Blog 17/50. The phenomenon of falling off the wagon.


This is an interesting time to study the efficacy of what CrossFit is doing and why it works so well. It’s a case where you can see as much by it’s absence as by it’s presence. I tell every single person who goes through foundations with me that there are 2 big secrets to getting results. Show up and try hard. That’s it! Hopefully the people teaching you how to do whatever it is are guiding you well so your effort isn’t misplaced. But even if you don’t have a good teacher, you can still get pretty far on just consistency and effort! When I was a trainer at Snap, by far one of the fittest guys at the gym was this kind of scrawny guy, probably in his 50’s. He would show up 5 days a week and do the same routine every time. That routine was this joke of a “circuit” that Snap gave out for free on these cards. It was supposed to be a total body workout that “HIT ALL THE MUSCLES”. It was 8 exercises all done on machines with the stacks of weight and pins. This guy did that circuit, 3 sets per exercise, every single day he was there. He would do as much weight as he could on every single set. He would grunt and sweat like crazy and he got freaking fit! Plenty of people with the same membership to the same place and the same access didn’t see a lick of results because they showed up once a week for a few months and then never again.

Anywho, the point I’m making is that CrossFit works because the environment we’ve set up creates a massive amount of incentive for you to show up and try hard. Julien (StrongFit guy) says that if you want to change your behavior you have to change your environment first. Joining a CrossFit gym put you into an environment and introduced you to people who, whether you want to admit it or not, gave you permission to change the way you did things! Are those people who barely attended Snap (or fill in any other big box gym you want) just weaker-minded, lazier, less disciplined than the average CrossFitter? I would emphatically say the answer is no. Is the environment in a CrossFit gym, especially Uncommon, more likely to produce consistency and effort? I would emphatically say yes!

So what is going on when a CrossFitter “falls off the wagon”? The definition of lazy is: unwilling to work or use energy, lack of effort, activity, or care. If I’ve learned anything coaching, the answer is never that simple. The easy thing to do is to stop right there and say somebody is lazy. But WHY? Why don’t they want to put forth effort?

Based on the social media activity, zoom call activity, and general participation in our commitment club all falling off slowly over the last few weeks, it seems that even our exceptional community is not immune to a drop-off in participation. Some of the people that have fallen off were commitment club regulars when the gym was still open. So did they all of a sudden become lazy? I really doubt it. So this leads me to believe that your environment is hugely important in determining how well you adhere to a routine of any kind.

When people feel anonymous they are less likely to hold themselves accountable. I see it with the difference in class sizes at the gym. Everyone does what I ask right when I say it with classes of about 6 or less. They feel like I am talking directly to them and nobody WANTS to be a jerk so they don’t blatantly disregard something I’m saying to their face. With more people in the class they start to feel anonymous in the sense that they feel like I’m talking to the group and not directly to them so there’s more chatting and more listless wandering. I imagine the same phenomenon is happening during this strange period we are getting through. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us are more follower than leader. I don’t mean that in the sense that we can’t make decisions or do stuff on our own or even lead people. But we take cues from those around us far more often than we realize. We use the actions and behaviors of the people within our circles (friends, coworkers, people at the grocery store) to help us determine the appropriate course of action.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I think if we had too many leaders then things would get chaotic. Knowing how to follow along and behave appropriately as a part of a group is important. But I think one negative that comes from this is that because we take cues from other people, for some reason we assume that people aren’t taking cues from us.

So even though we can see a light at the end of the tunnel and our tendency might be to just coast until the gym opens back up, I challenge you to take a different approach. Don’t wait for other people to show that they are jumping in and participating in this week’s gym activities. Assume that somebody IS actually looking to you for inspiration, step up to the plate, and be their inspiration!

author: Jacob Watts


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