“What is Culture?”

“What is Culture”

In CrossFit’s methodology, we have a protocol for testing that we’re delivering broad and inclusive fitness using four foundational models;

“Our first model evaluates our efforts against a full range of general physical adaptations; in the second the focus is on breadth and depth of performance; with the third the measure is time, power and consequently energy systems; and the fourth is on health markers. It should be fairly clear that the fitness that CrossFit advocates and develops is deliberately broad, general, and inclusive.” – The CrossFit L-1

Through these agreed upon principles, we build a practice that allows for individual expression in programming with a baseline to ensure inclusive outcomes and the broadest fitness possible. CrossFit’s variance across these concepts drives it’s uniquely effective nature. Your gym, these outcomes.

 

If our programming is not accidental (varied, not random), then nor is our culture of how we deliver it and the spaces where we gather to do it. The two are inextricably linked and when done well, make CrossFit the tremendously special place we all know it can be. When you start, culture is the product of everything you do (and don’t do) as an owner. It is a living, breathing thing that is the collective outcome of speech and actions. Over time that culture will create habits and they will define your community.

 

Especially at the beginning, the culture of your gym will largely mirror your values more than anyone else. Therefore, being mindful of that is important and requires reflection before opening. The better you understand yourself, the stronger and more inclusive your culture and successful your gym will become (both as a profitable business and beacon of health). Your gym will not be for everyone – that is an impossible goal, it will ultimately be for anyone who shares the values of the culture you build and finds representation of their journey in your methods and practices. Just as our agreed goal is the broadest fitness possible, that equally applies for our community and culture.

 

Inclusivity is the product of representation. Inclusive fitness programming means learning the snatch as much as it does being able to run a 5k. You as an owner, likely have a proclivity towards one or the other (maybe you even like burpees), however – if they all aren’t given representation in your programming – we know we simply won’t build the fittest athlete possible given the proven CrossFit methodology. By definition, it will not be inclusive fitness and not CrossFit. “Fitness in 100 words” does not include, “just practice crushing metcons everyday” (even if some of your members want that).

 

That means that inclusive practice requires work and deliberate reflection. Just as you will assess your programming for gaps, you must equally assess your gym’s culture and community for who is not represented as Coaches and members and seek to fill those same gaps. The investigation of why certain groups are absent will yield a stronger community, active facilitation of inclusivity and representation to change that will build greater strength. Of this there is no doubt. As much as we’re encouraged to learn and play new sports, as leaders we must regularly learn to extend our communities beyond ourselves.

 

Just as the definition of CrossFit’s fitness has four tenets to prove it’s veracity, the definition of CrossFit’s communities can benefit from the same;

  1. Celebrate every body

    1. Members want your attention, when they see it go towards every body – they understand that’s important to you, they will model those behaviors.

    2. Discuss bodies in terms of what they can do, not their physical appearance.

  2. Asking who is not here?

    1. Seeking greater representation – this doesn’t happen by accident. “Not seeing color/body size/sexual orientation” isn’t an option, because everyone who is of color, body size or sexual orientation, is very much aware of their absence in your space.

    2. Members who identify with you will connect faster with you, members who don’t simply won’t. Therefore, a stronger community requires representation in Coaching that matches a diverse community.

    3. This does not happen accidentally, you can easily attract those who identify with you, but your most powerful potential as a leader will come from creating a culture transcendent of you. That becomes a community.

  3. Non-gendered outcomes

    1. Physical expression comes heavily bound in gendered language, which can present limitations.

    2. Discussing equipment and actions in terms of purpose and stimulus will create space for flexibility and inclusion (not to mention better Coaching). How many times have you watched a new person identifying as male pick up a 45 pound barbell because they saw other men doing it when they had no business using it? All the time. Your word choices determine how that becomes a learning opportunity.

  4. Fostering intention, not expectation

    1. What is the difference between programming a “1 Rep Max” and a “Heavy single”? Intention. In that example, if the athlete doesn’t set a personal record (rep max), they are more likely to feel defeated, when maybe they are plenty strong, but had a poor night of sleep beforehand, which to them, just derailed two months of progress. A “heavy single”, still checks the program inclusion checklist of a compound weight lifting movement expressed via the phosphogenic energy system (powerful neuroendocrine adaptation – your back of house speak – please don’t ever coach like that..) and what they get is a feeling of accomplishment while we know they’re getting fitter. This doesn’t mean never write “1 rep max”, but rather understand how words frame intentional practice.

 

The hierarchy of needs presented by CrossFit has always assumed but not definitively labeled a section prior to it’s baseline of nutrition that is most critical. Belonging. A concept critical to our needs as humans and core to a healthy culture. Through the practice of a broad, inclusive community – we stand to deliver on that most bedrock of human needs in a unique and profound way.

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