When there's a break-up at the box...

By: Emily Beers

In a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, Larry David humorously exposes what happens to a couple's friends when a couple breaks up: 

“My wife and I talked about it, and, uh, we chose Cheryl,” says one of Larry’s friends.

“Larry, the Funkhouser’s have made a decision: We’re going with Cheryl,” says Marty Funkhouser.

Although David’s satirical sitcom is nothing more than comical, there’s some truth behind the joke: Break-ups sometimes result in friend casualties. Nobody knows this better than CrossFit affiliates.

One of the greatest things about CrossFit is how it brings together likeminded people. Combine that with dozens of young, fit (sometimes single) bodies, and romance will inevitably spring to life.

And like all romances, some don’t make it. When they do unwravel, suddenly the community has a problem on its hands.

I’ve seen many cases where, when a couple breaks up, one person stays at the gym, and the other person willingly leaves. I’ve also seen some nightmare situations, where one person—usually the person who was at the gym first—essentially bans his or her ex from the community, temporarily tarnishing the community’s energy. 

It's an issue we’ve tabled publicly and openly at my gym.

On the coaches side of things, we have a rule in our manual that states that if a coach sleeps with or dates another coach’s client—and this client leaves the gym when the romance ends—the coach who slept with or dated the now estranged client must pay $500 to the coach who lost the client.

Obviously you can’t place as harsh of rules on clients as coaches, but since it has become an open topic for discussion, clients, too, have become both more cautious and mature with their dating decisions. 

By following a couple simple procedures, there have been quite a few cases of break-ups where both broken up individuals manage to keep all their friends, and their gym community in the process. 

They are:

Procedure 1: The Spit Shake

Similar to a prenuptial agreement, this couple drafts a contract before they start dating, signs it and seals it with a spit shake. Ultimately, the concept of the contract is that the community comes first, that the couple will remain civil post-break-up, and will continue to remain committed to their fitness goals and their CrossFit community regardless of what happens in their now flourishing new relationship. 

Another potential issue to address in the written agreement is the amount of time that must elapse before either party is allowed to date another community member after the break-up.

And even if the contract doesn’t lead to a 100 percent seamless break-up, at the very least, a contract and a spit shake forces a certain amount of maturity after an emotional break-up; it ensures each person will be responsible for the energy they bring into the gym if a break-up goes down. Because, well, there’s nothing worse for the community than a person walking into the gym looking bitter and pissed off.

Further, the spit shake gets people to think really long and hard before even entering into a relationship with someone from the community, encouraging them to assess whether it’s worth the risk. 

The result has been usually the people who DO get together up in great relationships. Within the last year, I’ve been to four weddings of couples who met at my gym.

 This gym couple got married a couple years ago...

Procedure 2: Different Hours of Operation

Similar to drawing a line on the bed that cannot be crossed, like you did with your sister or brother when you were a child, if the couple is concerned that they shouldn’t be in the same room for a while (maybe emotions are still too high, or maybe they’ll create an awkward energy for the rest of the gym), this couple divides the hours or the days in a way that allows each party can continue to come to the gym without fear of running into the other.

I am currently training the wife of a man, whose ex-wife is also a long-time client of mine. All three go to the gym. When the original couple first broke up, they employed the Hours of Operation rule immediately following the break-up. A number of months later when emotions subsided, they lifted the ban. Today they all run into each other occasionally, and all is civil. Maturity at its finest.


These options, of course, aren’t foolproof. We’ve still had cases of people losing their minds and storming out of the community, forever embittered. But the success stories, in terms of both long-lasting relationships and cordial break-ups, outweigh the temper tantrums and breakdowns.