The Curse of the Whiteboard

The CrossFit Whiteboard.


CrossFit does a lot of things well, and defining and tracking fitness happens to be up at the top of the list.  If you’re going to be able to say you are, in fact, more fit than you were 6 months ago, there should be some evidence and proof.  And we all know well & good, tracking your daily WOD results is the best way to do that.  Which leads us to “The Whiteboard”.

Day in and day out you log your score in Wodify and then view the gym’s results on the whiteboard (well, our virtual whiteboard that is).  The whiteboard serves a great purpose – it’s a public posting of information which is a researched behavioral strategy and has shown to improve performance.  It’s a powerful motivator.  And it makes people cheat.

There.  I said it.  The Whiteboard drives people to cheat!  It absolutely is meant to spur athletes on, let you know where you stand against similar athletes, and potentially even identify some weaknesses.  However, it is not meant to be used as a tool to compare yourself (Average Annie CrossFit) to Super Sally CrossFit who’s a former collegiate athlete & has been CrossFitting for 5 years.  It is not meant to encourage you to RX a workout just because so and so did.  It is not meant to judge your performance & if you’re actually improving.  You’re the only one that can really do that!

As I mentioned, CrossFit does a lot of things well.  And providing a competitive outlet for adults no longer playing competitive sports is one of those.  But sometimes, our egos, pride and the former high-school athlete in us gets the best of us.  Suddenly, 50 reps were shaved down to 44 – “Oh I must have miscounted…” or taking 12 seconds off your time in order to beat Johnny CrossFit by 4 seconds – “Yeah I’m pretty sure that’s when I finished…?” or adding a few reps onto your score since CrossFit Bob did that many and you always score close to him.

It’s all still cheating.  And mostly, you’re just cheating yourself!  I hate to break it to you, but you don’t get a medal for winning the WOD.  This isn’t The Games and it’s not even a competition.  It’s about pursuing your own fitness goals and being more fit, more healthy and stronger than you were before.

Everyone has different reasons for working out.  Different goals they may be pursuing.  And if needing to be at the top of the whiteboard at any cost is one of your reasons, then so be it.  But if you’re somehow getting to the top of the whiteboard…without integrity…other athletes will figure it out!  They will know and they’ll know to discount your score.  They may or may not say something to you, but they’ll know.

Tabata Times shared a great article, 5 Whiteboard Misconceptions, and I encourage you to read it!  It has several take home points, here a few of the best:

  • If you ask most people what they love so much about the CrossFit atmosphere, they’ll probably tell you it’s the awesome sense of camaraderie they get to bask in every time they walk in the door. CrossFit is as much about the community of like-minded people you get to interact with as it is about being the fittest on earth, or whatever. So the notion that the whiteboard exists mainly for you to compare yourself to the other athletes is a little contradictory.
  • Sure, it’s good to have some people whose scores you check to make sure you’re on the right track and you’re giving your best effort, but turning it into an über-competitive platform for being critical of yourself or for bragging about your superiority over others goes against the spirit of CrossFit.
  • Prove yourself when you really do lose count of your reps and you start over to preserve the integrity of your workout. Prove it by no repping yourself when you know you didn’t get low enough or get your chin over the bar, even if no one else is watching you and calling you out.

One of the best CrossFit quotes from Pat Sherwood…


Relax.  Have fun!  And don’t worry about the whiteboard so much!  Who you are in the gym says a lot about who you are in life.  Come in each day ready to tackle the WOD, do so with integrity, cheer on your fellow athletes and finish strong!  Don’t give in to the curse of the whiteboard!

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