Check Your Ego at the Door

by Erik Castiglione

It’s a shame I have to write this post, but I guess it’s time. While it is specifically directed at a few people who I refuse to name (you’ll hopefully know who you are), everyone should read it and take its lessons to heart. In fact, it’s applicable to all CrossFitters, everywhere. And while all CrossFit affiliates are different, there is a universal rule that each box has: “Check Your Ego at the Door.

First off, what is Ego? Well, without getting too technical, it is the realistic part of your psyche: the part that experiences the outside world (as opposed to your moral compass or natural instincts). Simply put, it is “you.” Everyone has one, and we all need it. Ego is not inherently a bad thing.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Except for this Ego, he’s inherently bad.

How does this tie into CrossFit? Well, like you, it evolves as you continue your CrossFit journey. Like most of us, I’m sure you were humbled by your first WOD. Heck, you might still find yourself humbled daily. However, as you progress and become better acquainted with the movements, your ego will grow and you’ll become more confident in your abilities. This is a good thing! With your newfound confidence, you’ll be more likely to succeed when attempting something new. Going to try your first Rx’d WOD? Great! We hope you crush it. Going to PR your back squat? Awesome! Have at it! Having confidence in your abilities will help you be successful in these endeavors.

Where we run into trouble is when you develop too much confidence in your abilities. The first manifestation of this is the “Go Too Heavy Guy.” (While this is not exclusively a male problem, I have seen it with less than a handful of women in our gym.) These guys come in a couple of forms. Some are the guys who insist on doing all WODs Rx’d when they’re not yet ready. For example, your coach says that the weight shouldn’t exceed your 70% and that the WOD should take less than 10 minutes. For GTHG, 80% and 14 mins are close enough, right? WRONG! Scale the weight and move faster, knucklehead!

Go-Too-Heavy Guy also shows up when we’re lifting. For example, your coach tells you that you aren’t getting a full hip extension on your Oly lifts, and that you have excessive donkey kick. GHTG hears “I should go heavier and that will fix the problem.” STOP! Lower the weight, focus on fixing your issues, and then we’ll build back up. The same thing is even more important when we talk about deadlifts. Every time I see someone max out looking like their spine is about to explode (think Donald Trump, Jr.), the GTHG’s argument is “but I made the lift, Coach!” In response, I’m reminded of that classic coaching moment from “Major League”:

Another toxic manifestation of the ego is in what we coaches call “leaderboarding.” This is when you spend too much time looking at other peoples WOD times, and you simply HAVE to beat them. This can lead to skimping on form. Don’t want to wait for your arms to recover during “Angie?” Snake push-ups still count, right? Missed the wall with your 20th wallball? It was still high enough, right? NOPE! We coaches have said it before, and we’ll say it again: WE DON”T CARE HOW FAST YOU CAN GO WITH CRAPPY FORM! Do it right, or don’t do it at all.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Finally, we run into the worst offender: the rep shaver. Now, I’m not talking about the person who accidentally misses a rep during a set of 50 wallballs. We’ve all been at the point where we think “crap, was that 34 or 35?” (That being said, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.) I’m certainly not talking about scaling your pull-ups from 10 to 7 per round. That is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged, ESPECIALLY if you note it in your score. No, I’m talking about the person who SYSTEMATICALLY cuts reps each round to get a faster time, and acts like they did the WOD Rx’d. For instance, if a 4 round WOD calls for 15 KB swings per round, this is the person who does 12, 11, 11, and 13. You’re not sneaky, your coaches do see you, and so do your classmates.

The typical self-justification for this behavior is “well, I’m just cheating myself”. My answer is “FUCK THAT” (pardon my language). You’re not just cheating yourself, you’re cheapening the legitimate efforts made by your classmates to do their WOD to the best of their abilities. The whiteboard is there for ownership and community support: own YOUR performance. It’s about saying “this is me, this is what I did today, this is where I’m at currently, and this is what I’m going to beat next time.” When you are less than honest about your performance on the whiteboard, you undermine this system, and the community. And for what? So you can walk around like you own the place? Only one guy gets to do that:

Check Your Ego at the Door

At the end of the day, our regular classes aren’t a serious competition. We encourage friendly competition because it can lead you to push a little harder. That’s not excuse for cutting reps or form in exchange for a winning time. It’s not about other people anyway, it’ about YOU. As Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Let that quote sink in before your next WOD, and let it be your driving factor going forward. Check your ego at the door, do the WODs as intended to the best of YOUR abilities, and worry about YOUR OWN fitness.

See you in the gym,
Coach Erik