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On Cheating

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There are very few things that piss me off. And cheating in workouts is definitely one of them.

A couple of days ago I signed onto my Facebook page only to be reminded of a “memory” of myself performing “Fran” in my garage. It was laughable. First of all the bar was taken off of a rack. Then my lockouts for the thrusters were gross. And then my pull ups looked like 45 Pez dispensers over and over again.

To say I’ve come a long way is an understatement. I used to cheat. I would shave reps when no one was looking. I would try to keep up with the veterans at CrossFit NYC back in 2008.

CrossFit was always big on standards and during the PreBok days, boxes would hold their members accountable for giving it their all and hitting every rep as it should be performed. Atleast that’s what I grew up on. But I still cheated. (*side note: when I say “cheated,” I don’t mean I was a huge cheater. The degree of cheating was like instead of doing 20 reps, I did 19. Let’s just make that clear. And it wasn’t every single workout.)

Something happened to me when I opened CrossFit 845 in 2012, though. My appreciation for hard work started back then. I sort of pinched myself after opening the gym. I couldn’t believe I was doing it, and doing it well. I was humbled by it because no one gave me a fucking dime to help me get started. I seriously had to hustle for members.

I wanted to hold my members accountable. Right off the bat I did. I didn’t want them to be like me, because I would recognize it and be pissed off with it. In my On Ramp classes, I made it very clear that there are two ways to cheat:

  1. Omitting reps. For example, if there were 20 Wall Ball in a workout, the athlete would do 18 instead. But EVERY ROUND.
  2. Half-ass reps. Not hitting full ROM on a movement. For example, not getting your chin above the bar on a pull up. But MOST REPS.

I get it. Sometimes you’ll be doing 100 double unders in your fourth round and you get completely fucked up in your head with the count. We’ve all been there.

What I have a problem with is the intentional rep shaving. Or if I go over proper squat depth in a skill session and then all of a sudden an athlete goes half the depth during the workout. I don’t get it. I try to go back to when I would cheat and it was because I wanted to be the best. I was young(er) then and wanted to impress the people I was working out with. I didn’t have the psyche I had after opening CF845. And looking back, that is no excuse.

I matured.

The definition of integrity is: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. People work their fucking asses off in the gym. That’s what really drives me nuts. On one hand you get Sally off in the corner hitting every single rep, not giving a fuck about the amount of rounds she gets, just keeping it honest. That’s what she was taught to do, what she was brought up on in her early CrossFit days. At CF845 we ingrain that into our athletes’ heads during the first couple of days (On Ramp) at our gym. Then you got Nicky No Reps. This guy will go through the same intro program (On Ramp) that Sally went through, then not give a shit about how important it is not to cheat, and then bang out 32 rounds of “The Chief,” and claim that he did the workout prescribed. All the while not getting low in the squat and not locking out any push ups.

Why? The old saying, “you’re only cheating yourself” is so lame. It’s more than that. You are blatantly disrespecting the coaches and the other athletes who work their asses off. Seriously, if you are reading this and you know you cheat, remember that. The coaches pride themselves in their cueing and knowledge of excellent movement. They spend hours, and money, on making you better. And for you to throw it back in our faces? C’mon man. All we ask is that you take these principles and apply them to your workout. Otherwise, what’s the point of coaches coaching? Let’s just have an Open Gym concept where you can put 500lbs. on your back, squat down six inches, rerack the bar, and say your 1RM Back Squat is now 500lbs…. raw of course.

People just don’t have “it,” and they never will. It’s what’s between the ears which yields the small mind. However, I can’t say all people won’t change though. I have had many awkward conversations where I’ve pulled athletes into the office and had the talk with them. For some, it goes really well. They recognize it, make the adjustments, and they’ll never do it again. I appreciate that. Others are simply not coachable. They will get defensive, deny it, and now I’m the asshole. I can only do so much, but everyone else in the room working out with these type of non-coachable athletes can see you too.

To all the athletes who are cutting corners: we know who you are, the other members know who you are, and you need to clean your shit up. Find excellence in all of your movement.

Dave Aisenstat is the Founder, Owner, and Head Coach at CrossFit 845.
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