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.