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CrossFit: The Integrity of Movement

As the old adage goes:
"If you cut reps or range of motion, you're only cheating yourself."

Well, it's true, you are cheating yourself, but you're not the ONLY one you're cheating. It's time to revisit the saying.

Often times we “allow” for less-than-perfect movement standards throughout the course of a given workout, simply as the result of fatigue, safety, or perhaps out of appreciation of maintaining the desired stimulus. We enter scores based on performance and document our effort accordingly, even though certain movements may have been done improperly. Rx denotes that every movement standard throughout the WOD was done as prescribed and with respect to the standards of movement preached religiously by your coaches. For example, for an “Rx” score, weights are Rx, pull ups mean that your chin goes over the bar and you’re locked out at the bottom, wall balls are to depth and to target, box jumps finish in a fully extended position, etc.

Furthermore, bar-facing burpees are done with a jump off TWO feet, not a step, and chest to bar pull ups means just that, your chest must touch the bar. Failure to do maintain these standards does NOT mean you had a poor workout! If your goal was to sweat and move and become more fit—GREAT! That’s what it should be about! That’s why we show up each day and put forth the effort we do. If your goal is simply to post a fast time and be admired by your peers, despite failing to successfully prescribe to movement standards, that’s when issues arise. If you modify a movement due to injuries, deficiencies in mobility or for preserving personal safety, that’s perfectly acceptable! Strive to be better each day! No one expects perfection, but please take pride in your work and progress. Be better with the simple things and the bigger accomplishments will follow. Respect yourselves and respect your peers and always remember that the whiteboard doesn’t justify your progress, your integrity does.

With that said, CrossFit is a fitness program built on general wellness, and while "general wellness" holds a different meaning and interpretation to almost everyone, one thing's for sure: no one truly gets any better at being "well" by selling themselves short.

Excuse me if the following sounds somewhat long-winded, but the message is important. In CrossFit, standards of movement exist for a reason. That is, there is a reason we expect certain depth on squats, locking out, and full ranges of motion. It's not to make workouts harder, per se, but rather to ensure that everyone is getting the full effect of whatever exercise he or she is performing. We do this in order to track progress, and without standards, there can be no measurement of progress. Standards ensure equality of movement in all aspects of our fitness program.

Moreover, the other important aspect of CrossFit is the community side, which extends beyond personal fitness and more to a communal one, where people encourage people and expect the same things from others as they should from themselves. It's discouraging to look around and see your peers cheating standards, or count your peers cutting reps, and try to maintain the same amount of dignity and integrity in them as you once had. Sure, it's your workout, and sure, you should be able to dictate how much work you actually do, but if it's for "bragging rights," you'll gain a lot more respect being last and doing the workout correctly and in it's entirety than you will doing half the workout with half the range of motion.

The point is, even when you think people aren't watching and counting, they are. We see it and hear it every day. Friendly competition breeds progress, yet no one can truly progress if the numbers and times they're chasing are false due to poor rep counting or bad range of motion. So when I say you're not only cheating yourselves, I mean that you're cheating those looking for encouragement. You're cheating those who finish last on the leaderboard, but are only last because they chose to abide by proper technique and proper range of motion and perform the correct number of reps.

Be honest in your accomplishments. If you're first in a workout, take pride in knowing you entered a score or time that was genuinely honest and accurate. Take pride in knowing you completed a workout in it's entirety, and in doing so finished on top. Take pride in knowing that it's OK to finish last, because you're 1000% confident you performed all the movements correctly, and that anyone watching or counting couldn't say a single negative thing about your performance. If respect as an athlete is what you're searching for, you'll gain much more respect by doing things the right way with the slowest times than you will by doing them the wrong way with the fastest times.

Respect the community and those using you as a gauge to progress for themselves, respect the workout and the standards that exist, stop worrying about the leaderboard and where you rank (because little is ever accurate anyway), and take solace in the fact that you leave each day knowing you did things the right way. Be someone in the gym that people can strive to become physically, not someone who has all the physical tools but sells themselves short. Be someone who others can respect because they know they're chasing someone truly great, not someone who appears great on paper. Leave no doubt that you do things the right way, and if you're the best score of the day, know you were honestly that.

Take the time to focus on setting a positive example to everyone who watches you workout. You never know who you'll inspire. And even if inspiring is not your thing, do it for you. You come to the gym most days for a reason, and if that reason is to improve your fitness, then let's all try to focus on improving our fitness.

"Check your ego at the door. It doesn't matter where you finish, only that you finish with integrity and give it a solid effort. Leave the gym better than when you walked in. Head high and be proud. This stuff is hard."