I sat down today to write about why CrossFit works…. And I ended up not liking anything I wrote.

For whatever reason all of the answers felt really stupid and/or pithy. If I hear that CrossFit is (insert superlative here) because of “the community” one more time, I’m going to black out.

Side note: Just because I am sick of seeing it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is real. I love my clients and my coaches, and they are the bravest, kindest people I know.
On the other hand: Using my client’s relational connections for some sort of marketing leverage is something I’m not really comfortable with.

After playing a horrific version of writing Taboo, I was able to clarify what I believe CrossFit offers and why it is a good answer to many people’s fitness/exercise needs.

Both personally and professionally, I believe CrossFit is effective primarily because it addresses two major concerns in the modern experience of exercise/fitness. A good CrossFit gym can be a great answer to the lack of education and lack of reflection that plagues most people’s experiences in gyms.

Lack of physical education –

Think about who taught you to move. Who taught you to exercise? Who taught you how to run? Who taught you how to lift? Over the past several years, only one or two people have given an answer that felt passable. These two people either had:

1) A long-term relationship with a great coach or,
2) They had worked one-on-one with a personal trainer for an extended period of time.

Both people had spent quality time developing their movement under a watchful set of eyes. I would argue the average American has not. I’d also offer that most adults with an extensive sports background need to understand that the average coach cared less about long term holistic health/well-being and more about their performance on the field.

Slate is built to be an educational gym. We offer a chance for people to come in and learn the why’s and how’s of moving as much as a great workout. My explicit goal as a coach is to help you learn., For the rest of your life, whether you remain a client forever or not, I want you to know a little more. I want you to know how to build a good workout, how to know what good positions look and feel like. I want you to walk into any gym and feel confident.

 Lack of human interaction/lack of reflection –

I’ll admit it, I used to be a headphones guy at the gym. Show up quietly, treadmill for 10 minutes and work out off to the side. The only human interaction I had was to say hello to the cute girl who scanned my card and handed me a towel. I avoided glances and never spoke.

Couple in my lack of education, and I was drifting in this arena alone. I also had no idea what to do, how to move, if I was doing it right, or if I was improving.

Imagine working hard towards something that you are significantly vulnerable about, yet want -think six pack abs- and/or need -think lower cholesterol- badly. Now add in that you don’t really know how to get there. Problems aside, perhaps you won’t be denied for a lack of effort. Great. Then you do this something consistently for a period of time… and yet despite your best efforts, no one really notices, celebrates, or even offers a helpful critique. Welcome to fitness/exercise.

It sucks, it is discouraging, and it is isolating. 

I have a client who recently has become far more consistent. He was a somewhat haphazard client who came in two or occasionally three times a week for the past two months.  And then something clicked. He started coming in more, he asked to be an unlimited member, he started staying later, and told me he is really liking it.

Come to find out, one night, his girlfriend made a passing comment about how good his arms looked and how she could tell his shoulders were a lot stronger.

 Yet, if I am alone in my search for health, it is up to me to see the changes….

 …and I likely won’t.

 If I watch myself everyday in the mirror, I won’t see the changes, they would be too small, too gradual to notice on a day to day basis. On top of that I might not even know what to look for because again, I don’t know what I am looking for.

 So before we see the growth, someone else does. Typically a coach, maybe a new friend, maybe your buddy you dragged in, notices something looks better. That squat looked easier, your back was straighter, you hit the target with your wallball and someone comments “Nice work.” THAT is one of the most relieving, comforting, invigorating feelings in the world.

Learning how to be encouraged in a world typically filled with silence, shame and isolation is a rough transition at first. During  class we will likely feel awkward at some point. We might feel like the last kid picked in dodgeball, perhaps we feel like the girl who fakes a period to sit out of PE. When your coach is watching, your mind screams “This feels awkward!” And yet, if we can tolerate it for just a little bit, the reward is immense.

Ultimately the reasons you love (or hate) CrossFit is because of your personal experience. Whether you choose Slate or another style of exercise, I hope you’ll find a place that educates you, gives you feedback, and helps you grow.