Hey Competitor… Are you a Champion or a Menace at your gym?
I have a truth to tell you…
It might be hard to hear.
Are you sitting down?
MOST, if not ALL, of the people in the gym don’t care that you are training to compete.
In fact, the people running your gym probably hate it.
It probably isn’t your fault. Chances are, there were some people that came before you that didn’t realize that their habits and behaviors were really obnoxious, and it soured everyone’s opinion of ‘Competitors’.
In this article, we are going to talk about some of the biggest things that frustrate gym owners, coaches, and other members when it comes to Competitors’ training so you can be the champion of your community (and not end up having to find a new place to train because you inadvertently stepped on so many toes).
I’ve actually come up with an acronym to help you remember what not to do: C.O.M.P.P.D., but you’ll have to read through the whole article to learn what it means.
The Biggest Problem: Entitlement
Probably the primary issue that causes all of the rest, is the mindset that because someone is dedicating more time and energy to training, they deserve special treatment.
It makes sense that someone could end up thinking that. They are sacrificing so much time to train. They are tightly controlling what they eat. They are skipping out on social functions to make sure their training isn’t disrupted. They are subjecting themselves to rigorous (and sometimes brutal) workouts almost every day. They are investing money on all kinds of gear, supplements, courses/seminars, etc.
At first, we coaches may encourage some of this because we want people to take their training seriously. It is far more fun to coach someone who is dedicated and motivated. We like to see our charges go out and do well in competitions. Coaches may not admit it, but when their people achieve cool things (and the coach gets to ‘brag’ about it), it makes them feel better about themselves and validate that they are a good coach.
The problems start to arise when this bit of extra help and attention breeds “entitlement.”
Certain “Competitors” start to feel like they deserve more. That they are owed something. They think they should get a discount on memberships or be allowed to use whatever equipment they want (even if the class needs it at the same time). They start to ‘expect’ their coaches to spend extra time coaching them on skills or helping them every time they have a competition coming up.
It is this entitlement that seems to be at the root of all of the behaviors I list later on. But YOU aren’t going to have this problem, be YOU are going to…
The first thing you can do is make sure that you are grounded and humble. You must remember that while you are putting in so much more to your training than the average person, the ‘average’ people are the ones that pay the bills. They are the ones who make sure you have a gym to train at!
It is this group of people who will cheer you on at your competitions, the ones that will promote your fundraiser to cover travel costs, and the ones who will push you on workouts when they can. This is the group where you will find a new crop of teammates who will train with you and make you better.
Every great top performing group is built like a pyramid. In this case, the base is the newer folks who may or may not move up to the next level. These are the regular members who make up 80-95% of the people in classes. The middle layers are the ones who have started to perform at the top of the regular classes or folks who used to compete but have gone into semi-retirement. The final layer and the tip are the cream of the crop. They are only there because they have a wide base to support them.
By understanding that ALL the people at the gym help support you and your dreams of winning, you will show the respect the community deserves, and avoid the pitfalls that will make you a thorn in everyone’s glutes.
Side Note: Remember that, for gym owners, having competitors is a luxury that doesn’t necessarily help the business (and can actually hurt the business). Having elite people doing advanced stuff all the time will ‘scare’ many people away who just want to start with the basics. Combine this with the fact that some competitors look down at regular people who ‘scale’ everything, and you have a recipe for putting a gym out of business.
Support your community by championing the coaches and the process. Help out as much as you can and try to be as inconspicuous as possible when doing your special programming and you’ll become a resource and an inspiration to your community rather than an embarrassment.
What NOT to do
In no particular order, here are some of the most frustrating things you can do as a “Competitor.”
Don’t Walk Around Like You Own the Place
The gym is a community space. It needs to feel like home for everyone who trains there (and not just those who workout there the most).
Here are a few examples as to what it looks like when someone acts like it is their gym and nobody else’s:
- Walking in and dumping your personal gear all over the place so it looks like a yard sale
- Setting up in a huge area for all of your equipment
- ‘Claiming’ you favorite barbell or pull up bar
- Taking equipment that the current class needs
- Not talking to the coach ahead of time to make sure you are out of the way
- Not cleaning your ‘lucky’ knee sleeves, or any other gear that reeks to high heaven
- Asking people to not walk in front of your camera when you are videoing yourself
- Eating gross smelling foods out of Tupperware
These are all examples of subtly telling people that you think that your training (and you) are better than they are.
What to do
Instead of being a ‘bad gym-mate’ (which looks suspiciously like a being a bad roommate), try to make your imprint as small as possible. Always ask the coach if you can use some space or a particular piece of equipment. Ask the class if you can join them for the metcon (instead of assuming). Patiently wait off to the side when the class is finishing up if you need the space. Use your own clock rather than commandeering the gym’s timer on the wall. Avoid making excess noise and disrupting the other members and coaches when training or talking with your friends when a class is going on.
Don’t Leave A Mess
This one is a big one for most coaches and gym owners, and it is usually accidental!
As a Competitor you will be at the gym more, and use far more equipment, than everyone else. Many days, you’ll be there for so long you’ll have to rush out because you have somewhere else to be or because the gym is closing. I also believe that there is a connection to being ‘WOD Drunk’ and losing things, it just happens too often for it to be a coincidence.
Because of this, you’ll forget that you left out that band you were using for mobility 2.5 hours ago, or that coffee cup you brought in this morning. You will have left a sock over by the computer or your bag of protein by the water.
It is also common for people doing a lot of volume to get chalk everywhere. To stack the plates wrong. Or go get ‘lazy’ when putting away the kettlebells and dumbbells.
What to do
The best thing to do here is to keep all of your stuff in one place so it is easier to clean up when you are leaving (and you aren’t running around the gym looking for that lost wrist wrap). It is also a good idea to put things away as you finish with them. Literally finish your set with a ‘scaled up’ loaded carry to the place where it belongs.
Before you leave, try to leave the gym cleaner than you found it. Do a ‘walk around’ and put things in their place. Remember that mess begets mess. If the gym looks like Tony (Scarface) Montana’s mansion after a wild cocaine party, it is more likely that people after you will be less diligent about putting things away as well.
Don’t be Self Absorbed - Online Etiquette
Many of you will want to document your journey on social media, and that is a good thing! Sure, it is great to get likes and comments when you are doing cool stuff, but it is also great to show where you struggle and that you are putting in the work. The biggest benefit to yourself is when you can look back at those videos and pictures 6 months or a year from now and see how far you have come.
Where it can get frustrating for the rest of the gym is when you only post about yourself, and you don’t give ‘props’ to the gym and the coaches. It is really disappointing for the people working at the gym when the only time you tag a coach or a gym is when you are training somewhere else or when you are at a competition. I’ll also give you another little ‘secret’… if you catch snippets of other people at the gym and tag them, you’ll build a bigger fan base and let the world know that you aren’t only about yourself!
What to do
When you are posting online, make sure you are giving the gym and your coaches a shout out as well! Tag the gym and use the right hashtags. Take pictures and videos of the other people at the gym and give them some love. Make your feed about your journey AND the community around you!
Don’t Look down on beginners or ‘regular’ folks
Believe it or not, but I have personally had to talk to ‘Competitors’ about this.
After training hard for years, it can be easy to become disconnected to where you started and hard to relate to people who are starting from ground zero.
Snickering in the corner, sending text messages/videos in private groups, making people feel ‘bad’ because they had to scale… These are some of the WORST things you can do. People are already self-conscious. If you start adding fuel to fire, you are not only going to make them feel worse, you are going to lose a fan or even make them quit the gym.
This one is usually only an issue with certain individuals and in the wrong environment. But it can creep up inadvertently if you aren’t careful because you are going to be at the gym more often and see a wider range of abilities. It can start with something as simple as making a ‘shocked’ face when you see someone do something wrong or with bad form, then escalate to pointing things out to your training partners. Do not let yourself get caught up in this, and set people straight if you see it going on.
What to do
As a Competitor, you aren’t the same as a coach, but you are a ‘leader’ in the community. People are paying attention to what you are doing and how you are acting. Remember that these people are part of your community and should be your biggest fans. They are also where your training partners are going to come from and who will be donating and buying shirts.
Keep in mind that people starting out have their own hurtles to overcome and that everyone has to start somewhere. Give advice when appropriate, and give encouragement all the time. Tell people about what you struggled with so they can relate to you and see how far they can go if they apply themselves.
It is also good to know that losing 100lbs or a woman getting her first pull up is more impressive than any Competitor going from 11 muscle ups to 13 or getting a sub 3 Fran.
For the most part focus on the fact that you are on the same path, they are just at a different point than you right now.
Don’t take and not give - Not volunteering/participating
With your training taking up a lot of your time, it will be easy to skip out on helping out at the gym and going to the community events.
The problem is that the sport runs on volunteers!
Competitors who only train by themselves (never come to regular classes), who never volunteer to help out at events, or never come to events at all… send a signal that says ‘I am too good for this.’ This may not be the case, but it will be perceived this way.
They are like the people that come to the party without bringing anything, only to eat all the food and drink all of the booze before stinking up the bathroom and leaving before the cleanup.
What to do
Come to class as much as possible. Even if you just do the warm up and the lift together. Stick around and hang out with folks after class. Volunteer to help judge or put equipment away at your gym’s events and local comps. Come to the gym parties and fundraisers, help out when you can. Cheer people on when they are doing a metcon in class, and help them with their equipment.
If you want people to cheer you on and support you. If you want events to participate in. If you want to be an asset to the community… You need to volunteer and participate
Don’t only hang out with other ‘serious’ competitors
When you are putting out some serious sweat, blood, and tears, with the same people over and over again, you end up sharing some pretty strong bonds. It is natural to feel ‘closer’ to the people you train with a lot. You will also be spending a significant amount of time with them because of all of the extra training that goes into being a Competitor.
Over time, these people may become close friends or your ‘clique’. The problem is that when you only hang out with these people (at or outside of the gym) you begin to make everyone else feel like outsiders.
Nobody likes to feel like they aren’t one of the ‘cool kids’. This is another time where the damage is usually is inadvertent. You don’t realize that people are seeing you and your friends as ‘stuck up’ or ‘snobby’.
What to do
Foster those close relationships with your training partners, but make sure you are including other people as well. Do skill work with them. Invite other people to your ‘out of gym’ group activities. Include them in your conversations at the gym. Ask them about their training and give advice if you can.
Summary and C.O.M.P.P.D.
Here is a summary of what to do if you want people to NOT like you, and possibly get you kicked out of the gym. I’ve put them into a little acronym to help you remember: “COMPPD” (aka ‘comped’)
- C - Only hang out with the ‘COOL kids’
- O - Walk around like you OWN the place
- M - Leave a MESS
- P - Only POST about yourself
- P - Never volunteer/PARTICIPATE
- D - Look DOWN on people
Take these lessons to heart.
Become a Champion to your community and an asset to your gym.
You’ll have more fun training and get even better along the way!