As happens occasionally, last week I was introduced by a old friend to a new friend in my capacity as a CrossFit gym owner. And as happens almost as often, I got the stinkeye from one of my new pals. “Oh, I would NEVER do CrossFit. Are you kidding me?”
Usually when that happens, I just laugh. What is there to say, really? Sometimes–chuckle in notation of bad manners aside–it’s best to just leave well enough alone. We’ll do our thing, they’ll do their things, and the sun will set tonight.
But it does make me think that we’re failing to transmit a significant portion of our message here: we meaning CrossFit gym owners, CrossFit athletes, CrossFit advertorial thinktanks, et alia. Now, we don’t usually miss a beat with regards to elite fitness–as a CF gym owner, I view the Games telecasts on ESPN2 with equal parts ardor and trepidation; I know the phone will ring a lot more than it did the day before the telecast, but I also know that 75% of the people calling will wonder why I don’t have them hopping on the pullup bars by the end of day 1. And that’s a challenge. If we’re going to welcome that part of an athlete’s soul which sends them in search of extremity, I think we need to be prepared to shunt that intensity towards proper movement, progression, and consistency. So we embrace extremity even as we see it as a means to an end.
By the same token, we do well with transformation. This is perhaps the most vendable message we’ve got: a dramatic before and after, and make sure the ‘after’ is bathed in chains and Prowler pushes, preferably both at once. I don’t think there’s anything wrong here either. Life is growth, change, progress. We are celebrating and selling rugged individualism within a culture that, oddly enough, would rather you be milk-fed long into your dotage. So we show the world that all you really need to enact the change you seek is a barbell, a brain, and just enough guts to expect the most from yourself. We get this message. We give it voice, and we shine.
But we’re coming up short somewhere. Every week there are more folks shaking their heads no. They know the name, they know the stories, but they don’t know that the front doors of our gyms open just as wide for humble concerns. They have trick backs, they just want to drop five pounds, they run three nights a week and don’t want to give that up.
…Or maybe they’re just scared. They’re brave people and know how to not be scared about most everything else, but hard conditioning just raises their Spidey Sense. Their neighbors and friends come to the gym and have a blast and they’d love to be part of our community, but they’re all set with the deadlifts. So what do we do with that? Do we look them dead in the eye, adult to adult, and tell them ever so gently and in so many words that they just need to suck it up buttercup because one-size-fits-all-and-everything-is-scalable-so-eventually-you’ll-be-power-cleaning-like-everyone-else-here-at-CrossFit? Is that the message we want to send?
Or do we trust our own skill and heart as trainers enough to let them know that CrossFit is about Movement, not movements? About Strength, not individual strengths? Do we trust our own communities enough to assure the folks worried about their backs that they can come into our gym, work some gentler and safer progressions on deadlift day and still enjoy the same camaraderie and support as the girl pulling 200 for the first time? Do we create and value spaces where every single decision and movement isn’t a referendum on your guts, glory, or place on the leader board? And do we let folks know at every turn that our house is open to all–not just the beasts, not just the folks looking to transform with a capital T, not just the folks who need something new, but the folks who might like to do something great simply by showing up?
I don’t think we do. Not enough, anyhow. We should change that.