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The Problem With Shaming

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about fit-shaming and fat-shaming …  and Crossfit-shaming. Somewhere, somebody has a problem with every type of exercise.

Olympic lifting is too difficult to learn. Crossfit’s programming is stupid. Powerlifting is too slow and will make me slow. Athlete’s are only good at their sport and not anything else. Figure models are too thin. Bodybuilders are too big. Where does it end?

I’ll tell you where I originally got the idea to write this post. We were in the gym on Monday morning and we spent a solid half of an hour talking about the Crossfit games and steroids. It started by chatting about the Crossfit girls. Of course, our first concern was how big their arms and legs were. Then it got to talking about the men and guys like Rich Froning.

Fittest *to Do Crossfit* on Earth

Usually, I don’t like to give out my two cents in blog posts unless it’s absolutely warranted, but I’m going to here. There are definitely steroids in Crossfit. There, I said it. The mystery behind the Crossfit Games workouts and the “broad time and modal domains” are supposed to keep the playing field even. It’s all about fair play. But the truth of the matter is that there are probably some athletes that are using performance-enhancing drugs and some that aren’t. Then, is it still fair play if competitors are using steroids? Is it still fair to other competitors? What about Crossfitters whose abilities aren’t quite Crossfit Games material. Could they be, if it wasn’t for PEDs? Maybe.

But I’m not biased against Crossfit. Patriots’ defensive back Brandon Browner is going to miss the first four games of this season because of PED use. Rodney Harrison was receiving HGH days before the 2004 Super Bowl. Steroid use is rampant in baseball and guys are missing Hall of Fame votes because of it. Hockey, my favorite sport, has steroid users in it. And we don’t even need to start on Lance Armstrong or professional bodybuilders.

Even the arguable current face of the NFL, Richard Sherman, failed a drug test but won his appeal.

Next Madden cover?

[And just as an aside, steroids don’t always make you huge. They can make you big. Or lean. Or just help your recovery so that you can workout more.]

Steroids are everywhere. They’re in every major sport, in every country. So this isn’t an attack on Crossfit. Or baseball. Or football. It’s an indictment on our entire way of thinking. Every time you shame somebody, it’s because that person has a quality that ends in “er.” Faster. Stronger. Leaner. Bigger. Fitter. Prettier. Fatter. Muscular-er.

Fat-shaming, fit-shaming, steroid-shaming, it all exists. And it’s terrible. Everything we do as a society is in comparison to everyone else. But why? Who cares how ripped the Jones’ are or whether they’re juiced out of their minds. The grass isn’t greener on Rich Froning’s lawn.

Let’s be honest, this idea of “fitness” is becoming a big thing. Everyone’s in on it, whether they’re an Instagram fitness expert or somebody sitting at home sifting through the expert’s photos. I watched The Breakfast Club last night and here’s what that cast would look like if it was made of “fitness people.” There would be a brain, who enjoys anatomy and physiology more than actual lifting. You’d have the basket case Crossfit athlete, posting their workouts on Facebook even though you didn’t ask to see them. You’d have the athlete, the strong one that looks good no matter what workout he does. You’d have the princess, the one who’s more concerned with the way her meals look on Instagram than her actual workouts. And then the criminal, the guy’s who’s traveling down Steroid Road in order to finally attain the muscle mass and respect from his peers that he desires.

And they all hate each other.

That was, perhaps, the greatest analogy anyone’s ever made.

So here’s what we need to do:

  • Stop steroid-shaming Crossfit and people in general. People that take steroids have a better physiological environment in which to build muscle and get lean. Case closed. If you think it’s unfair to you, take steroids. Or change your attitude, life isn’t about what’s fair.
  • We need to accept steroids as part of our culture. Treat them like a drug addiction. Educate people on the positive and negative effects and let people make their own choices.
  • Let’s treat the underlying causes of fat-ness, fit-ness, and steroid use. People don’t choose to be fat (for the most part). But there may be health problems that should be treated. People who are overly obsessed with their “fitness level” may suffer from psychological issues, just as an overweight person may have food addictions.
  • Please stop writing articles about why fit is pretty or why being fit sucks. And the same goes for being fat.

Truthfully, we need to mind our own damn business a little more and worry about our own progress a little bit more than our neighbors’. The only thing that matters is your own progress. If you are concerned about the physical or mental health of a friend or family member, address it.

If you made yourself stronger, faster, or healthier in the last month, you’ve made progress and you should be proud of that. And that’s not a B.S. line to make you feel better. You should feel accomplished. And if you find someone else that enjoys doing the same stuff and you want to work together, then work together. But don’t get angry if they get one more rep next week.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

I get it, competition drives business. Competition is what gives me a job. I need to do my job better than the coach down the street. But it’s brought us to the point where we ridicule those who affect their health in a positive way and celebrate those who don’t. Competition has also brought us to this FOMO-filled world where your only marker of progress is when you’ve finally achieved what the guy next to you hasn’t.

That’s the problem with shaming.

There was a time when working together was the only way to survive. Teamwork was the only way to make it through something. And ironically, teamwork is one thing that Crossfit promotes extremely well. You don’t need to constantly compete with the guy in the next rack or that other girl on Instagram, only with yourself. Remember, after all is said and done, you will measure your life by whether you enjoyed living it, not whether you lived it “better” according to someone else’s standards.

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