The Novice’s Curse


“Typically the world’s best athletes are minimalists when it comes to their training. They work hard and fast with few exercises. They master the fundamentals and work with them for years. This is the secret that no one wants to hear.”
Greg Glassman 

“The novice’s curse is manifested as excessive adornment, silly, creative, weak fundamentals, and ultimately, a marked lack of virtuosity and delayed mastery.”
Greg Glassman 

Never have I found in so few words, such a great summary of virtuous training and programming, than in the two quotes above. In my early days of CrossFit I obsessed over the philosophy that embodied CrossFit. Fitness as a sport was new to me, but to combine its efficacy with the philosophy of minimalism, I was hooked and I knew I had to learn more. Sure the workouts themselves, the competition, the community, these were all great notions and ideas, but the revolutionary ideas of ‘less is more,’ the concept of ‘mastering fundamentals,’ I couldn’t get enough. It was a concept I was already grown up. From high school athletics, into the little league teams that I coached; it was at its highest form, a pillar of my personality. We would win games by focusing on executing fundamentals better than the other teams. It was beautiful in its simplicity, and unstoppable in its application on the field. I read every single book by John Wooden and other great coaches.

Almost 10 years later and very little has changed. I am still in love with the ideas of mastering the fundamentals, still in love with the perfection of minimalist training, and am still very much in love with the grassroots that began and still drive the CrossFit methodology.  

However, what happens when those fundamentals that carried their own charisma seem just elementary? I’ve always told people that most work paramount to CrossFit is not sexy. Row sprints are not sexy. Working on chest to bar efficiency is not sexy. Perfecting the air squat is a snooze-fest. 

Fundamentals. Are. Not. Sexy. 

Thus comes the rub of the business, CrossFit vs. Marketing. When the people want sexy programming, exciting programming, more “stuff” to do, what do you do? Marketing 101 states you meet the demand, right? But at what cost to the athletes? Knowing full well John Doe should not be doing a four-part training session, what do you do as a Coach when he is paying you and wants it? Welcome to the current CrossFit conundrum. It’s funny: I get coffee with an Affiliate owner once a week, it’s kinda become my thing. Depending on who I’m meeting with, you hear polar opposite points of view. Depending on your lens, neither is wrong. One side sees the purity and efficacy of CrossFit programming, while the other treats it more as a business providing the desired service to the market that demands it. 

*Cop out warning* 

The unfortunate answer is neither is incorrect; it simply depends from which side of the shore you stand. I think I have made it abundantly clear from my philosophy on which side I stand. My “simple” programming has sent myself to Regionals two years, and placed me in the top 65 position over four times. I don’t ever feel the need to defend my philosophy or style because I have been fortunate enough to simply prove it by results. However, I see other gym owners that feel the pull of the current market – ironically enough injury rates tend to increase with this trend – and I see them fighting the good fight. I see their athletes leaving their gym to do their own thing in their garage because they “need more.” I’ve seen programming that makes me as a Coach absolutely cringe. Unfortunately, I see the fight being swayed by Matt Fraser’s sixth workout of the day. I see people enjoying sweat fests that last hours, only to see their actual capacity to perform work at a high intensity not improve at all. 

To you Box owners, to stay true to what has worked is difficult, but to give into the pressure and risk injury loses something you cannot get back – the integrity of your Affiliate. I will always take pride in our Affiliate’s fundamental and virtuous culture; and when asked point blank why we do what we do, I can only smile and say, “Because it works.” 

Gabriel Perez the owner of CrossFit North Pasadena and part owner of CrossFit Altadena, both located in Pasadena, California. He has his L2 and his MBA from Azusa Pacific University. He has competed as an individual at the 2012 and 2013 CrossFit SoCal Regionals. Contact him at