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Complaining With A Purpose with Coach Jimmy Hirsch

Posted on Mar 31, 17

How Are You Complaining?

“70% of the attractiveness of CrossFit is having permission to complain.” ~ Jimmy Hirsch

In CrossFit, we spend a ton of time discussing our thoughts, feelings, and preferences in response to what is written on the whiteboard. I have often said, “70% of the attractiveness of CrossFit is having permission to complain.” Also, the butts. So, the allure is 30% butts, 70% complaining. We complain before, during, and after the WOD. We complain, “Can we just not do wall balls?” before trying a single one, and we whine, “Wait. We have to do x amount of complex movement?” In fact, if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you or someone you train with has a “hilarious” shirt that says, “buck furpees” or “Burpees don’t like you either,

This is all well and good. I’m not the complaint police. My goal is not to tell you to, “suck it up, buttercup,” or an even worse phrase that I despise, “man up.” What I am telling you is that complaints serve a powerful purpose that can make you a better athlete, worker, and human, IF, the correct action is taken with your complaints. Being aware of hated movements or weaknesses can lead to two adaptations, only one of which is desirable. The first and worst of these is that being in a constant state of reaffirming what you hate will result in possible permanent stagnation or regression in performing skills/movement. The second and more positive effect is that in addressing your own issues, you devise a plan to fix them.

Wherever You Go, There You Are ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

One way to combat the complaining conundrum is by meditating. Anyone who knows me knows that I meditate every morning, mainly because I don’t shut up about it. It is something I really believe in and am convinced is beneficial to everyone. For me, meditating has been an exercise in objectively looking at my world, my circumstances, and myself. Meditating has helped me figure out a lot of things in my life by recognizing issues without judgment. In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are, he discusses the misconception that people who meditate are in a constant zen state without a care in the world. He states, “We must be willing to encounter darkness and despair and when they come up, face them, over and over again if need be, without running away or numbing ourselves in the thousands of ways we conjure up to avoid the unavoidable.

One of the ways that people try to avoid the unavoidable is by complaining. By announcing/owning a deficiency or dislike in their abilities, they attempt to take control over something that feels out of their control. Complaining is a salve used to reclaim dominion over our own fears of the unknown by saying, “I don’t like this, so don’t expect greatness from me,” or “I am bad at this movement, so it’s okay for me to do worse than I would like to do.” Whether you are saying these things aloud or to yourself, this negativity will only lead to greater frustration and slower progress.

“Writing helps focus and organize the {negative} experience, resulting in a greater understanding of what happened and how to cope with it.” ~ James Pennebaker – Social Psychologist

Complaining is not inherently bad. James Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas, studies using writing as a therapeutic tool. “Writing,” he explains, “helps focus and organize the {negative} experience, resulting in a greater understanding of what happened and how to cope with it.” This is how we should use our complaints. To understand our limitations, get an idea of how to deal with them, and then put a plan into action to improve them.

Complaining with a Purpose CrossFit Adoration Bethlehem PA

So as we approach the end of the 2017 CrossFit Open, you should now have 5 weeks of data that tells you what you need work on. If you really underperformed in one of the workouts:

  • Ask yourself why?
  • What hurt?
  • Where did you lose the most time?

Take that information, do some research, talk to a coach, and figure out how to improve on the weakness you have.

Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. ~ Vince Lombardi

Don’t simply say, “I need to get better at dumbbell snatches, so I will do 100 every day.”  Aside from that not being sustainable, your form might be the issue and reinforcing a bad movement pattern is worse than never doing a dumbbell snatch until 18.1. Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

If you are bad at something that you want to be better at, don’t accept it as fact. Don’t complain unless you plan on doing something about it. To sum things up, or as the internet says, “too long; didn’t read,” use your complaints to make improvements, not just to make yourself feel better about not being good at something. And if you can’t focus on complaining, focus on the butts. It helps.

Follow Coach Jimmy Hirsch on Instagram @jimjom4

Complaining with a Purpose Coach Jimmy Hirsch of CrossFit Adoration Bethlehem PA


Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion, 1994. Print.

Pennebaker, James, et al. “Disclosure of traumas and immune function: Health implications for psychotherapy.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 56(2), Apr 1988, 239-245.


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