Almost nothing about life now is the same as life a month ago, including how we CrossFit. Workouts have moved from boxes to garages and living rooms, coaches are hosting zoom workouts, and CrossFitters everywhere are working out solo. And as much as I miss not having burpees prescribed every other day, one change that I am not upset about when it comes to CrossFit at home is life without the whiteboard.
I know the whiteboard has become a semi-controversial topic in CrossFit circles. Some boxes post all scores on a day to day basis for everyone to see, some use only a virtual whiteboard, and some have chosen to forgo it all together. The whiteboard can encourage people to work as hard as they can to get a PR lift or help give some context to what we’re in for during the next workout. CrossFit workouts are notoriously misleading, and seeing that it took stupidly fit Stephanie 22 minutes to finish the WOD might clue me in to the fact that I probably need to scale that damn weight.
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But the whiteboard also has its downfalls. In my personal (and please lookup the definition of the word “personal” before you email me about how my opinion is incorrect) opinion, the whiteboard can also encourage athletes to lift heavier than what is safe. Or shave reps to have a better time on the board. It can also make a new CrossFitter more than a little uncomfortable to see their scores written out for the world to see, right below the athlete who is trying to get to this years Regionals.
So having a little time removed from this controversial public record keeper, here’s how I think life beyond the white board has impacted the sport as a whole.
CrossFit at Home – Time to Refocus
First and foremost, I think this coronavirus crisis has prompted all of us to shift and re-prioritize our focus in multiple domains of our lives. From how we spend our time with our family to how we complete our work and even how we communicate with friends. Everything is different. Especially how we are working out.
Most of us are using this time to wisely question our value systems and how much or little our lives reflect those values. While there is certainly a whole lot of damage happening in the world, it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that we have all been given a unique and incredible opportunity to choose to refocus our lives. We can replace commutes with morning walks. Fast food lunches with meals with our kids. And money spent on new clothes (LOL) to supporting our favorite local businesses.
We also have an opportunity to refocus how we engage in this sport we love. Do we focus on anxiously trying to prevent muscle loss, or do find gratitude in the fact that we are physically able to squat past parallel (usually)? Do we skip warm ups and get right to the workout, or do we choose to have a little more compassion on all of those joints that aren’t getting any younger?
I know that for me, my focus has shifted from pushing my body to execute difficult movements and skills, to being more creative with what I have available to workout with. I wasn’t some sort of zealot that came into the box and spent an hour working on muscle up skills, because getting over the bar isn’t that exciting for me. But it was something that occupied my mind. Whenever muscle ups were programmed into the WOD, I pouted internally at the fact that I still haven’t gotten it down consistently.
And honestly, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have moments where I felt crappy about the fact that I just hit 200 pounds on my back squat right before the box closed. I know I won’t be walking back into the box ready to hit those hard earned numbers, and it’s frustrating sometimes. But I’ve spent a lot more time finding the tallest thing I can safely step up onto, and finding weird and strange ways to entertain myself.
Like that damn snuster challenge. Is that something I would have even considered a month ago? No. It’s not a movement that is ever programmed, it looks ridiculous, and it’s not something that would benefit me as an athlete. But it was something to do that was different from what I usually do. And when day 18 looks exactly the same as day 2 but feels like day 8973, finding something different is fun.
My focus has shifted from numbers and times to variety and enjoyment. And it’s not to say that focusing on achieving big goals is a bad thing. It’s something I love. But every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to focus on something else for a little while.
Here’s some other ways my focus has shifted:
- From intensity to consistency – celebrating every day that I workout in the midst of this madness
- From self-focused to family fitness – making sure I get my kid outside and active as much as possible, even if it means my workout isn’t as exciting
- From efficiency to quality – I have a little more flexibility with my time now, and I’m taking full advantage and not rushing through workouts when I don’t have to
Now, I am still personally tracking my workouts. Mostly because I’m a weird person who enjoys data, and also because I like to share them. But without the public whiteboards (both in boxes and in tracking apps), I’ve seen some shifting focus in the CrossFit community as a whole. And honestly, it’s been a really kick ass thing to witness lately. Here’s what I mean.
Less Competition, More Community
I’ve already talked about how I think CrossFit has a really strong community. I’ve had CrossFit friends watch my kid, throw me bridal showers, support the heck out of this blog. But we’re also a fairly competitve bunch. And the whiteboards don’t do a whole lot to keep this reigned in.
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And I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for competition, and that it isn’t a useful tool. I think a healthy amount of competition is very similar to a healthy amount of nervousness. It brings us increased focused and awareness. But too much of either can also destroy our mental game and make us do dumb things. Like lift an irresponsible weight. Or do box jumps when aren’t feeling great (RIP to my shins on that one).
Competition can also pit us against one another, and make us feel like we’re separate from others. So in these shelter in place times, it’s been really cool to see CrossFitters sharing not only their own accomplishments, but also the hard work of their fellow athletes. And to watch athletes go out of their way to engage with and connect with one another. And I can’t help but hope that this is something that continues well after the whiteboards make their reappearance.
Less Physical Gain, More Mental Gain
I have to admit, that with a mental health background, I might be slightly biased here. But it has gotten me right in the feels (as the kids say, I think) to see CrossFitters share that they are working out right now to maintain their mental health more than their physical. And there aren’t many things that get anywhere close to my feels. But this does.
Because I know what CrossFit has done for my mental health. And I also know what comparing myself to others has done to tear apart my mental health in the past. And while the whiteboard may not trigger me to go to a place of self-loathing or comparison or frustration, I know it does for others. So for anyone who struggles to feel strong just because their one rep max is someone else’s warm-up, I hope that this time without the whiteboards has helped them to connect to their own mental and emotional strength.
It takes a whole lot of inner muscle to keep working out when you don’t have the support system you’ve grown used to. But in my opinion, working out has a much greater impact on my emotional wellbeing than my physical. And as someone who is never more than a half-step away from certifiably insane, this is not the time for me to press pause on my CrossFit habit.
This is the time for me to CrossFit at home, and appreciate the fact that my body is capable. This is the time for me to embrace the shifting focus, and enjoy the endorphin rush after a hard workout. This is the time for me to keep reminding myself that I am worth taking care of. And most importantly this is the time for me revel in the small space of solace where I’m too exhausted to remember everything I have to be anxious about. And I don’t need whiteboards for any of that.
The CrossFit at home workouts may not be doing much to prepare me for returning to a life of wallballs and chest to bar pull-ups, but they are doing a whole to keep me from cutting my own bangs. And for all of these reasons, I have just a little bit of gratitude for this time without the whiteboards.