Whether you’re an avid CrossFitter or have never even stepped into a “box,” you’re likely familiar with the concept of the CrossFit blackboard (or, increasingly in most cases, the whiteboard). But does having your daily workout –– along with your personal performance stats –– on display for the duration of the workout help or hurt you as you go about your fitness routine?
As with most things, the (unsatisfying, to be honest) answer is that it can be a little bit of both. Here, we break down some of the pros and cons of the board system.
The case for the blackboard.
One of the biggest pros of the blackboard is undoubtedly motivation. By openly displaying everyone’s individual performance stats for the entire crew of CrossFitters to see, each person can be motivated to perform at a higher level thanks to the sense of healthy competition that’s ignited by the statistical showcase. If one CrossFitter sees that another member of the box happened to kill it on a particular WOD, that CrossFitter may be compelled to push themselves a little harder in order to reach the same milestones or personal best. There’s also the accountability element that ties into motivation, with pretty much any CrossFitter feeling the heat to have every WOD completed lest their lack of completion be displayed for the entire box to see.
Another side of the motivation factor is personal competition, i.e. outperforming yourself, and not just your fellow CrossFitters. This basically works because the blackboard acts as a way for every individual to reinforce and visualize their goals –– and to make sure that they’re continually moving in the right direction. As you continue seeing your numbers improve, the board is a chance for you to celebrate and showcase those wins, however big or small they may be. This in turn helps solidify your progress.
The case against the blackboard.
One of the biggest cons of the blackboard is actually the flipside of the first pro: while that sense of friendly competition that comes from seeing everyone’s stats up on the board can be motivating, that’s not necessarily the case when the competition becomes more distracting than it is motivating. How so? Well, if you’re spending all of your time trying to outperform your fellow CrossFitters per the numbers on the board, chances are that you might start losing track of some of the more important considerations, like your form, your positive attitude, and your focus on goals that are specific to your abilities and journey. Instead of making sure that you’re getting the most of your workout and performing at your best, you can start to put undue pressure on yourself to play a game of catch-up that you really have no business or benefit in playing.
As a spinoff of that, one of the big problems with the blackboard is that it tends to reduce your workout to a number (or several numbers) when in fact there’s a lot more to the picture than that. By getting too focused on the numbers on the board, it’s hard to keep non-quantitative goals top of mind as you go about your workout. So, for example, if one of your biggest goals during a particular CrossFit session is to improve your form while performing your front or back squats, that’s not something that will necessarily be reflected on the board. So, by getting too caught up in what’s on display, you might lose track of some of the bigger picture goals that should be your main drivers sometimes.