CrossFit: It’s Not A Cult, It’s A CULTure

Here we are, the final week of our Outlier Lifestyle

Challenge. How are things? Good? Great? Meh? Excited about retesting the OLC workout? Me, neither! Throughout the course of the past 60 days, you’ve doubtlessly experienced some struggle. I’d wager there’s been the internal, self-worth questioning type and more of the social-decision-making-in-front-of-friends type, too. Most likely, these instances hinged on nutritional choices, lifestyle changes and a general, from the outside looking in, faux pau-ness. Yes, like Hershey often alludes in their, “unchanged since 1899” campaign, change can be uncomfortable. It forces us to examine (see: On Knowing Thyself) our historical habits and consider the impact of future ones. Indeed, change discomforts both those experiencing and playing witnessing to it alike. And, if you’ve participated in any modicum, you’ve made those around you, aware or not, less than comfortable. Why? I posit it’s a much deeper issue rooted among fear of the unknown (or grossly misinformed) and there’s bound to be a touch of shame. But, we can get into all my psyche theories later. This week we delve into the domain of talking to friends, family and anyone else seeking your guidance about _____ (insert: your gym, your training, your diet) with grace…and, more importantly, without finding yourself divorced, defended or fired. Let’s begin.

Problem: Their Concern For You Is Real

How many times have you heard something similar this? “Squatting, weight lifting, high-intensity, eliminating dairy, eliminating gluten, or ______ is bad for you. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into? CrossFit is a thinly-veiled cult – they’re all crazy.” I can’t begin to count the iterations. Is it frustrating? Sure. Is it genuine? Perhaps, but I’m reminded of an old cannon saying something to the extent of, “knowledge is power”. If you’re able to learn the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ behind your new behavior, you’ll find your critiquing comrades much more accepting (and at a misinformed disadvantage). Explain your reasoning in an eloquent manner with reason and logic. Then, watch their furrowed brows soften. Maybe then, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and other self-professed, internet gurus won’t command as much of their blind loyalty (always be weary of those waving a guru banner). Who can argue with legitimate, resourced information? Wait, don’t answer.

Problem: Feeling Left Behind, Jealous and Rejected

Face it, those taking issue with your change largely feel as if you’re leaving them behind. These ‘healthy’ habits and changes increase your exposure to new ideas, new groups of like-minded individuals. And, from their vantage, this behavior may indicate an erosion of your relationship. “What will happen to our late night movie binges, gallons of ice cream, and willy-nilling lifestyle?” It may really feel as if they’re being kicked to the curb…alongside all your no-longer-necessary, ‘fat’ clothes. With this new group of ‘fit’ friends, a touch of jealousy is also to be expected. “All he/she does is workout – it’s no wonder they look that way. I bet they have a terrible personality. Anyone could look like that if they lived in the gym.” I guarantee you’ve all heard utterances like these in some fashion or another. What’s an Outlier to do? First and foremost – focus on your relationship, reassure them of your bond. Then, and again, explain your personal reasons for change. Share the benefit you plan to witness and plan activities outside of food or the gym. More importantly, set a quiet example through your behavior. My father, a wise man, once said, “don’t tell me, show me.” I believe there to be take-aways aplenty in his axiom.

Goal: A Positive Dialogue Through Graceful Discourse

I get it. When we undertake a challenge, a trendy new diet, or en vogue training protocols, we want to climb to the highest peak and proclaim it’s greatness worldwide. If you disagree, I’d challenge you to observe postings via any medium of social media. Change, in that frame, is most exciting. But, on the opposite side of that pane, friends, family members and coworkers may find themselves pained, ironically. And, it’s often easy to find ourselves on the condemnation side of the window. “I can’t believe you STILL eat bread. Our workout is YOUR warmup. They don’t even CROSSFIT, bro.” It’s nauseating to those outside of the ‘know’ (sidetone: If you know me, you know how hard those sentences were to type). Clearly, impressions from posts and general conversations of the like, leave plenty to be desired – assuming grace is the goal. Is it wrong to be excited about your new pursuit? Absolutely, unequivocally, and emphatically – NO! I’d simply challenge you to mind your words. Stay positive and, should you find yourselves compelled to socially promote, offer a non boastful, relatable statement or two. Aim for agreeable humility. Then, #423nation 😉

Goal: Enroll Them In Your Change And Influence The Outlier Lifestyle

The best way to silence the naysayers is to enlist them. Without sounding peachy and appearing condescending, enroll them in your change. Explain the challenges you will face. Tell them how they can help you become more successful. Find a way to earn their vestment in your success and the impetus for their behavior will change entirely. Easier said than done, right? Maybe not. We’ve built-in a solution to the problem. This week’s challenge: bring at least 1 pal to the gym with you. How beautiful is that? They may help you realize success in the final week’s challenge (see their investment?) AND you can practice your gym/training/nutritional presentation simultaneously. It’s almost poetic.

When in doubt, I always reference John Welbourn’s golden rule for blending, pun intended, social behavior and personal change – “Don’t be weird.” Side note: you’ll find a number of other fantastic rules for living on that page. In other words, a drink here or a meal there, a missed workout, or a degree of unplanned variance won’t entirely sabotage your pursuits. In fact, I’d argue that they’d allow you to #bemorehuman than otherwise. And, as an added bonus, I’m sure your friends and family would appreciate the concession. Through all this agreeable behavior, our critics may glean what it truly means to live an Outlier lifestyle. More, if we’ve played our cards proper, they may even ask to tag along sometime. What’s the sweet spot? The answer, for everyone, will vary. But, to be sure, you’ll find it with a bit of tinkering.

Stay cultured, my friends.