Loyalty: It’s Not What You Think It Means

My husband and I have closed our doors to our fitness gym. As I sit and reflect on the last seven years, the word “loyalty” stick outs like a sore thumb.

Growing up, this word was used a lot among my friends and I in school. It was such a fierce weapon for cliques and social manipulation.

Funny thing is, because we were just highly inexperienced, overly hormonal, and painfully insecure creatures, our “loyalty” seemed to fluctuate and mutate weekly (and sometimes even daily). We had no idea what loyalty actually meant.

And here we are now in adulthood, and many of us still do not seem to know what it is.

In CrossFit, it has commonly been referred to as a cult. In a general sense, it is, and “loyalty” is a big thing in gym boxes worldwide. Just as in middle and high school, many CrossFit members and coaches use loyalty as a weapon for membership and retention. Of course, not all CrossFit gyms are like this, but many of them are (that’s how stereotypes are formed in the first place).

Two years ago, we were forced into a situation in which we fired our head coach. That story is a whole book in and of itself.

When we let him go, he launched his own story, and then juicier versions got passed around, and the damaging game of “Telephone” was recklessly played around town.

Gossip is like wildfire, and many people use it as a bonding tool. This is where the word “loyalty” gets thrown around. This is where the word turns into a dirty weapon. And lo and behold, it was an “us against them” story.

Because some of the members felt compelled to be “loyal” to the coach, they left our gym. Not because we were negligent or incompetent coaches, or a dangerous facility, or a poor-quality service (Which we were none of those things, anyway), but because since we were not “loyal” to him, they were going to show us what “loyalty” was all about. They were going to stick it to us.

Some of the members who left told us that they were leaving because we were not only disloyal to the head coach, but disloyal to “the CrossFit way.”

Apparently, to them, being “loyal to CrossFit” meant having a chalky warehouse with over-the-top “intense” workouts, allowing everyone to perform “Rx” topless with reckless abandon and shitty form, and then taking really cool pictures for social media to post about bloody hands and a 20-min “Fran” time.

(SIDE NOTE — That is NOT CrossFit. CrossFit is misrepresented and mistreated by well-intended, but severely inexperienced coaches and owners, and even worse, who have no idea how to run a business. CrossFit is actually an incredible program that is scalable and adaptable to meet any and all individual needs, and was originally founded upon personal training to enhance daily life. Somewhere along the way, the true intent of CrossFit got shoved in the corner by competition and “Rx” workouts. But, I digress…)

And, being loyal to our head coach meant allowing him to not fulfill his responsibilities and duties, and turning a blind eye to poor behavior.

It is fascinating the stories people are willing to propagate and believe in order to remain “loyal” to each other, even when the truth is point blank.

“Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity.”

Supposedly, loyalty means that no matter what, you stick together.

You stay in your marriage, even if he is cheating on you. You stay friends, even if she keeps gaslighting you. You take your alcoholic, homeless dad into your home, even if he breaks your things and hits you. You keep your best friend as the head coach, even if he sucks at his job and takes advantage of you.

Fuck that.

Loyalty is not a label you slap on someone’s forehead, and then cash out on when it serves you.

People commonly misuse loyalty to regulate their relationships (And, in their defense, they were probably taught it growing up, and have never known any differently).

It’s the string attached.

Funny thing about strings — They can break easily. And, you have to constantly re-tie and add more strings if you want to keep ‘em around. This is what we call “emotionally draining.”

Or, as I like to call it, “bullshit.”

Real, healthy relationships are only sustainable through free will and a common value system.

It’s the same thing with gym membership. The members who left us were never really ours in the first place, because they were there for the wrong reasons. They had strings attached. The members who stayed, remained because they shared the same value system as us.

“You have to weather the storm to see the rainbow.”

Loyalty is NOT family.

Loyalty is NOT a group or organization.

Loyalty is NOT even a best friend.

Loyalty is something you have WITH YOURSELF.

Loyalty is when you tell your best friend no as she angrily demands her keys back so she can drive home drunk, and then keeping the keys from here even after she breaks up with you and threatens to tell the world your darkest secrets.

You are being loyal to yourself, not her. Your value system is against drunk driving, and even more so, against allowing anyone to put others in danger irresponsibly.

Just because she is your friend, does not mean that you have to be “loyal” to her and let her drive drunk. That is not loyalty. That is bullshit.

When our head coach was bad-mouthing fellow coaches to members, undermining the owners, favoring specific clients, overstepping his authority, disregarding gym etiquette, and refusing further education and professional development, we had to put friendship aside. My husband and I had a laser-focused vision, a long-term plan, and our own set of core values for the gym.

We stayed loyal to that.

What made the situation blurry, though, was the fact that he was our best friend. And this is where loyalty got heavily abused.

Because he was our best friend, it was expected of us to remain “loyal” to him. No matter what. Just brush it under the carpet. Let it go. Look the other way. Don’t say anything. Give him benefit of the doubt…For the millionth time.

Somehow, loyalty has become something we have to obey out of social obligation.

Loyalty is a “ball and chain.”

And, loyalty also seems to mean that you have to put up with being mistreated.


Hard pass.

Loyalty is not an obligation, nor a right of anyone to demand or expect from you.

The problem with making loyalty a relational-obligation with others is that you cannot control people. You cannot control what happens outside of you. None of it.

People change. Life changes.

Change is constant.

And, inevitable.

Loyalty is really all about learning who you are, what is meaningful to you, and how you want to share yourself with the world.

It’s about creating your own internal value system, and then practicing and mastering being loyal to that.

Being who you are is loyalty.

Every time you deny your value system to please someone else, THAT is when you are being disloyal.

If I had allowed my best friend to continue to do the poor behaviors at our gym just because he was my bestie, I would have been disloyal to myself, because my value system is built upon fairness, continuing education, hard work, and open communication.

While I can live with losing a shitty friend, I cannot live with losing my own value system.

I don’t have to live with that person day in and day out. I do have to live with myself 24–7.

Stay loyal to yourself.

The right people will show up and stick around.

They always do.

Loyalty is a one-man show. So, go rock it!


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