“Comparison is the death of joy.”

Mark Twain

The whiteboard. That 2’x3′ piece of laminate has been my teacher and the lessons are not always fun. When I first started Crossfit I would zealously check the board every time I went to WOD, especially since I always go to the last WOD of the day. Who posted what numbers? Of the women I use as benchmarks, who did what? Then I would use their numbers as my goal. This was sometimes bad.  My first overuse-injury-of-stupidity was a direct result of me pushing myself to a benchmark that was based on another persons performance. That would be the shoulder injury, by the way, where I determined I would do at least 13 rounds of Cindy. I got 13+ and a bum shoulder for 2 weeks. Not the win I was hoping for!

A blank whiteboard

Nemesis? Or training tool? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using someone else as a benchmark is perfectly healthy as long as you recognize that you must scale. Why scale? For one thing, it allows you to develop the power and strength that will get you up to Rx and Firebreather status (read that article, it put scaling into a whole new light for me). For another, scaling prevents injury and caters to your current abilities. Looking at whiteboard numbers says nothing about a person’s mental, physical, and emotional status on that day. Maybe I got crap for sleep last night or am slightly hungover. There’s no way I can compare my performance to someone who slept a solid 8 hours and sipped on water all evening. Sleep, food, hydration, recovery, stress…all of these things will affect performance. And what about genetics?

I’m stuck blessed with the genes I got, with only some leeway when it comes to gene expression. Somebody else might physically look like me — similar body type, height, weight — but odds are that their genotype is dramatically different than mine. I personally am a mesomorph with a familial tendency to build muscle quickly and lose it slowly, making me excellent at weightlifting and other strength-based exercises. Someone else at the box might be a mesomorph who builds muscle slowly but has a greater capacity for endurance. Or maybe they develop explosive power more quickly than I do. One day we might reach the same exact level of fitness but we’ll always have unique weaknesses and strengths, not to mention lives outside the box.

Eclipse an undefeated British racehorse and ou...

Eclipse, an undefeated British racehorse and outstanding sire. First known racehorse with an over-sized heart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s not forget that observable traits are extremely poor predictors of performance in all species; look at racehorses! Secretariat had an over-sized heart (nearly three times normal size) as well as a huge stride length. The combination of these traits gave him both enormous speed and enormous stamina, allowing Secretariat to set records that still stand four decades later. Thing is, nobody knew about his heart until he died and was necropsied, which means breeders seeking to duplicate Secretariat’s phenotype would have been hard pressed to produce a winner on stride length alone.

Back to the whiteboard. I still check it. I still make a mental note of what I’d like to post up there but, having suffered the consequences of WODing by the whiteboard, I no longer hold myself to that benchmark. I’ve got my own variables to account for, which means my performance goals are fluid. It’s all about me! The competitive side of me still wants to post the best numbers, but the other 60% of me [usually] wins and instead I focus on making that WOD the best laid stone in the yellow brick road of my fitness future.