When you started CrossFit, you probably started in an introductory class that took you through the movements of CrossFit and the way we do things. More than likely, your coach went through all the necessary positions of a movement: hips below parallel on a squat; arms locked out on kettlebell swings; biceps by your ears on overhead movements. These positions are all common knowledge among the CrossFit crew. At least, they should be. Each year around The Open and before every Open workout your coaches are going to talk to you about the standards. When you have a judge next to you, they are checking for the standards, and usually, we are all familiar with the standards when we go into a judged event. However, do we care about them when we are in a regular class without someone watching? The answer should be a resounding yes.
The standards exist for a very simple reason. CrossFit is the sport of fitness. To have a good sport you must have rules. It can’t always be street ball. For CrossFit to be truly measurable there must be standards. The standards are our rules. The rule is you must squat below parallel. The rule is you must lock out your arms on a kettlebell swing. The rule is your chin must be physically over the bar on a pull up. These are our rules, among a litany of others. Standards exist to keep everyone in line, to work toward the same goal, and prevent anarchy. The standards exist for a reason.
So, why should we care? When no one is watching, why should we worry about our squat or our chin? The answer is simple: accountability. How on Earth will I know if I am getting better if my standards are never the same. Let’s take Cindy for example. I could possibly have 20 rounds of Cindy if I never worry about my chin over the bar, if my chest never touches the ground on my push-ups, and if my hips are never below parallel. Probably even if I just let one of those slide. I could move really quickly without ever truly accomplishing one movement and get a really awesome score. I could walk over to the whiteboard, proudly write my high score, write RX next to my name and have the gym congratulate me. It would be pretty awesome. However, I never actually completed the workout because I didn’t do it correctly. Then, maybe my coach has a long talk with me about all of the standards. I come in and complete Cindy again, making sure every push up has my chest on the ground and not my hips, every pull up my chin is over the bar, and every squat my hips are below parallel. The problem is, this time I only get nine rounds. Which one is better? The gym doesn’t congratulate me on my 9. There is no PR bell ringing. So, am I better? Absolutely. When I hit full range of motion, I become a better athlete. I am getting stronger because I am doing the movements the way they were designed. That’s what CrossFit is all about. Not winning but becoming better.
We all say we are focused on ourselves. We say we don’t care what other people are doing, we are just competing with ourselves. While this is true a lot of the time, it’s not completely true. Say once again we are doing Cindy, and I am in my full range of motion workout. Every standard is being met, and I am slowly grinding out my 9 rounds. While this is happening, and I am dying, Sally is across the way with her hips not even to parallel on her squats and her chest no where close to the ground on her push-ups. She is repping things out like she’s on fire. Time is called, and she walks over to the board, writes her score of 20 rounds, RX and everyone is high fiving Sally. However, I know she never hit full range of motion on most of her reps. I know because I was taking a 30 second break between push-ups to make sure I hit my mark. I saw her across the gym. How do you think I feel about Sally?
The truth is we need to worry about standards. Not simply when a judge is next to us, but all of the time. They are meant to keep CrossFit measurable. Each time we complete a workout I should be able to compare my times because each workout I hit the movements just how the standard is prescribed. We need to worry about the standards because our friends may start to think we are cheating. It may be completely unintentional, but when it happens repeatedly, it hurts the morale of the gym. The Open is not the only time to worry about your range of motion. We always joke that people can have a Karen (150 wallballs) time of 6:00, but when you do it in The Open everyone adds 4 minutes. Why is that? Are they cheating intentionally? Probably not. It’s just that we let things slide when we are working out. But, is that how we become better? No. We must hold ourselves accountable. Only then can we be sure we are pushing ourselves to become better athletes.
By Amanda Stewart, CFL1 Trainer, Contributing writer