Why shouldn’t you cheat at CrossFit? In short, because it’s a d move. But you know that already. So let’s take a more sympathetic look at why you might be cheating, and why you might want to reconsider.

There are a lot of studies out there that suggest that everyone will cheat a little, at something, at some time. Freakonomics authors, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt explain that this doesn’t mean that everyone is cheating all the time but that everyone will cheat to a greater or lesser degree in some area of their life. Dubner and Levitt have conducted a range of studies across all walks of life from students to sumo wrestlers, applying economics principles to uncover the weird and wonderful patterns that uncover cheating.

How much or when you cheat depends on your moral compass and many of these studies suggest that people play a balancing act between the stakes or incentives and what they can morally justify to themselves. You might take a pen from work but you wouldn’t take a computer. You might ‘lose track’ of a few reps in the middle of Karen on any given Thursday, but you wouldn’t make up a finish time for a spot at Regionals.

Or maybe you would. It depends on your own internal assessment all of the elements including the stakes, your chance of getting caught and, most of all, your ability to rationalise the decision to yourself. So your thought process might be something like this: I’ll round up a few reps because I know I could do it if I tried BUT I won’t knock five minutes off of my score to get to Regionals because it would make me feel too uncomfortable. The stakes don’t have to be big, so long as you can justify it (the cheating).

So why might you cheat at CrossFit? Maybe you’re tired and the number of reps seems unachievable. Maybe you just want to make it seem a little easier and knocking off a rep here and there gives you the mental reassurance that you have control and you can get through it. Maybe you find it easy to convince yourself that you’ve missed count. Maybe it’s because you are struggling on the day and you know you could do better ‘usually’. Maybe you are trying to keep up with or beat another athlete. Maybe you feel insecure about your performance. Maybe that’s the weight you wish you could lift or think you should be able to. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Even though your reasons for cheating might have more to do with confidence and comfort, and it is likely that everyone is cheating in some way, somewhere (even if it is just a little bit) … here are some reasons you should cut the cheating out of your CrossFit training.

1. You don’t actually get the benefits

W.C. Fields is alleged to have said that, “A thing worth having is a thing worth cheating for”. The thing is, at CrossFit, the thing worth having is the results – it is your fitness and your ability to perform. If the program says four sets X six reps and you stop after three, you only get the benefits of three sets… no matter what you write on the board. This is not to say that you shouldn’t scale if you’re tired or injured but don’t kid yourself that you have done the work if you have been lopping off reps and sets like a professional topiarist.

2. It undermines your confidence under pressure

So you have a killer Grace time every time you throw down at your box. But how about when you have to perform it in the Open or at a comp? ‘Generous’ counting doesn’t do you any favours when it comes to performing under pressure. Instead of the rock solid reassurance that you have put in the hard yards and you can execute a workout the same way you have practiced over and over, you will front up to competition with a niggling sense of self-doubt because you know you have never done this ‘for real’ and because you are now accountable for every rep.

3. People will benchmark off of you (and they should be able to)

Run your own race, don’t worry about what other people do etcetera, etcetera and all that jazz… But the reality is that people of similar abilities will gauge their performance based on the performance of others around them. Someone else shouldn’t go home feeling like they haven’t performed well just because you snatched 40kgs, packed your weights up as quickly as possible and then claimed that your ‘pretty sure it was 45kgs’ when the coach asks for your weight.

4. No one cares what time you post

You can’t fake an entire workout so even the most ‘generous’ counting style is probably going to sit you in the same ballpark performance-wise; if you are intermediate, you are still going to finish in an intermediate time, if you’re relatively weak at squats, you’re still going to be relatively weak at squats. The 10 second gains, extra five kilos or beating one or two extra people is not going to miraculously turn you into a superstar in the eyes of everyone at your box. And, while people might have a rough idea of where you sit in relation to them (as discussed above), no one really cares where you finish. No one is going to look at your score and think ‘Gee, I thought Ken could have lifted 2.5kgs more’. No one is going to judge you if you finish 30 seconds slower… or even if you finish last. You are running a big risk to your reputation for imaginary gains.

5. But they care if you cheat

No one cares about the results you post – but they care if you cheat. You don’t know when someone is watching. Your coach might be spot checking your reps, another athlete might be trying to go rep for rep with you in a WOD, or maybe someone is just watching you lift for no particular reason at all… but people see what you do and your coach knows what you are capable of. Once you get a reputation as someone who cuts reps, shaves their time or generously rounds up their weight… you have lost your credibility. And you will never get it back.