Anyone who’s done CrossFit knows that feeling. When coach walks into the 6am class wearing a sadistic grin, and says, “G’morning Protein Puffs! I’m happy so many of you signed up. Our first gym challenge today will be... Murph.”
The initial response will usually be a collective inhale of either joy or shock. If you’ve never physically experienced Hero WOD Murph, it’s one of the most iconic and fun (*cough*) benchmark workouts in CrossFit.
The WOD starts with a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats. Then it’s capped off with another one-mile run. If you’re RX’ing the workout (doing it as written), you’re also supposed to wear a weighted vest.
Following that first moment of veteran-excitement or newbie-confusion, you might witness one of the following scenarios to the gym challenge announcement:
a) Fired-up shouts of athletic prowess and claps on shoulders, chests and butts in anticipation.
b) The biggest mass-exodus of “not today” athletes any gym has ever seen.
The Parameters of a Great Gym Challenge.
Let’s talk about safety first. If you’re sick, seriously injured or have not slept enough to do the movements safely, it would be careless of a coach or owner to let you participate in the gym challenge.
Even if it’s a brand-new gym doing their first event, an owner or coach should prioritize safety over risking anyone’s health. That’s the gym people will go back to. That’s how they’ll know you’ll have their back during training. Because during a regular class, if they’re running on two hours of sleep and suddenly lose control with a dumbbell, it’ll be someone’s foot.
So this is your friendly reminder: Participate after Mardigras at your own risk. Also, scaling is cool.
With that said, even if your members are newbies or it’s been a long time since they’ve worked out, as long as they’re feeling healthy, here’s why you should help them accept the gym challenge:
A challenge event is where members’ fortitude - both physical and mental - will be put to the test. Will they accept the challenge, even if they don’t feel ready?
Whether they’re (literally) miles away from completing the workout within the time cap, or their taxes are overdue or they failed their second driving test, encourage them to do it anyway.
If they do, they’ll be making a clear statement that, yes, all these things are important but there is more to life than setbacks. No, they will not let all their doubts and fears get in the way of taking care of their body and having some fun.
This is some gyms choose to sporadically do community gym challenges. It’s not just to see who will stay or to gage their respective levels of fitness or mindset. But it’s also to encourage each athlete to face themselves and do it honestly in a new situation.
Because whatever is happening outside the gym, the pride your members will feel when they’re done, will be their fuel to push through it all. The integrity of having honestly given their best on that day, will transfer into real life. And might even change it.
Chances are, you’ll rarely go as hard as you do during a gym challenge or competition. Having an athlete of any fitness level push to their limits right next to you is simply inspiring.
This will help your members understand why and how the advanced athletes got to where they are, and that it’s possible. They’ll start to see the road there. It will encourage them to try that heavy squat they’ve been avoiding. Nearly every time, they’ll succeed. And they’ll gain a confidence they’ve never had before.
It’s pretty exciting to see a newer athlete who suddenly finds themselves keeping up with a veteran or getting some peer-recognition for their effort. The fire that ignites in them is absolutely infectious. And oftentimes, such athletes will push twice as hard in regular class afterwards.
Accepting a challenge is such a great chance for your members to test their limits. It’s how they see if they can take charge, quiet the mind and surpass previous efforts. Because they have that extra boost to go beyond. So encourage them take the chance. Go for that 110%. Challenges build fitter athletes.
3. Vitamin C.
Community Challenges Create Connection.
Even if it’s someone’s very first day in a CrossFit gym, signing up for a collective feat is a great way to make new friends and gain some “sweat-cred.” Before you know it, they’ll be the “went for that last lap barefoot cause his shoe broke” person. Respect.
And as luck often has it, one of their classmates will also happen to be their 11am job interview and boom, they got a new job! It might sound crazy but we’ve seen romantic, professional and many other connections made during a gym challenge, many of which have lasted to this day.
It’s not just the shared struggle of 100 burpees-to-target for time. It’s also that others are able to observe how well someone tackles challenges. They’ll take this information and add it to their image of their classmates outside the gym. And that makes a big difference.
Many gym challenge-related events support a good cause. First, it brings in a great atmosphere with fresh energy and raise awareness. Second, it adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that helps bring out the best in everyone, including staff.
Shredding for a cause is such a nice way to apply your fitness. There is something extremely satisfying in knowing that you can actually use your health to do good, while enjoying yourself. It’s a pure win-win. You might even be surprised at how your members get more excited than usual for such events.
In Summary: The Challenge Probably Isn’t Easy. Do it Anyway.
In short, whether an athlete in your gym is brand new to CrossFit, ready for a challenge, doesn’t feel like it, or it’s laundry day and they’re wearing their least-favorite workout apparel, encourage them to do it anyway.
Let them be convinced, dragged along or pushed through it. Because there’s nothing like those shared endorphins to completely turn their training around and actually start feeling proud of what their body can do.
Also, know that your athletes will expect you to join in the fun. So invite a guest coach or hire an assistant, do what you need to do. But do it anyway.