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Entries in improvement (2)


How CrossFit Applies In The Workplace


One of the best parts of CrossFit is that it has teaching points which carry over into other aspects of life.  Many people fall in love with the sport because of how it pushes them beyond their normal boundaries, and teaches life lessons along the way.

Specifically, CrossFit does have takeaways that are applicable for those of us who spend most of our waking hours in an office building or workplace.  As you get deeper into your training and experience with WODs, you can begin to sense a few crossover lessons that will help you in the conference room, or with co-workers Monday through Friday.


1 - Staying calm in the midst of chaos.


Let's be honest, regardless of your given occupation, sooner or later there will be a stressful and chaotic situation.  Success or failure in that instance can be dictated by one's ability to maintain calm and focus

Any CrossFitter past his or her first WOD can attest that after "3…2…1…GO!" - the entire scene around them turns into complete bedlam.  Loud music, barbells  and bumper plates clanging against the floor, the whoosh of the rowing machines, feet stomping at the top of box jump landings - a CrossFit box during a WOD is pretty chaotic.

Part of your responsibility during a WOD is to work hard…but remain calm.  You have to remain calm to remember the safety cues and teaching points for your Olympic lifts.  Calmness and awareness of surroundings is crucial to avoid danger as people sling kettlebells all around you.  You also have to maintain awareness for simple tasks like remembering how many rounds of an AMRAP you've already completed.  A CrossFit box mid-WOD can be a chaotic setting…actually it is ALWAYS a chaotic setting.  It is crucial to keep composure and situational awareness at all times.

 (*Note - After clanging a 24kg kettlebell off my right foot during the final few rounds of a Hero WOD last month, I learned a tough lesson about remembering your coaches' safety cues while things get hectic.)

Just as when CrossFit requires an athlete to maintain calm in the midst of bedlam, this applies to the workplace as well.  An employee who loses his or her ability to remain focused, or execute the simple tasks during a stressful situation is one you may hesitate to depend upon moving forward.


2 - Understanding your weaknesses


Most of us have a weakness somewhere in our CrossFit toolbox.  Regardless of your athletic background or specialty, there is always something that (initially) holds you back from achieving better WOD scores or times. (Mine is gymnastic bodyweight skills like muscle ups, and overall cardio work capacity.)  I've come to believe that the difference in pretty good CrossFitters, and those who become great, is the willingness to face those weaknesses and be honest about a current deficiency.

In the workplace, we all have different skill sets and areas of expertise.  You may be highly proficient in budget templates and financial spreadsheets, so your co-workers regularly seek out your help in those tasks.  Someone else may be more skilled in manipulating creative elements like PowerPoint templates or creative presentations. At the end of the day, we all have areas in our jobs that can be considered strengths, and accordingly some areas where we are not quite as proficient.  The task is to be honest enough with yourself to reveal where your deficiencies are.


3 - Invest in your improvement


Once you've identified your CrossFit weaknesses, the question now becomes "what will you do about it?"


There are basically two options to proceed:


Option A - Choose to do nothing about those weaknesses and groan, "Ugghhhh...I suck at (muscle ups/running/double unders/wall ball/insert skill here)..." whenever it appears on the whiteboard for that day's WOD.


Option B - Find time before class, after class, or during Open Gym times to attack those weaknesses until you proficiency improves.


Just like in CrossFit, employees have to invest time in their weaknesses in-order to gain greater proficiency.  It may mean signing up for a training course for budget templates and spreadsheets.  It could mean using a Rosetta Stone program to get better familiar with foreign languages. It may also mean requesting more presentation opportunities to become more comfortable speaking in-front of groups.


Whether it's in the workplace or in your local CrossFit box - weaknesses only improve with additional effort and time spent, working to get better.



4 - Applauding others' successes


In CrossFit, 95% of the time there is someone who is better than you.  To make things worse, usually that person is someone you know well and see on a regular basis.  One of the great aspects of the CrossFit culture is that despite the HIGHLY competitive nature - people don't let their motivation to compete hard morph into a desire to see others around them fail. 

Fellow box members offer support during WODs, and celebrate each other's PR's regardless of what they may (or may not) have been able to accomplish that day.  I'm sure it exists out there somewhere, but thankfully I have yet to experience a CrossFit box where members feel threatened by each others' success and openly (or privately) root for those around them to falter.


This can be a challenge in a workplace setting where promotions, bonuses, and raises are given out.  Our economic system creates an environment where not everyone can get ahead at the same time.  Sometimes your success means the person next to you will be passed over, or vice versa.  Certainly it varies by company or industry, but a workplace or an account team ultimately will not survive if its members are undercutting each other's success opportunities so they can grab success for themselves. 

A CrossFit box where members aren't happy for each other's PR's and improvement probably isn't a pleasant place to train.


Similarly, a workplace where employees try to derail each other's successes most likely isn't a tolerable place to work.



5 - Expand your network


One of the great thing about local CrossFit competitions is the chance to meet others in the city and develop new relationships outside of your own box.  It can be a chance to make new contacts with which to train, or share workout tips or diet strategies.  I appreciate having friends and contacts at a handful of CrossFit boxes in the local area, as well as a couple more in other states across the country. The more CrossFitters in your personal network, the better.

The same thing applies in your business career. The more contacts that can be made at networking events, happy hours, and mixers - the more resources at your disposal to either improve at your current occupation, or possibly learn of the next opportunity to pursue. The same principals that apply in CrossFit with regards to branching out to meet new people and expand your base, apply in the business world.


The joke goes that the easiest way to tell if someone does CrossFit, is that they won't shut up about it.  This is probably true - however in this case there are enough valuable similarities between CrossFit and the business world or office that it was worth the side-by-side comparison.  Hopefully this helps highlight some of the easy benefits that carry over from your next WOD, into the workplace.


When It's Good To Be The Worst

Most of us enjoy being comfortable. I'd venture to say an equal amount of us enjoy being "the best", or at-least good at certain things.  A great question to ask however when comfortable or one of the best is,  "am I actually improving myself?"

Unless you are a freak of nature (in which case, my blog really won't teach you anything), improvement does not happen in stages or environments where one is comfortable or even proficient. 

Improvement occurs along the path of discomfort. 

People cannot be afraid of putting themselves in environments where they may mess up, or "fail".   Not to continue making everything about Crossfit...but this next anecdote involves Crossfit (sorry Crossfit Haters).

This past weekend I entered my first-ever Crossfit event.  The Crossfit for Hope event is a charity fundraiser to benefit St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Participants (and their affiliate gym) raise donation funds for the right to participate.  As I've covered previously, these environments can be very intimidating upon first walking in. Thankfully I'm a part of a tremendous gym that has a great team-oriented mentality.  We had more than a dozen members there, cheering each other on during our respective heats. Shot of me trying to recover before the final round, thanks to encouragement from Brendan, one of the teammates at my CrossFit gym.

Having only been doing CrossFit for close to six weeks, I am reminded daily that I have a LONG way to go  before I can hang with the "big dogs". Fairly consistently I am in the bottom 25% of the group when it comes to WOD times or rounds achieved. During the Hope WOD this past weekend I only improved my score by two points (from 191 to 193) and definitely ran out of gas during the 2nd round of 3. 

 I am not a person who enjoys being "bad" at anything (especially competitive sports), so you can imagine what a beating Crossfit gives my ego on almost a daily basis. There's actually a bit of embarrassment that comes with being one of the final people to finish a tough WOD while the fitter members cheer you on and encourage your effort (only because I'd rather be the fit one encouraging everybody else).

So you might ask, why do you even put yourself through this stuff?

Why even do Crossfit if you're so bad at it?

If you ask that question, then you're respectfully missing the whole point. It's BECAUSE I'm bad at Crossfit that I keep coming back for more. I love the fact that it shows me where my athletic deficiencies are. I love the fact that on a daily basis I find something else that needs lots of hard work and improvement.

I'm not the only one.  On a Sunday "Open Gym" session we have several girls who have struggled with their Olympic lifts, showing up to throw barbells around with the guys. They're not afraid to tackle their weak points. They're not intimidated by barbells and bumper plates, they attack them head on, even during a "free" day when they could easily have been on the couch or out at the lake. They chose to come in do work with the guys, and fight the fight to better themselves.

The point is this - don't be afraid to dive into the disciplines that normally scare you away. The road to improvement will have bumps along the way.

There will be setbacks.

You will have days when you want to hide your face in embarrassment, or crawl into a hole, or burst into tears.

If that's what you need to do in-order to overcome whatever emotions surface as you struggle with being one of the "worst", don't be ashamed.

Just keep coming back for more next time.

You climb a mountain one step at a time, and you improve yourself one workout at a time, one exercise at a time.

Don't be afraid of being one of the worst, embrace it. It will be that much more satisfying when you look back after a while and are amazed at how far you've come.