One of the most frequent complaints (or fears) that I hear about CrossFit centers around why we are always keeping score. The whiteboard evokes different emotions for different folks. The names and numbers are a record of the work performed on a given day and can be a point of pride, a motivator, or simply some chicken scratch on the whiteboard. The one thing it should NOT be is intimidating or discouraging or a reason to cheat yourself out of a good workout. The numbers on the board do not define your worth as an athlete, much less as a person; and usually, the only one paying attention to your score is YOU. It is a great resource for tracking your loads, your modifications, and your milestones. It allows us to celebrate one another’s achievements and to recognize that we all have bad days and areas for improvement. Many of you use other athletes’ results to help gauge appropriate loads for yourself or to push yourself to finish just a few more reps. And that’s all good.
But the whiteboard can also be an obstacle to progress. This happens when we get more concerned about the numbers on the board by our name than the quality of our workout or the integrity of our movements. This is dangerous territory. I understand as well as anyone the lure of the “RX” or a faster time than your buddy. I also know that many of the workouts that have made the most difference in my fitness were workouts where I scaled loads to allow me to move better or slowed my movement down enough to ensure that my reps were impeccable. Yes, I like to finish first and I am a competitor at heart. But many days my fitness is best served by diluting that competitive instinct and focusing only on giving my best for that particular workout on that particular day. The numbers on the board only tell part of the story.
The whiteboard also gives us parameters for our workouts and goals to work toward. CrossFit isn’t just a “do as much as feels good” kind of workout protocol. It is demanding, at times gut-wrenching, and it begs us to dig far deeper than what is comfortable to finish the prescribed workout when every other voice inside is telling us to quit. It is difficult by design and the urge to rest, or do a little less, or quit a little early is ever present. It is through fighting through these battles in our heads and hearts that we truly win. It is through gutting out the last few reps of our least favorite movement to meet the workout prescription or picking the bar up one last time with only a few seconds remaining that we make ourselves better. We accomplish things that we thought we weren’t capable of and we learn the perseverance that only “the dark place” can teach us. And we do this day in and day out. Over time, we find ourselves stronger, more resilient people in the gym and in life. Yes, it would be easy to quit a little early or count a rep that we know should have been better…and some days we may give in to that lesser version of ourselves. But the changes and victories happen when we choose not to settle. And that’s the only whiteboard that I care about.