An alternate title for this post was “Strong(wo)men, Get Over Yourselves,” but since I’d prefer you read first before getting angry, here we are. I have always had a hard time with unsportsmanlike behavior, and I don’t know if I’m more attune to it right now or it’s actually on the rise in the Strongman community, but it’s disappointing. In case no one has told you, the vast majority of us in strength sports are never, ever going to pull a paycheck from what we do. Most of the pros don’t make enough money doing this to quit their day jobs, and most of us would be lucky to eventually earn a pro-card. So why, then, do we participate at all?
I got into this to be strong. I have stayed in this because of relationships. That said, there’s some real serious ugliness in this community. On the “big” Strongman stage, we’ve gotten to watch professional strongmen (and many amateurs) shit ALL OVER Larry Wheels—powerlifter/bodybuilder who’s dabbling in Strongman—out of what looks an awful lot like their own insecurity. Larry has been training with Thor out in Iceland, has a big ol overhead press, and people can’t shut up about it. On the small scale, I’ve firsthand heard women say, “Hahaha, well we can be friends after I beat you in XYZ competition,” to other competitors.
BRUH. WHO SAYS THAT? If I’m friendly with you, I’m friendly with you whether we’re competing at the Arnold or throwing shots back at the bar. I understand being competitive, but there’s a fine line between competitive and ugly, and some of you are towing that line HARD. Two years ago, I vowed I’d never compete in El Paso again after I won and was approached by one competitor and told, “It’s nice to finally have some competition in West Texas,” (which she clearly did not think was nice) and another competitor’s significant other said (right behind me in line), “It’s all good, babe. At least you only got beat by a fat chick.” I’m now signed up for that same competition in 4 weeks, deciding I wasn’t going to let the bad behavior of two people ruin a whole group of awesome people for me.
So where does my CrossFit shout out come into all this? When CrossFit Lubbock took in my training partner and I, we were, quite literally, gym-homeless. From Day 1 in the box, I have felt like part of the family. Coaches and members introduced themselves the whole first week. To this day, they invite us to their WODs, sometimes jump in on our workouts, and generally keep an eye on us, even though we’re not actively participating in the workouts they run. This, my friends, is why people are drawn to CrossFit.
I don’t think anyone at CrossFit Lubbock would be upset with me for saying that in their community, much like in Strongman, the vast majority of the athletes at the box are never going to compete at the CrossFit Games. Does that stop them from showing up and working? Does that mean they get resentful of others who are new or stronger or better? No, not that I’ve seen. Shoot, one of the coaches walks 15+ miles a day—15.MILES.A.DAY. I don’t drive 15 miles most days—before coming to coach, and even on exhausting days, he’s got a smile, a kind word, and a fist bump for anyone who’s doing the work. CrossFit, at least at the micro-level that I’m experiencing it, calls people in, not out. And let me tell you what: if I were brand new and compared a CrossFit experience to being told, “We can be friends after I beat you,” I know where I’d take my strength.
To end this, I guess I get it. For some people, their strength sport is super important and competitive and damn it all to hell, they want to become that 0.001% that make a living off of all this. My strength sport is important to me too, but not for the sake of winning or trying to make it big. It’s important because it’s brought some of the best people I know into my life. It’s taught me about my body and my brain in ways no classroom has even done. Winning is awesome, but being surrounded by salt-of-the-earth, kind-hearted people is infinitely more important to me.