Cheaters Anonymous

By Coach Manny Alayon

Every CrossFit gym’s “elephant in the room”. Cheating on a workout is something that happens at nearly every CrossFit gym. It is something that as coach’s we see way more than we want to. We choose not to talk about it very much, as it takes away time from what we should be doing (coaching). But I do believe that it is something that has to be talked about it, since it can most certainly affect your community. The way I define cheating may differ from the actual definition or perhaps how others view cheating. I always like to define some variables before I get talking. So here we go:

Cheating is INTENTIONAL. I don’t believe in cheating by accident. In other words, the person cheating KNOWS he/she is cheating and has chosen to cheat. WOD cheating comes in two primary forms: rep shaving and ROM shaving. Rep shaving is the intentional “miscount” of repetitions or rounds in a workout. It is the most common form of cheating. This form is hard to catch a good athlete doing, simply because it is unbelievable that a high caliber athlete would do such a thing. Every now and then you may raise an eyebrow at a score, but convince yourself that perhaps you aren’t that good and that the other person is a Games athlete compared to you. As coaches we spot this easier than you think. We know the seconds per rep of nearly every movement in CrossFit. You are not fooling your coach when you finish 30 wallball shots in :45 seconds. We know this is actually impossible based on the amount of time it takes to perform 30 repetitions. What is ironic about rep shavers is the use of the “miscount” excuse. Over time we have found this excuse to be a very rare occurrence and is mostly invalid because, ironically, they NEVER do more reps than prescribed, they always do less.

The ROM shaver may look like a common WOD cheater except there is a vast difference between them and the people who are ignorant to the standard, have a lack experience or have a physical limitation. If you are experienced and are capable of achieving the standard and INTENTIONALLY choose not to, that is cheating. Here is an example to help paint the picture: Bob is newish to CrossFit, has the physical capabilities but may lack the body awareness because of his experience. Bob does air squats and is not hitting the full ROM. Coach comes over and corrects it. Bob is now aware and is really trying to hit the standard. Bob may miss a few reps here and there, but Bob is NOT cheating in my opinion. Bob may not really be able tell the difference between hitting the full ROM or not because of his lack of body awareness (due to his minimal experience). During that same workout, Jane is not hitting full ROM on her air squats. Jane has been CrossFitting for a few years now and is an above average athlete. Coach comes over and corrects it. Jane begins to do the full ROM but when coach turns around, Jane begins doing what she was doing before. When coach is looking, Jane goes back to full ROM. Jane is cheating. Jane was aware and chose to do the wrong thing. Jane is not being ignorant. We know this because of the thought process that went on in her head “when coach was looking”. Jane has her reasons for cheating. Let’s chat about that…

A person may cheat for various reasons. Since owning a gym and witnessing cheating from all types of people, I have really thought about the psychology behind cheating to understand the “why”. I’ve become very aware of people’s “why” just from normal daily interactions with them. I’ve gotten very good at knowing if someone has cheated v. someone who has “lost count”. There are characteristics that are extremely common between people that cheat v. people that do not. The most common reasons for our WOD cheaters are: competitiveness, anxiety and fear of discomfort. I am sure there are more, however, these are the most common ones I have encountered over time. The competitive cheater will rep shave or ROM shave to beat someone in a workout. Sometimes they want to be known as “top dog” in the gym. It is the most common type of cheater IMO. The anxiety cheater may rep shave or ROM shave because of self consciousness. They may feel an expectation from themselves or they fear what others may think about them. They do this primarily to blend in and not feel bad about themselves. The fear of discomfort cheater may rep shave or ROM shave towards the end of a workout. They work hard in the beginning, staying true to themselves, but then the “creep” starts settling in; shortness of breath, heavy legs and panic starts to overwhelm. To put themselves out of their own misery, the rep shaving or ROM shaving begins. This type of cheater is the hardest to spot. Those things don’t pop up on our radar as easily. Body language, composure and facial expression are big takeaways we have noticed from those individuals.

This post was not intended to be a witch hunt. I’ve actually given that up years ago when I realized that my purpose is NOT to count people’s reps. Even when brought to my attention, I have blown it off and I instruct my coaches to do the same. Our job as coaches is to give you the tools you need to be better. If you choose not to use those tools, than that is your own fault. It is something you must hold yourself accountable for and deal with. There are way too many people that are honest that want to improve themselves. It would be a waste of our time to call out every single person on cheating. The beauty of something like this is it may resonate with some of you reading this. It may make some of you upset, because let’s face it, no one likes to be called out on their shit. However, there is always room and opportunity to change. Cheating is a choice and as humans we have free will. You can read this and choose to change and reap the true benefits of what we offer or you can choose to stay in your shell until the day we actually call you out on it (or someone else does). Keep it real with us and you know we will always keep it real with you.