How COVID-19 has Shifted Our Fitness Priorities: Hitting PRs vs “Just Happy to be There”

August 30, 2020 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit London (
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Six months ago, Annika Buckle and her husband joined group classes together five days a week in Vancouver, BC with their five-year-old daughter in tow. Buckle paid close attention to her lifting numbers. Hitting PRs and reaching new benchmarks were important to her, she explained.

This is no longer the case. Now, because of COVID-19, the couple isn’t able to bring their daughter along, so they each only get three days a week of gym time.

  • “I am not working on any gains really at all,” she said. “It’s such a weird and hard time, knowing I’m not as strong as I was and also feeling like there isn’t anything I can do about it right now.”

Today, with all the stresses of life, Buckle’s only priority is to get to the gym.

  • “If I can get myself there and sweat, I just have to call it a win…I have really had to work on my mindset (to be OK with that),” she said.

The big picture: This shift in perspective — from chasing PRs to just getting there being a “win” — is one many have noticed in their membership base.

  • “People are gentler with themselves,” said Jennifer Broxterman, a former Canada East regionals athlete who’s husband Dave Henry owns CrossFit London in Ontario.
  • “They recognize that they’re under tremendous life stress with running businesses in turmoil, homeschooling kids, dealing with uncertainty, so I have noticed people are just happy to come in, break a light sweat and do a shorter, less intense workout, and then get on with dealing with the challenges of their day,” she added.

Two owners ring in: Lucas McEmery and Angi Bowman Halvorson have both noticed this change in attitude, and both say it’s a good thing.

“I love it,” said McEmery, the owner of Division St CrossFit in Chicago, IL.

  • “As an owner, we (used to have) to battle with everyone wanting to be a competitor and doing more and more. Now it feels like people are just getting back to enjoying the hour to get fit and hang with their friends again,” McEmery said.

Halvorson, the owner of Carlisle CrossFit in PA, intentionally changed the focus at her gym from being about intensity and PRs to being about “health and wellness in the community for everyone regardless of capacity, condition or limitation” the moment she reopened her doors after being closed for 15 weeks.

  • “We intentionally took our programming all the way back to basics, working even basic squatting patterns. We also intentionally shifted our culture away from the competitive whiteboard focus and placed it on correct movement patterns and mechanics,” she said, adding that she also signed on with ActiveLife, who created a “return to the gym” program that Halvorson’s members are currently following.
  • Halvorson added: “We are (also) moving away from Rx weights in the gym and focusing more on teaching people about rate of perceived exertion, explaining that what (feels) light on Monday might be super heavy on Friday based on the week’s recovery, sleep, eating. This is geared toward a model of health, not competitiveness.”

For some, the shift was initially difficult, Halvorson admitted, but people are starting to understand how this is better for the long term. And after having been back open since June 18, people are seeing the light, she explained.

  • “We have received a lot of positive feedback from people of the last couple months. People (are) thanking us for helping them be smart and safe,” she said.

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