Four lessons that I learned at CrossFit that can help you

by Steven Witter, CFP®

As many of you know, I am a member of a CrossFit gym. The values and philosophies I’ve learned at CrossFit have helped how I manage your finances. What my coaches do there is similar to what I do with people’s money every day. I am a coach for your wealth while they are a coach for your health.  

Here are the four lessons that I learned at CrossFit that can help you:

I don’t know what to do so I will do nothing

It was October of 2013, and like many of us stuck in a fitness rut, I didn’t know what to do, so I was doing nothing. I’d heard of a CrossFit gym that opened near my house, and I decided to go check out a free class. I was an athlete in high school and college and am still heavily involved in a lot of recreational leagues, but I felt that I was getting out of shape and was looking for something new. I remember being nervous and not knowing what to expect as I could count on one hand the number of times I’d ever lifted weights before. On top of that, when I did wander into a gym, I never sought the advice of a trainer or coach and just did what I saw other people doing.  

I imagine a lot of my prospective clients have a similar nervous feeling before coming into a financial planning meeting. Maybe they know they are spending too much, not saving enough, or are so worried about making the wrong decision that they end up making no decisions at all.

You need to want it

I walked into the CrossFit gym for the first time, feeling entirely out of my element and unsure of what to expect. The coach introduced himself and had me sign a waiver. Then the class started with a 15-minute warm-up, after which I am already completely exhausted and worried I won’t be able to finish out the class. After the warm-up, the coach goes over the workout, which was a team workout consisting of four teams with about five people per team. The workout was three rounds of pushing a weighted sled 50 yards and then sprinting 400 meters. I looked around and thought I was in pretty good shape compared to some of the other people, so I should be okay. Well, round one came along, and I pushed the sled as fast as I could then sprinted out the 400m. When it gets back to being my turn for round two, I still can’t breathe and tell my team that I need to skip round two, but I’ll be back for round three. Round three came around, and I still couldn’t catch my breath, so I told them I was done. I ended up going home embarrassed that I exerted myself for no more than five minutes and couldn’t move the rest of the day. Right then and there, I decided I needed to change and joined the CrossFit gym.  

We are all somewhere on the spectrum of “wanting it” or being ready for change. I talk to my clients in a way that helps me figure out where they are on that spectrum because, for any change to be successful in life, we all have to be ready. We all want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families, to have a nice lifestyle, and to be comfortable in retirement. We’re products of our upbringing, and our financial decision-making is shaped very early on in life. To change a way of thinking that is so deeply rooted in all of us can be a slow process. Just getting a coach or financial planner isn’t going to change your health or your wealth. A CrossFit coach can’t lift the weight for you, and I can’t stop you from spending money. You have to show up, listen to the advice, and want to make a change.

It takes time to see a change.

Since I joined my CrossFit gym, I have done close to a 1000 WODs (workouts of the day). This is far more than I ever would have done on my own or pushed myself to do without the guidance and support of my CrossFit coach. All the data I’ve tracked on my progress shows how much stronger I am than I was when I first joined. I even gained an unexpected byproduct of all of this hard work and sweat; I am more mentally tough, present, and self-aware. I feel so much better prepared to handle all of life’s challenges. The sense of confidence I’ve gained is invaluable. I stuck with it, pushed myself, and committed to making a change – and here I am, six years later, reaping the benefits mentally and physically.

Isn’t this similar to financial planning? Yes! The part most advisors tell you and forget to counsel you on is the hard fact that it’s going to take time. We get on the fast track with some huge financial goal only to start slowing down as life and reality get in the way. Maybe you have an emergency, have to pay for daycare, lose your job, or if you are like me, your four-month-old puppy breaks his leg and needs an orthopedic surgeon to insert a pin into his leg (thanks Ruben!). You may have spent the last several decades acquiring the bad financial habits that have gotten you to where you are now. Let’s be realistic in assuming that it might take some time to overcome them. You’ll be a lot happier with the journey when you don’t focus on immediate results and instead focus on sound financial principles and habits. Let me repeat; financial success doesn’t happen overnight! I can help you get realistic and set yourself up for success, but remember step one starts with you.

It takes a village

Could I have learned all of these lessons on my own? Sure, but it would have taken double the time and probably multiple failures before I got there. Also, I hadn’t done any weightlifting in the previous fifteen years of my life, so why did I think I would suddenly be good at it when I first started? It took the accountability of a coach to help get real lasting results, and I achieved them much faster with him there pushing me than I would have on my own. Plus, I don’t have to spend my time thinking or learning about what I should be doing to see results. Instead, I just have to show up and listen to their expert advice. This is just like working with a financial planner; people could invest their time and try and learn everything that I learned, getting my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification or they could start a relationship with me and save themselves time and potentially achieve their goals faster.