2014: Question Everything.

Jan 1, 2014 by

question-everythingThe new year is upon us. Tradition demands that we recite an obligatory list of affirming changes which we will endeavor to bring to fruition in the coming 12 month cycle. While “getting in shape” or “starting my diet” usually top the list for the average reveler, we CrossFitters tend to think in CrossFit Resolutions.

These so-called New Year’s resolutions, for us, manifest themselves as goals – “finally gonna hit that #200 snatch. Gonna make it to regionals as an individual. Gonna get my Level 1 cert or my USAW cert. Compete in 2 competitions in 2014.”

My challenge to everyone out there – one of your 2014 goals, in addition to making the games, regionals, getting your first muscle up, etc: Question Everything.

Now, I am not talking about being combative, disagreeable or argumentative. (well – maybe just a little) I am talking about seeking to understand the reasons that you do what you do, on a daily basis. Let’s face it – most of us live CrossFit in ways that far outweigh that of a normal hobby, fitness program or casual commitment. Many of us eat, sleep, and breathe this sport and as such, are exposed to so much every day that can potentially be life altering. It is our duty to question. It’s in our best interest and in the best interest in the longevity of the very sport itself.

1. Question your coaches

Every day we walk into our box, look at the whiteboard, and simply carry out what is placed before us.  That’s a lot of trust we’re putting in our coaches. Do you ever ask why you’re doing what you’re doing? Let’s say your coach has programmed Russian Deadlifts. Do you know why? Ask. If they don’t know, then you’re beginning to uncover a potential problem. You’re educating yourself in the name of better fitness.

If you are setting up for a snatch and your coach tells you to get your butt down and your chest up – do you just accept that coaching cue and comply? Or do you seek to understand the reason for the cue- the purpose of the set up in order to become a better lifter? Ask. If your coach says “external rotation“, don’t just nod and hope it comes clear – ask for clarification. Ask for a cue that makes real-world sense and can be applied now, logically and effectively.  If they keep yelling at you to get lower in your squat and you feel like your ass is nearly on the ground, ask for some video so you can both break down what’s going on. Become a partner in your fitness, not just a passive participant.

And if your coach keep yelling “active traps!” please, for me, say “what the fuck are active traps??”

2. Question your box

You are paying good money to your CrossFit gym to help you achieve your fitness goals. Is that happening?

Does your box even ask about goals? If so, question them as to why that is. Do they offer a one-size-fits-all daily metcon, or do they have several levels of programs available to match you up with the one that fits you best? If you asked the box owner to define the over-arching philosophy of the box, would he/she be able to do that? Are they a competition-centric box, a general health and fitness box, do they focus on community and family above all else?  Ask.

How do they program? Make it up as they go? Weekly? Periodized cycles? If you don’t know, you’re certainly putting a lot of trust in your box owners to deliver a solid, progressive, effective training regimen to you. Shouldn’t you want to know how they come up with the programming? And if, God forbid, it’s being done on the fly, you certainly want to know that and again, make a decision as to how you might proceed knowing that. I, personally, would not trust my health and wellness to a CrossFit box that is making shit up as they go, especially if that tends to be 20-minute ass-wasting chippers, endless hero wods, and day after day of “girls”.

Ask. “Tell me how you plan to get me from point A to point B, safely, and effectively. What qualifies you to do so? I need more than your L1 Cert”.  Interview these folks – and if they don’t pass, don’t give them the job. They work for you – attending their CrossFit gym is not a privilege they are bestowing upon you.

3. Question CrossFit, Inc

Technically, you can ignore CrossFit HQ. As a member of an affiliate, that’s your home, your community, and your focus.

But like, say, the Catholic Church, besides your parish on the corner, there is the Vatican. As a Catholic, you can just go to church, or you can involve yourself in the workings and politics of the Vatican. Some Catholics highly support everything the Pope does, blindly swear allegiance and loyalty to all of the rules, while others feel like the foolish politics and edicts of the Pope and his cardinals (child abuse cover ups, antiquated laws about contraception, women priests, etc)  are destroying the church at large.

CrossFit HQ is the Vatican. And if you care, truly care about your sport, your fitness regimen, your obsession, you will question them. Ask hard questions about programming, social media, policy and tactics. Demand that they represent you, the affiliate, in a way that helps you grow your business. Demand they represent you, the athlete, to the world they effect. CrossFit, Inc has a major and ever-growing influence on the world of fitness. That influence may impact your bottom line. Does that give you warm fuzzies, or sometimes make you face-palm yourself? Have you ever had to defend CrossFit to clients or potential clients because of some HQ-level action? (“Making 7s out of 10s”, or the CrossFit for Hope poster, anyone?)

And here’s a newsflash. The “Pope” is fallible. Question.

4. Question yourself.

Ask yourself why you are doing this. Is it for you, or is it for someone else? Do you have specific goals, and if so, how are you going about achieving them? If you want to get a muscle up, for instance – do you have a plan as to how that’s going to happen, or are you just hoping it will? Do you come in to the box every day one-minute before and leave one minute after, and then lament as to how you don’t seem to be able to do double unders?

Ask yourself what you dread – wallballs, pullups, whatever it might be – then attack them with a vengeance in 2014. Decide to not wait until your body catches up with your desire – command it to by sheer force of will and hard work. Research, watch videos, train, learn.  Ask.

Ask yourself how you can make yourself a better CrossFitter  - by making every rep prefect, every workout 100% effort? By going above and beyond at the gym, cheering on those who are still finishing rather than putting away your stuff while the workout is still going on? By being completely transparent with your scores – no repping yourself when it’s appropriate? Hell, maybe even cleaning up your DNA after a massive sweat-session rather than leaving it to dry on the bars and on the floor.

Question yourself – are you injured and you know it, but you’re pushing through the pain anyway? What does your head tell you about that pain – that you’re headed for surgery if you keep pushing? Sometimes, asking the hard questions requires the hard answer, that maybe it’s time to ease off the throttle.

Above All, Question.

This is your fitness. This is your body. Your sport. CrossFit belongs to you. Without you, it does not exist. You have the right to question. Questioning leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to growth, effectiveness, and safety. Growth, effectiveness and safety lead to long-term health, which is exactly how CrossFit should be impacting you.

Happy 2014. Train Smart.

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1 Comment

  1. James Kelleher

    Dear Patrick,

    This will be a bit rambling … but I’ve been meaning to write you for some time now, and I’ve been impatiently waiting for your latest BreakingMuscle artice (great job!) and I’ve got some time on my hands … so …

    Love your articles – and in this contribution,as well as your recent two-part article in BreakingMuscle, you have highlighted why I picked the CrossFit Club I belong to, RainCity Athletics, Vancouver. Random, gut wrenching WODs, and blind obedience to HQ dogma, don’t cut it at our gym – instead we are trying to get periodization etc right so that our athletes can train and advance, a
    as free of injury as the coaches can manage (which means they have to watch me like a hawk to make sure I don’t try too much :)

    I am very new to CrossFit (started trainging end of last August) and I’m older than dirt – 58 – but before joining, I had kept myself in shape (with lots of cardio, biking and swimming, and limited weight training to “maintain” some strength . So I completely relate to where you’re coming from, and I admire the hell out of you!

    I was in pretty good shape before I decided to give CF a try, but I guess I had “given up” – conceded that, with aging, I was inevitably going to get weaker and slower. Now, I realize that I can’t be a twenty year old again, and I am NOT trying to gain back my youth … but I have experienced some pretty substantial strength and mobility gains.

    And any injuries sustained so far have been the result of an out-of-whack-skeletal-musculature system and an out-of-control ego. The head guy,Thor Damborg, has been really good at reining me in … and in telling me to hightail it to a physiotherapist at the first sign of structural problems (the usual: knee, ribs, back, shoulder, neck – which I used to do only as a last resort – and he was right!

    Some systematic rehab and carefully guided training, and now my knees are better than I can remember; my back is great; even my wonky shoulder (rotator cuff crapola from years of grunt long distance swimming) is becoming manageable and strong

    CrossFit showed me that I needed to get my body in balance! CF showed me that I need to listen to my old body, respect its limitations, but … well, you of all people know this – I needed to challenge myself and my body, and CF has given me the perfect vehicle.

    And you, my friend, have become one of my “mentors”! I read everything of yours I can get my hands on – and like you, I intend to get to those frigging CF games (gonna be tough – I’m a little guy – 155 lbs, 5′ 8″ in my dreams, cardio fit but not that strong … DUs suck but getting better … and a Muscle-up is still a goal … but the strength and toughness and technique is coming ..)

    Can’s say for sure that I’m the strongest I’ve ever been … but, tell ya what – by the end of 2014 I guarantee I will be far stronger than ever before in my entire friggin’ life. And for an “old guy” that’s pretty exciting!

    I have been aware of CrossFit for years, and I stayed away for precisely the reasons you so forcefully and eloquently articulate – but I craved the challenge and versatility behind the CF concept, so I went looking at various boxes.

    There are a lot of great CF organizations out there – and I believe more and more boxes are coming around to the points you’ve been making! Keep up the great work.

    Your articles have been an inspiration – can’t wait for the next one.

    And I can’t wait to meet you at the CrossFit Games!

    Warmest regards from not-so-sunny Vancouver!

    James K
    Vancouver BC

    P.S. Feel free to put me on your emailing list.

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