The 5 Deadly Sins of CrossFit

CrossFit is a community of people who, by and large, just want to be healthier. We compete against one another – formally and informally – as a way to push ourselves to new heights. We make ourselves better every day for the simple reason that we can. But at times, someone joins the community who doesn’t have the right mindset. Their competitive streak is too mean; they look down on others unfairly; they speak harsh words when kindness is the Rx.

But that doesn’t have to be the way things stand. Here are the Five Deadly Sins that every CrossFit athlete should avoid at all times.

1. Arrogance

“What’re the scores today? Oh, I can crush those!”

In CrossFit, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake any more than anyone else. You are the all-squatting, all-pressing athlete of the world. Too many people get a big head because they end up on the top of some leaderboard at their gym, in Beyond the Whiteboard, or wherever. So what? Some of the most accomplished athletes in the world are CrossFit Games winners, and most of them are humble and seem like pretty nice people overall.

There are some major differences between arrogant athletes and humble athletes. First, more people like the humble athletes. Second, more people are motivated by the humble athlete. Third, the humble athlete never thinks they’re the best, so they never stop striving to be better.

The arrogant athlete is ill-liked. The arrogant athlete is looked down on for their arrogance. The arrogant athlete is not respected. The arrogant athlete stops recognizing their own flaws and eventually stops progressing.

The great athlete remembers that respect for others, especially for those you outperform, is the hallmark of greatness – not an addendum to it.

2. Cheating

Whether you’re shaving reps, missing rounds, or writing down a score you know is too high, cheating is a really simple thing to define. Did you do the work? Did you accomplish what you claim? Are you being honest with others – and yourself – about how well you perform in workouts? Cheaters know they cheat, and it’s pointless. Literally. In the gym, the only thing you get when you cheat your score is a higher score on the whiteboard than other athletes who did the same workout.

Here’s the problem: you didn’t beat them. If all you care about is “the game” of the workout, you just lost. In real competition, a judge would make sure your reps were counted, and you would have lost. Chances are, other people in the class – and especially your coach – know that you cheated, and you’ve lost. Cheating is not a way to “win without winning”; all you’re doing is admitting that you’re not good enough to actually out-perform others in your class.

But maybe all you wanted was the little hit of dopamine from the idea that you won. It doesn’t matter that in reality you suck; it only matters that your score looks higher. But what has it done for your fitness? What physical results does cheating get you? None! By cheating, you’re ensuring that those who don’t cheat will always be at a higher level than you. Cheaters don’t put in the work, which means they never reach the level of the workers.

By cheating, you ensure that you will never win legitimately.

3. Sandbagging

Sandbagging is intentionally under-performing at a level below your best with the hope of gaining something from it. Maybe you don’t lift as much during the Strength building work as you could have because the only thing you care about is your score in the MetCon. Maybe you know you can “beat everyone” in the second part of the workout if you go really slow and “throw” the first part. Sandbagging normally comes about from trying to “game” the system.

In the end, you may have a better score, but you’ve also created an artificial barrier to your own advancement as an athlete. The majority of SB’ing comes in when you are deciding whether or not to work on a weakness that will possibly lead to your strengths not being as strong, or when you’re trying to win half the workouts by sacrificing the other half. This tendency is related to cheating in that you’re not doing an honest amount of work, but at the very least you’re being honest about your results, so that’s something.

Sandbagging often comes down to pride or laziness. You only put in full effort on what you’re good at, which creates even more of a lag in your weak areas, ensuring they stay weak. This could be because you’re ashamed of being bad at something (which you shouldn’t be, since everyone is) or because you just don’t feel like working on those things. Pride or laziness.

Is it ever okay to go less than 100%? Yes, when you are rehabilitating an injury or using an active rest day to recover. In these cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to go lighter or slower on your entire workout with the express purpose to rest your body. You should let your coach know so they can help you with the process.

4. Vanity

If all you care about is being recognized for your score or your performance, you’re suffering from fitness vanity. The truth is, we as a community spend a lot of time comparing performance and scores and benchmarks and pacing and…everything. We’re a competitive bunch, generally speaking. We all like to know how we compare to the other people in our classes, in our gym, and in the greater CrossFit global community.

But there is a right way and a wrong way to think about this comparison.

You can be a good athlete who is constantly trying to beat everyone. Who always wants bragging rights. Who makes sure to announce their score in class. Who really only cares how they compare to others for the sole purpose of the comparison. Sure, we’ve all seen plenty of good athletes like that.

But what about great athletes? They don’t compare themselves for the sake of being better than someone else; they compare for the sake of being better than they were before. A great athlete doesn’t look at the “Fran” time of Rich Froning or Katrin Davidsdottir for the purpose of beating their scores. A great athlete looks at their performance as a marker of how much they can improve if they try. The difference between Vanity and Aspiration is nothing more, nor less, than intent.

Don’t be vain and good; aspire to be great.

5. Disrespect

What does it mean to be respectful as an athlete?

  • It means remembering that your efforts do not overshadow the efforts of others.
  • It means speaking and acting with humility even after a good performance.
  • It means recognizing that 100% effort for you is equivalent to 200% effort for a less experienced athlete…
  • …and also recognizing that 100% effort for you, might be 25% effort for a more experienced athlete.
  • It means congratulating others on their scores and performance, regardless of how it compares to you or the class or the world.
  • It means being the person who is just as happy for the person who beat them and for the person they beat.

It means tempering your Arrogance, forgoing the temptation to Cheat, putting in honest effort (not Sandbagging), and Aspiring rather than indulging in vanity.