We’ve all heard it before – winners never cheat and cheaters never win. You know what that is? Lies. Cheaters win all the time. I’m a cheater. I’ve won. In fact, I’m winning right now as I type this.
Sometimes those rep counts get so dang high. 15 wall balls? Ok sure, no sweat (literally) for the first set. How about five rounds of fifteen? Now we’re talking work! If you’re like me and can’t go unbroken those last couple of sets, you split them up into, say, 3 sets of 5 with a short break between. But what if that last set of five only has four reps accomplished? What if your hands are so sweaty that you barely can catch the ball? What if your legs are burning and your chest is spent? What if you so desperately wanted to be done with those wall balls that you didn’t complete your last rep, but claimed that you did and moved on to the next exercise? Well… you cheated. And you won.
If you just read the last paragraph and are asking yourself if the author perhaps did this exact thing portrayed above, the answer is a resounding yes. He cheated. And yes, he won.
Here’s my sob-story-excuse. We had to complete our entire WOD without letting our med ball hit the ground. If we did, we incurred a 5 burpee penalty. Ok, sure, that sucks but is doable. The thing is, I’m sweaty. My hands were wet and after a few rounds so was the ball. I couldn’t sit it down to dry it off. And the thought of using chalk totally escaped my mind at that time. I couldn’t do more than 2 reps at a time on my last round due to me simply not being able to catch and control the ball. I was dying. But more than anything I didn’t want to do five burpees! So I didn’t do burpees. I also didn’t do my last rep of wall balls.
What was my motivation for not completing that last rep? No burpees. Why didn’t I want to do the burpees? Because burpees suck, duh! I was tired! I wanted to be done and get my time and catch my breath and dry my sweaty hands!!
And I won a big fat pile of guilt and regret.
I didn’t want that prize. In fact, I wanted my regret even less than I wanted to do burpees. Then why did I cheat?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to go Sigmund Freud on you. (wow I heard that sigh of relief clear over here!) The answer is simple. I was (am) weak.
I was physically weak.
Hey, I got tired! That’s the point of exercising, to exhaust yourself! A 20-pound ball gets super heavy after a while! My chest and shoulders were ready to explode. If only I was a tiny bit stronger, that last wall ball would’ve been toast. I mean come on, each wall ball was only 1.3% of the entire prescribed 45! That’s nothing. Unless my muscles were seizing up and my body was utterly shutting down, I should have been able to get that last squat and ball toss in.
However, I don’t think I cheated because I was physically weak. I continued with the workout and finished. I know that my body must be pushed in order to grow. I do pay membership dues after all. So, if it wasn’t physical weakness that made me a cheater, what was it…?
I was mentally weak.
My most important muscle was my weakest. I didn’t have the mental fortitude to get that one stinkin’ last rep. (You could substitute heart here, but I prefer the brain. Remember, engineer.) Could I have pushed my body to get in one more wall ball? Absolutely. Was the workout too tough to complete? No. I made the conscious decision to not finish the last rep. I chose to cheat.
Why did I choose to cheat? Let’s get to that in a minute. First, what exactly did my cheating accomplish, and at what cost?
Cheating accomplished the “completion” of my set. It accomplished the end of the wall ball endured pain. It brought me one step closer to being able to put that devil ball down! Good stuff right? I mean who wants to be under stress or uncomfortable for any longer time than necessary? When we touch something hot, we pull our hand off it quickly. Nobody wants pain. I won the secession from pain.
I also won an incomplete work out, a finishing time that meant nothing, and an inferior opportunity to make myself better. Oh and regret. Plenty of regret.
What’s my goal here? I want a sub-five minute Fran. How am I going to achieve that? By wishing for it? Nope. I have to earn it. How do I earn it? By working out intensely, by eating right, by sleeping properly. I failed at that when I skipped that last wall ball. I passed by a chance to make myself better than yesterday. To grow physically, we have to tear ourselves down and then recover. To grow mentally is similar; we must force ourselves to not stop when physically we want to, we must plow ahead when the path is riddled with resistance.
I chose to cheat myself out of my optimal workout. I chose short-term reprieve over long-term success. I chose to cheat. I chose the cowardly way.
Cheating is so damn easy. The cheater’s path offers such little resistance. Often when we choose that road, we don’t think about any future consequences. We become nearsighted to temporary gains. You know what I thought about once I had set my evil sweaty ball down and caught my breath? I didn’t think about what a great workout I just had. I didn’t think about being sore the next day or how maybe that workout shaved a second off my Fran time. I thought about that one wall ball I didn’t complete. A very temporary gain indeed, huh?
Ok, I admit, that one missed rep isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s what that missed rep represents that is the big deal. It represents a lack of dedication, a lack of commitment on my part – to both my box (my family) and to myself. I owe it to everyone to give as much as you are. I owe it to myself to become the best person possible.
This post isn’t the place to expand cheating to all walks of life, but it’s the same as cheating on taxes (save a little money now at the risk of getting caught and paying a greater sum later) or cheating on a test (receiving a passing grade now but not really learning the skill for use later). Applicable to cheating on your diet as well, where you wonder if that extra piece of pizza really was worth it. Current gains for future failures.
CrossFit taxes the entire body, including the brain. We must be wholly strong, body and mind. Only by staying true at a moment of crisis will we truly grow. Cheaters do win, but is that prize really something desirable? Is the temporary win greater than the long term loss? I say no. When the sweat pours into your eyes, when the weight gets exponentially heavier, when your entire body is burning and screaming for you to quit… don’t. Be better than that. Be better than me. Be a better you.
There, you have my confession. I cheated. I apologize. Hey 865, I owe you those five burpees I won. Remind me to pay up.