slow, but I always plug along and finish. After awhile, that voice in my head started to go away. This does not mean that the work outs are getting any easier, it just means that the fear of failing is subsiding. When my head wants to tell me to stop, that I’ve reached the limit and can go no further, I have always been able to stretch those boundaries physically.
I see this happen with my students every day. They are afraid to live up to the potential that they have inside of them. The fear of failing prevents them from succeeding. By overcoming these mental hurdles, time and time again, you will realize that you possess all of the necessary skills to overcome your fears. This continuous practice of mental toughness is imperative to finding success.
Lesson 2: Just keep moving forward
I read in an article that stated, “progress is slow, and then it’s fast.” This could not be truer. In a world where instant gratification is readily available, the patience and consistent hard work that is needed to do great things is hard to find. Is excellence a process or a destination? I would argue both. Keep your head down and just keep moving forward. The most gratifying workouts are the ones that took a tremendous amount of discipline just to get to the gym door. When you battled every excuse to not go to the gym, but found yourself there regardless. That is progress. Baby steps add up quicker than you realize.
Lesson 3: Rest on the ground
Burpee: the act of getting your entire body (chest and hips) on the ground, and then getting your entire body off the ground (jumping).
No one enjoys doing burpees. But like coach says, burpees keep you out of the nursing home. If you can get yourself on the ground and back up, you can live an independent life.
The most difficult part of the burpee is getting back up and off the ground. When resting, rest on the ground, this way you have to get back up.
Set yourself up to succeed. If I am mentally and physically exhausted, by resting on the ground I am forcing myself to get one more rep. I HAVE to get back up. Put yourself in positions that force you to succeed.
Lesson 4: Community leads to success
When doing any research into CrossFit, one of the first things you always hear about is the sense of community. I belonged to a large gym and when I didn’t show up for three months, how many phone calls do you think I received asking where I had been? Zero. When I don’t show up for two days, I get texts asking where I am and why I didn’t show up. I’ve established great relationships with the regulars that attend my class time. We all suffer together and that creates a bond.
We can do more as a group working individually, yet collaboratively, then we could as individuals. We can push and encourage each other beyond the point that we can push ourselves. The positive attitudes amongst each other are contagious. The sense of community leads to a greater amount of success for each individual that is a part of it.
If you’re searching for success in your life, whatever that may be defined as for you, I can guarantee that implementing these lessons will help you achieve it. You CAN do you more than you think you can do. KEEP pushing forward, ESPECIALLY when you don’t want to. Put yourself in positions where you HAVE to succeed. Find a community to SHARE and find success in.
I am passionate and write about personal development, leadership, education and healthy lifestyles. I work in higher education and I am committed to being an outstanding mentor and professional in my field.