Have you ever been really annoyed by those people who turn every single thing they do into a competition?

It doesn’t matter what the activity is, from brushing teeth, parking a car or eating a meal. The fastest or most parallel or biggest, it’s always a ridiculous contest where coming first is the most important thing no matter what.

It can be very amusing to watch – like this scenario:

or this:

On a more serious note, it is sadly quite common to observe some individuals who have “the competitive urge” but a distinct lack of ability to match their desires. This sort of behaviour is manifested in miscounting reps – 1,2,3,5,6,8,10 FINISHED! – or not completing a full range of motion in movements, but counting the attempt as a valid rep regardless.

I can remember seeing someone load a barbell up to a certain weight that was very clearly too heavy. Despite warnings from the coach that the choice of weight was inappropriate, this person stuck to their guns and did not change the weight down. The workout for that class also involved double-unders which this person could only ever do a maximum of 4 on a good day, totally fresh having not lifted any weight.

About 3 reps into the WOD this person, realised that the weight was a bit more than they could handle and all the other class members were already on the next movement so the individual had a quick look around to make sure the coach wasn’t looking, missed out at least 3 reps of the required number and moved onto the double unders. It wasn’t that persons lucky day because they could only do 2 reps at a time and so after cutting out 10 reps of a set of 25, this person made out they had completed a round and moved onto round 2! However before starting round 2, they removed the additional weight off the barbell to the weight the coach had suggested in the first place. This person also stopped doing double unders and switched to single jumps. Why? All because they didn’t want to come last in the workout. The coach was visibly pissed off that this person had not only ignored the advice originally given but then went ahead and changed the rep scheme and changed the weight.

The amusing thing about this whole incident was that this person ended up being the last to finish the workout anyway.

When I look back on this and analyse the whole thing, my first reaction was that this person in question was being quite disrespectful to the coach, the gym and they showed a lack of integrity for allowing poor reps when the coach wasn’t looking. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the need to finish, to do well, the desire to win, to come first, to be the best…it is a very strong innate human emotional urge.

The Ancient Greeks (my old friends again) had a word that described the individual athletic achievement through public competition – the idea of ‘arete’ meant that you did things to excel at them.

I love this idea because the reality of CrossFit is that you have a never ending journey to excel. By always striving to be better you’re becoming a better human being, and if you take this to its logical conclusion, you end up serving mankind in a positive, wonderful way.

Integrity, honesty, hard work and excellence are what makes you a great athlete.

Allowing crappy reps with poor range of motion, or cutting reps short, in many peoples’ eyes just makes you an asshole! You may think you’re still a winner but if you need someone to judge every single rep you do for every single workout, then perhaps you have some insecurity issues or you need to start videoing yourself for every workout so you can no-rep yourself afterwards (and still come last!).

I fully understand the spirit of competition and it really does stink when you do your best but, for example, you enter a competition and end up finishing 81st out of 87. But, if you competed with the spirit of excellence, you can argue it was absolutely worth it, and others around you will appreciate and admire you.

One of the most inspiring moments I remember is of Derek Redmond at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

These were pretty special olympics for personal reasons but this moment was outstanding, with an athlete coming in last place with the help of his dad…