Open Gym: First Shouldn’t Always Mean First

Posted: May 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

“Open Gym”, the part of my blog where I get to share my real thoughts on all things gym. I haven’t always been brutally honest with how I feel about things for fear of “offending” people, but I’m in a place now where I can speak as freely as I’d like… and it feels good!

When I started CrossFit almost NINE years ago (this August), I immediately adopted the mindset that this fitness “fad” was all about community. Sure, a person can get insanely fit by doing it, but more than the PRs, this was a medium through which communities could be formed and sustained on love and support alone. I LOVED that from Day 1.

The best way that a stranger could have seen this first-hand would have been to walk into nearly any gym on any given day. The clock counts down, the coach yells, “3, 2, 1… GO!”, the athletes get after it…. and then everyone finishes the workout at the same time. Well, not really, but when the fastest people would finish they’d do their own patented CrossFit “My-Life-Is-Over/I-Cant-Believe-I-Made-It” flop onto the ground, they’d roll around for a few seconds, and then something amazing would happen – They’d pick themselves up off of the floor and go over to support the remaining athletes in the class.

It was never taught. Coaches never needed to ASK the class to cheer each other on. It just happened. Why? Because CrossFit was all about embracing the suck. It didn’t matter if you lifted 200lbs more than the person next to you, completed 8 more rounds than them during that 12 minute AMRAP, or whether your last rep was done 6 minutes before theirs. You had all done the same thing, something that any practitioner of this “sport” could relate to, and you never wanted to leave a teammate behind.

That didn’t mean there needed to be fanfare or a loud cheering section for the last person every day. In fact, some people don’t like being the center of attention at all. That wasn’t the point, though. Dragging your butt over to their side of the gym and leaning back against the wall to help them finish those last 20 reps of Wall Balls meant a lot. It showed that your beer at happy hour with friends could wait another 5 minutes. And most of all, it meant that the person who was still working could feel just as important as the gym’s resident “fire breather.” Because they are just as important.

Too often now, in too many gyms, I see people finish their workouts, put away their stuff, log their scores, and bounce. 

It’s true that there are some INCREDIBLE and inspiring athletes all over the world, but they’re not always the ones topping the leaderboard each day. As someone who feels he got into the CrossFit game fairly early, a second-generation “OG” if you will, I can say that if you don’t know the names of the people in your class, or care to learn them, that you should try to change that. I’m not asking introverts to become extroverts. I’m not suggesting that everyone in the gym needs to be best friends. What I am saying is that feeling like you’re a part of a family when you go to the gym makes every single part of the community more meaningful.

Next time you’re in-between sets during strength, or as people awkwardly shuffle around to put their clips and weights back after class, take a few seconds and introduce yourself to someone new. Ask what they thought sucked the most during that WOD. If you do know everyone in the class, discuss the pacing strategy a friend used for that chipper workout you just finished. Or if nothing else, at least offer that friendly and supportive fist bump, high five, or bro-hug.

I can promise most people that your life will be better by being “that person” who genuinely starts to care about others in the best way possible. If you give it a shot, I would love to hear how it goes for you. Do you notice a difference in any aspect of your gym life? Life outside of the gym?

Remember, everyone… it’s just fitness.

But also, it’s so much more than just fitness.


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