A Case for Not Checking the WOD

I’ve grown to love analytics. If you get a critical mass of people behaving in very similar fashions you can begin to make inferences about that behavior. I especially geek out about people’s’ behavior online. One of my jobs is to help gym owners with their online presence and branding. After looking at users’ behavior on hundreds of CrossFit websites, I’ve noticed an interesting trend:

People will do ANYTHING to see the day’s WOD.

I mean, it’s pretty incredible. On our site alone, Monday through Friday, the WOD is checked nearly 800 times a week. In fact, the data is so overwhelming that we’ve begun to change the way we build websites accordingly. Gyms are no different than any business or organization – communication with customers is very difficult. We’ve tried email, text messaging, Facebook Groups, announcement boards, and announcements after every workout of the day. It was still really difficult to convey a message.

So we buried the WOD.

In website development, there are a couple absolutes – you have about 3 seconds and 2 clicks to get people where you want them to go online. Our attention span is all but non-existent – especially in a digital world. There is one HUGE exception to this rule: the day’s WOD. You can put that bad boy down a digital Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole and CrossFitters everywhere will hunt it down like a prized bird dog. We started to build websites with WODs buried under (more) important things like nutrition information, content from coaches, and announcements. Hell, you’re probably reading this now because you were on your way to see a WOD 🙂

I get it.

I did my first CrossFit WOD from CrossFit.com almost a decade ago. I joined my first affiliate almost 8 years ago. It’s only been in the last 9 months that I refused to look at the WOD ahead of time. I do the same warm-up everyday, then ask Josh what we’re doing 10 minutes before we start the party. Cherry-picking aside, there are plenty of very valid reasons to check the WOD that I’ve heard in the past:

  • I’d like to know what I’m getting myself into
  • I’ll skip a lunch meeting or eat a little healthier if I know Fran is coming up today
  • I won’t go out for drinks tonight if tomorrow’s WOD is a brutal one
  • I want to know what mobility I need to do
  • I want to plan my extra workouts throughout the week, like training for a marathon or doing a 2-a-day

All completely valid reasons. But, if we’re being honest, most of us would be better off behaving as if tomorrow will be a really tough workout, right?

I’d like to make the case that you take the next month and never check the day’s WOD. Simply choose a workout/rest schedule and stick to it no matter what. Come in Monday through Wednesday, rest Thursday, then workout Friday and Saturday. Or and Monday/Tuesday, Wednesday rest, Thursday/Friday. Choose a class time and get it in. 

1. Practice being “up for anything”.

Lessons from the gym carry over into life. Life is unpredictable. Really terrible shit can happen very randomly. We can do absolutely nothing to change anything the exact moment that thing happens. Our only course of action is to adjust our reaction to the thing. I used to get really bent out of shape when I’d make an accidental mess; like grinding up a bunch of coffee only to spill it all over the kitchen, making an awful mess. What would getting upset solve? You just have to begin the slow tedious work of cleaning up all the ground beans you spilled.

What if we used the day’s WOD to practice this? Show up, see how tough it’ll be and say “Well, what other option do I have? Let’s get it done.”

2. Surrender to the process.

WebMD has turned us all into armchair Physicians. Similarly, Instagram has turned us all into fitness professionals. If you have legitimate, attainable, measurable goals you want to work toward – like body composition change or running your first marathon – don’t try to figure that crap out on your own. Sit down with a coach. They know – and they’ve done – the WODs coming up. They have trained thousands of different people for thousands of hours under countless conditions and goals. Lean on them for guidance and schedule a time to meet with your Crew Captain regularly.

If you’re trying on your own to “build the perfect program” – it doesn’t exist. You’ll gravitate toward the things you like and shy away from the things you don’t (and probably need). Trust me, I did this for years and my fitness suffered tremendously and, ultimate, ended in an injury from which I’m just now recovering. In a given 2 weeks, you’ll have exposure a couple cardio days, a couple strength days, a few High Intensity Interval Days, and some “active recovery” days. Each of these days rotate weekly. If you set your schedule (see #1), you’ll hit each of the appropriate workout types to achieve world-class fitness.

3. You don’t need anymore stress or anxiety.

Save your anxiety for stuff that matters. While you may say to yourself that “the workout doesn’t matter” the truth is that you expend some mental energy on thinking about what you’re about to do. You plan on a 6am workout, but you check the WOD the night before giving yourself just hint of stress about what you’re waking up to. Your alarm goes off, you check the WOD, and hit snooze coming to the conclusion that the work “doesn’t fit with your goals right now.”

It’s important to begin to create positive associations with beneficial habits. I know cause I’ve been there; sitting in a cubicle, checking the WOD, and freaking out about how much it’s going to suck. Questioning whether or not I can do it. Thinking about how much everyone will be looking at me. Scared that I’ll be at the bottom of the leaderboard. What if we adopted the “up for whatever” mindset? What if we attacked our weaknesses with the same gusto we played to our strengths.

4. The unknown and unknowable – both physically and mentally.

This is what CrossFit was founded on – practicing the unknown and the unknowable. Having such a strong basis of General Physical Preparedness, one could realistically complete any task in front of them at a moment’s notice. I like to think of it as the “5k Principle” – if someone asks me to hop into a 5k run this weekend, I’d like to think I’d be up for the task. I won’t be first, I won’t be last, I may be in a small amount of pain, but I’ll get the job done and not be wrecked for the rest of the weekend. Similarly, I’d also like to be able to rip a bodyweight snatch in Nanos within 10 minutes of warming up. Not a world record, but the carry-over into a functional life is clear.

Much like the physical unknown, what if we practiced this in our mental and emotional lives? What if we stepped into a potentially uncomfortable situation, not knowing the outcome three to five times a week? What if we became so calmly comfortable with the unknown, uncomfortable that our ability to adapt in our careers and relationships improved as a result of practice in the gym?

A 4-Week Challenge.

Here’s my challenge: Set a time and day schedule for the next 4 weeks. Don’t check the WOD and just show up no matter what. As weird as it sounds, this has dramatically changed not only my fitness, but my life. I used to hate – and almost entirely avoid – any type of unknown social interaction. Shopping was the worst. Going into a situation in which I didn’t have defined roles and tasks would tie my stomach in knots. I much preferred to play bartender or chef at a party than sit and relax with other people I only kind of knew.

Showing up to work out without knowing what I was getting myself into really helped with this. It was an unknown, uncomfortable situation that pushed me but I survived every single time. I became more adaptable and less afraid of the unknown and unknowable. I started making better life choices because I never know when Fran would be poking her head out around the corner…