I recently visited a gym that many would consider one of the most competitive in the world. They annually have a team that goes to the CrossFit Games, and they have many individual regional athletes. Upon arrival I was expecting to see a gym full of dudes and chicks that all looked like a bunch of Adonis’s, throwing around insane amounts of weight, at unbelievable paces. I was actually nervous, to be honest. So I was surprised to see a class full of people who looked like your average joe. Some fit, some not so fit, and some not fit at all! Of course this wasn’t the only session of the day, and they have about 280 more members, so I’m sure I missed their most competitive athletes. I can say this though, all of the athletes in the class had excellent form, and where very precise about what they where doing. In fact the class ran like a machine! All of this was very eye-opening to me. I was always nervous that pushing my classes in this militaristic way would be a turn off to them. But these people really seemed to be into it. The workout wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be either. So what was the biggest difference between their gym and mine? Besides the militant structure, by far the biggest difference was the fact that they didn’t keep score!
There was no white board with times written down, there was no Wodify to compare yourself to the others in the class. There was a clock running, but more to keep track of the time cap, not to see how fast you finished. Crazy right? Isn’t one of the biggest draws to CrossFit the competitiveness of it? A way for us has-been athletes to relive some of our glory days? Isn’t the clock there to push us to go faster and harder? Why didn’t they keep score? Well I had to ask. There where a few reasons why they didn’t use the clock, one being that people where cheating reps in order to “win the day” but the other, and most important reason, is that people where sacrificing form in order to go faster.
Most of us have egos, some bigger than others, so it’s not surprising that some of us will use shitty form in order to win. I’m as guilty as anyone. In fact when I was at this other gym, my knee was killing me so bad, that during the med ball cleans in the workout I couldn’t squat down to pick up the ball. So instead I would bend over looking like Quasimodo to grab it for each rep. I was yelled at to quit worrying about my time, and do it right because I looked like shit! I explained that my knee was hurting pretty bad, then I was asked if it was really worth having shitty form, and risk making it worse. He explained that when I have grandkids they won’t care if I smoked a WOD 20 years ago, especially if I’m hobbled. He said were in this for the long haul. Of course I laughed, not only because he’s right, but as a gym owner and a coach, I should have known better.
This made me start to really think long, and hard about how I want to coach my members, and what it would mean to have them slow down in order to do things right. I’m sure some won’t like it, because it will affect their time, but in the long run, I’m willing to bet they will appreciate it. Especially when they start to get better. If you’ve ever watched the CrossFit games you will notice that almost everyone competing has spot on technique. That isn’t an accident. It’s not just genetics that make them do rep after rep fast, and look good doing it. It’s a ton of practice doing it right. It’s that great technique that allows them to do what they do, at the weight that they do it, at insane speeds. I like to joke that they are super human, but they got that way through hard work and precision. Technique trumps strength, that’s the bottom line. Its the reason that 125 lb competitive women olympic lifters can snatch more than 99% of men that are twice their weight. They do it correctly.
So what does that mean for you and me. Does that mean if I slow down and work on better technique I will make the Games, or the Olympics? Probably not. But I can almost guarantee that it will make you faster, and stronger in the long run. And you will have a much better chance of not injuring yourself. The best reason we work out is to enhance our lives. Yes its nice to come in first, or beat your buddies, but it really sucks when your hurt and you can’t work out at all. Trust me I know. Do yourself a favor and slow down, and do it right. Before you know it you’ll be faster than ever.