CrossFit: Behind the Scenes Magic

Why does CrossFit work? What is so special about CrossFit? Why do all CrossFitters’ feel the need to only talk about CrossFit? Well simply put it works. Now this post wouldn’t be fun if that’s all you got as an explanation. My goal is to provide an understanding of why people love CrossFit, but the focus will be on the mental and personal growth that comes from being apart of CrossFit as a community, not just the physical results.  

We all know that the CrossFit methodology is capable of creating the greatest breadth and depth of fitness for anyone that does it. Not only does CrossFit create the greatest sense of overall health and well being, but also, does it so faster than any other training program. From coaching CrossFit over the past 6 years I have found myself feeling more like a clinical psychologist than “just a coach.” Being a CrossFit coach, you are given the unique opportunity to watch people interact in an environment that is pure and unadulterated. In our every day lives, we have the tendency to project an image of ourselves that we think other people find acceptable within our social constructs. Outside the walls of the gym we need to play the role of a parent, spouse, sibling, employee/employer and with each of these roles come boundaries that we can and more notably cannot cross without feeling like we have acted inappropriately. Lets face it, these social constructs are exhausting and at the end of the day this leaves us feeling as if we are living a life that has been created by our surrounding environment and not by what actually drives us. 

Now lets talk about CrossFit. The CrossFit gym, for any athlete should be a safe haven. It should be the place that allows you to escape from any social constructs and be the person you want to be. Do you want to feel like you can swear and throw weights around? Inside of a CrossFit gym, you fucking get to. Do you want to be able to look at someone and tell them to suck it up when you know they can push a little harder? It’s not just welcomed, it’s encouraged. Would you like to be surrounded by people that are focused on bettering themselves and committed to making a change? Check mark! CrossFit not only leads to tremendous levels of fitness but it will also help you grow as a person.

Now you might be asking yourself how does that relate and contribute to personal growth? If you read those last few sentences and thought to yourself, “wow, I want that”, then, there is your answer. You want it. Let me repeat that. You want to do it. If you enjoy something, or genuinely want to be a part of something, you will show up. The fact that you show up is literally the biggest indicator of your success. That sounds like common sense, right? Truthfully, the “globo-gym” $10 per month gym membership business model is designed around the fact that people just don’t show up. They want you to pay your monthly fee, and never come back to the gym. The community and the environment of a CrossFit box is what gets you to show up, and, after that, everything else happens almost naturally. If I can get someone to show up 5 days per week simply because they consider the gym to be the best part of their day, they will see success. They will lose weight, their performance will increase and their life will get better. It’s that simple.

Personal growth is tied into the process and the path that we must travel in order to achieve our goals. To some degree, every day in a CrossFit gym is a grind. We practice skills that we are not the best at, chase times that seem impossible, we win, we lose, but we do it every day. What people do not realize is that it is every time we fail a clean that we knew we had, when our double unders go to shit in the middle of a workout, when we miss a PR time in a benchmark, that makes us grow. Every time you encounter failure you are given the opportunity to overcome. That is what CrossFit provides, an opportunity to fail. It allows us to fail and be vulnerable surrounded by a community of individuals that have been there. We come back because the community. The more we fail, the more opportunity we have to adapt and succeed. 

Although a lot of the success we see inside of the gym is physical, the most important adaptations occur between the ears. These mental adaptations are what make us grow into a better person. These change who we are not just inside of the gym but outside of the gym as well. I can always tell the type of person someone is just by watching them workout. There are certain character traits that come out instinctually when someone is uncomfortable. For example if someone is the type of person to throw a jump rope when their double unders shit the bed, or if someone throws a temper tantrum when the workout isn’t going according to plan, it says something about how they are outside of the gym. To clarify, being frustrated is normal a meltdown is different. I have found that this trait is common within people that either do not handle confrontation well or people that are overly nice and are frequently taken advantage of. There are several reasons why this might happen. I am assuming it happens mostly because they have a lot of built up frustration and when something so simple like a double under adds to the frustration, they burst. CrossFit, I believe, offers the perfect solution. The more they are confronted with uncomfortable situations, the more opportunity they have to learn and overcome these obstacles. I have witnessed it time and time again. Through exposure to things that make us uncomfortable we become capable of understanding our emotions and more often to not this will make us capable of handling our emotions better outside of the gym as well.  

This concept doesn’t just apply to people that might not handle frustration well. I believe it applies to every one of us. Anyone that has belonged to a CrossFit box for at least 6 months would tell you that his or her life outside of the gym has gotten better. Coach Glassman understood this concept from the inception of CrossFit. He would tell anyone that was skeptical “Go home, write down a list of 10 things that would make you a better person and hide it in a safe place. No one will ever see the list. Be brutally honest”, he instructed. “In 6 months I guarantee you will look back at that list and check off every one of the things you had written down.” I challenge anyone that might read this to do the same. Find a local affiliate, sign up and make your list. Give it your best effort for 6 months and I guarantee it will work.  

For anyone that has been doing CrossFit, you know this to be true already. Maybe you are now a better friend or a better spouse. Maybe you get frustrated at little things less. Maybe you have more energy to run around with your kids. Whatever the reason is, there are amazing adaptations that happen both physically and mentally. To end on a quote that could not explain CrossFit any better: “The magic is in the movement, the art is in the programming, the science is in the explanation, and the fun is in the community.” – Greg Glassman, CrossFit.

Justin Jones

Owner of Beantown CrossFit (Boston, MA)

Affiliate of Element 26 Athletic Gear

Instagram: beantowncrossfit