Clock Whores…

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Clock Whores


We first started doing CrossFit back in late 2004 and affiliated in early 2005. The single greatest innovation the program advocated was the time clock. The clock measures what each specific workout is and creates a unique performance data point. I introduced the concept to my clients to help them shift perspective on training. The paradigm shift was profound, and resulted in shifting the training from not just working hard; we were working very hard, and being able to measure their specific performance in every workout. Before I was introduced to CrossFit we were doing functional movement that was constantly varied. The workouts we were doing were intense in the sense of a lot of work done but adding the clock added a new dimension to our training. I think of it at as a person following a moral code before they were introduced to the theory behind it. The concept of timing all the training shifted the concept to performance measurement as the means for getting results. The results from changing to actual performance metrics in every workout were and are fantastic. The change in view point resulted in people changing focus from narcissistic superficial appearance based fitness goals to a performance-based "How much can I do" model of training. The results are a stronger motivation to train and surpass superficial promises in the typical gym brochure. People began to focus away from judging people's fitness on their appearance and replaced it with a real measure of fitness, actual physical output. The focus has become more centered on how much weight, how far, how fast and the results have been astounding. All of the superficial goals are being achieved by having legitimate performance benchmarks to strive for.


The essence of the time clock as a performance measurement is to have exercises with ranges of motion standards, specific weights and repetitions so the performance can be measured and repeated again to track progress. The idea is to measure overall work capacity in specific repeatable measurable terms. (The scientific method) The program itself attracts people who are by their very nature competitive and like to see things done in real terms. The typical "I feel better" is replaced with "I am performing better" and as a result, "I am happy with my training." A person being able to deadlift more or run faster or do more pull-ups help people to self-actualize their performance in terms of best effort yesterday versus best effort today. The idea of personal best and competing specifically with yourself is the essence and core of HyperFit USA's application of CrossFit philosophy in our training.


The dark side of the clock


Over the years of doing CrossFit style training and scoring the workouts some strange idiosyncrasies have come to light. The unfortunate aspect of human psychology is we tend to compare ourselves to others. Sibling rivalries for parental attention, co-worker pay raises and who has the better car are all typical societal measures of one ups man ship. The nature of our classes and the clock ticking off in the background leads to some unfortunate behaviors which run contrary to good health and training. The basis of our training is group classes. Group classes begin with a structured warm up, equipment set up, skill set with an expectation of ROM and technique expectations and finally the WOD (Workout of the Day). The WOD is begun with what has become a staple in the CrossFit training communities a: 3, 2, 1 GO and people begin the workout. The workout is where the magic and some of the horror begins.

The upside of doing group classes is a camaraderie, the intensity and general communal feeling that comes from group suffering/successes. The bond between people because of mutual respect for toughing out a hard workout develops friendships that go far beyond the normal saying "Hi" at the globogym. People find that they have a lot more in common with the people in the classes than they do with many of their professional peers. The community of people created as a result of the training goes far beyond the normal gym.


The downside of doing classes and having public performance measurement can cause people to feel pressure to perform in ways that borders on obsession. It is healthy to be competitive and want to have someone that will push us to bring out our best. It is unhealthy to derive one's self image from how we stack up relative to others. That sounds all well and good and is really symptomatic of "mine is bigger" western society. How does this behavior manifest itself in something as simple as a gym? Our very nature as human beings pushes us to measure score and evaluate our success in terms of other people. Over the years we have had several members that were so competitive with others that they would skip repetitions, cut range of motion short, or in the worst case I can think of they actually lied about their score. I am going to use a derogatory term in the hopes that it will catch on and hopefully prevent people from undermining their own training: Clock Whores.


Definition of a Clock Whore: Person who is so obsessed with beating the clock/others that they will prostitute themselves and sacrifice important and vital components of training such as range of motion, repetitions or other performance metrics for a "better" time.

These people actually miss the whole point of the training. The point of physical fitness training, from my perspective, is to improve oneself both physically and mentally, not necessarily in that order. The people who have taken the time clock or score beyond the extreme and compromised range of motion, number of repetitions, etcetera are doing so at the expense of the utility of the training. If someone judges their performance solely based on their status relative to others it reflects a distinct lack of self esteem. The idea of the style training is to develop self-esteem to increase capacities in many, many different modalities. A person who compromises training in order to beat others harms their self esteem. People know inherently when they are doing something wrong and there is a price to pay when they go against what they know is right.


Spotting Clock Whores: I imagine it is the same a proctoring an exam – The person who is constantly looking for the instructor is suspect. Another suspect behavior is always partnering with the same person when they score their workout. If some only does a full range of motion when the instructor is looking, then they are suspect. These behaviors are not hard and fast. On more than one occasion I have been called out by my instructors, rightly so, for ROM violation because I was exhausted. (The call outs are done with much joy and aplomb.)We all have issues when we get tired, it is part of the training. I have asked Tamer on more than several occasions what rep he was on because I had no idea where I was. The real difference is the consistent corner cutting. It takes time to become apparent, but when it is, it is like the giant elephant in the room no one acknowledges.


Why am I bringing this up?


A person's performance is PERSONAL! We want all of our members to improve, have perfect form, go faster, get stronger and get the results they want. The strict adherence to performance standards is the key to your success. The competitive environment should bring out the best in our natures, not be a showcase for our flaws. Occasionally, bad behaviors become apparent and harm the entire community. Members know when someone else is cutting corners or bragging about a performance they really didn't earn. If the chin doesn't get over the bar, then it doesn't count. Claiming a score on Fight Gone Bad or a Fran time that cannot be repeated when the camera is on is a clear identifier. It harms the integrity of the program as a whole.


We want people to keep records of results to help them track their progress, not to compare to others. We have opted against performance boards in the gym in favor of the forum and personal training logs on our web site. Our goal is the improvement over time based on your efforts in terms of mechanical efficiencies (better form), faster times (higher metabolic capacity) or an overall strength gain as well as the rest of the physiological markers and is the basis of training at HyperFit USA. The culture we have developed is to strive for perfect mechanics as well as fast performances. We stress perfect mechanics because bad or marginal repetitions contribute to chronic injuries over time. Part of perfect mechanics is developing full range of motion and correct biomechanical body alignment. Our clients often hear "and make the repetitions right" rather than going fast. Forcing a square peg into the round hole to get a faster time is like intentionally hitting your thumb with a hammer; you are tough and stupid, thanks Jeff Martone for that one! It does someone no good to work to get a fast Fran time at the expense of shoulders back or knee soreness (chronic injury).


We post videos and pictures on our web site so people may see what they are doing. The camera usually goes for really good stuff or really bad. In either case, let both be a lesson for personal improvement for each of our people. When someone is doing something right, be like them, when someone is doing something wrong, learn from them.


Striving for perfection is the journey along the only road you make worth traveling. There is no end, but the ride is great.

  • Jonathan

    Any “count-cutting” I do is purely caused by being an innumerate idiot, for the record.

  • zoe

    Train how you live, live how you train. With integrity. That said, what I love about the clock is that it doesn’t care who you are, what you did yesterday, what your hopes and dreams are, if your knee hurts, blah blah blah. It is what it is.

  • Zoe,
    I cannot agree with you more. The instructors, who are no longer with us, would get together away from class, do the WOD and post score that were Rx and 20-30% faster than the people in the classes. One day, I had an instructor “training” and had them do the WOD they did three days before, and all of them were 10-20 minutes slower when held to standards, which they did not meet in terms of ROM or technique. Imagine someone falsifying training records for your co-workers. How good would you feel about that?
    There was another issue with a member reporting a score in the 2007 FGB that was 135 points higher than her normal score. I did a surprise FGB a few days after and her score dropped back to normal. We won the prize at the top CF affiliate scoring more points than everyone else. The prize was $5,000 in clothing and equipments for our members. I never claimed it because the one person tainted the win for everyone. So, after that, I started counting her reps during work outs and low and behold, all of her sets and reps were shorted somehow – ROM or actual counts. She was banned from the gym because of other obsessive behavioral issues. Being polite.
    We have weeded them out from our gym and I wrote the article to keep people from falling down that same slippery slope.

  • BrianG

    I never thought of the clock whores as a result of having a clock. The first thing I thought would show it’s ugly face would be sloppy form. Great article.

  • Doug! You are spot on! The injuries we see are from simply those that make the gym their “sport” and those that are more worried about their rank and time instead of whether they are improving their fitness. I am linking this to our website and I am also going to print it and pass it on to each of our members.

  • Doug,
    thanks for the fantastic article. We will be linking to this on our site for all our members to read. Fortunately we have not witnessed this happen…yet. But I am sure it is bound to happen eventually. I think you bring up some great points about CrossFit being about the community of it all rather than the competition. I know that many of our members do mentally compete with the person next to them and that’s totally fine with me if that drives them through the WOD. But when this becomes unhealthy and detrimental to the person’s form and performance, we as trainers should put a stop to it.
    thanks again!
    Sarah Lewis
    Combat Crossfit

  • Doug,
    thanks for the fantastic article. We will be linking to this on our site for all our members to read. Fortunately we have not witnessed this happen…yet. But I am sure it is bound to happen eventually. I think you bring up some great points about CrossFit being about the community of it all rather than the competition. I know that many of our members do mentally compete with the person next to them and that’s totally fine with me if that drives them through the WOD. But when this becomes unhealthy and detrimental to the person’s form and performance, we as trainers should put a stop to it.
    thanks again!
    Sarah Lewis
    Combat Crossfit

  • McCoy

    I was going to say essentially the same thing as Zoe. Train as you fight. I know I will catch grief for this later, but a quote that I turn to for motivation is part of an article entitled “Twitching” by Mark Twight (Gasp!). I think it sums up my feelings on this topic.
    “In Dune, Frank Herbert called it ‘the attitude of the knife,’ cut off what’s incomplete and say ‘now it has finished, for it has ended there.’ So finish it, and walk away, forward. Only acts undertaken with commitment have meaning. Only your best effort matters. Life is a Meritocracy, with death as the auditor. Inconsistency, incompetence and lies are all cut short by that final word. Death will change you if you can’t change yourself.”
    When I leave for my new career one of the biggest things I will miss is this gym. I’ve done some “window shopping” for CrossFit affiliates at various ports and I’ve really come to realize how spoiled we truly are. Watching their videos I can’t help but think “sure they have great times but Doug would would have my ass if I did my swings/lifts like that.”
    The one on one attention we receive from our trainers is second to none. However, they can only hold us to a certain degree of accountability, especially with class sizes growing everyday. At the end of the day you are accountable to you and you alone.
    When the bullets start flying (literally or figuratively) will it really matter how you performed against your gym mates?

  • Excellent article, Doug. I will be posting this on our blog soon. Thanks for calling it out and hope all is well,
    Eric Barber

  • Nicely put.
    I dropped a link and some quotes on our blog. Thanks for the eloquent smackdown.

  • Very good article. It garnered a reference and a lot of praise on the blog for CrossFit Regina (in Saskatchewan, the rectangle-shaped Canadian province directly north of North Dakota and Montana).

  • Great article Doug! You are spot on in all accounts. You are a great guy and a great trainer, placing integrity and standards over money and prizes is just one more example of that. It was great to see you in Vermont and I hope to see you again soon.

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