💥Full disclosure💥: I have been harsh towards CrossFit in the past, but, after some reflection I’ve been able to gather my thoughts. I previously let personal feelings and immaturity cloud my judgement of CrossFit as a whole. I have my CFL1 and have owned a box, so I do have experience in the CrossFit arena.
CrossFit is, “Constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more.”
CrossFit gets a bad rap from those on the sidelines:
Some call it a cult: Does it have cult like tendencies? Sure. But look at every other fitness trend/brand that has came on the scene over the years. They look a lot like a cult at times too.
Some say its dangerous: Is CrossFit dangerous? Maybe. Not being fit is dangerous too (probably more so), though. If you’re at a quality box you won’t be at any higher of an injury risk than if you were doing traditional strength programming. Surely you’ve heard of Uncle Rhabdo by now. Uncle Rhabdo is the nickname given to a condition known as rhabdomyolysis, pundits act as if only CrossFit athletes get it — I’m here to tell you thats not true. I’ve had rhabo before and all I was doing for the day was a medium intensity plyometric session. So many factors play into it, it can happen to anyone. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy, though. Felt like I had been hit by a car for a week after.
Some say CrossFit is just HIIT rebranded: I think CrossFit is a broader topic than HIIT. Is it similar? Yes, but again, ideas in fitness are often recycled and renamed to create a new buzz and target a different audience.
Others don’t like it since clothes seem to be optional when WODing out. The last point is a topic for another day, though.
What’s the first rule of CrossFit? To tell everyone you do CrossFit, of course.
While this is funny every time I hear it (I’m a child) a similar joke could be made about most any fitness enthusiast. From #FlexFridays to #Swolfies with the bros you’d have a hard time convincing me that those are any different than when someone talks about CrossFit. No matter how annoyed by it you may be.
Is their PR team a bit out there and pompous? Absolutely. The way CrossFit HQ and Greg Glassman the founder of CrossFit act like it is the only way to fitness is a turnoff for many (including myself). But, CrossFit HQ does not represent all CrossFit boxes just like ACE or the NSCA or IHRSA do not represent all personal trainers and commercial gyms.
When you look at the general description and mission of CrossFit it’s hard to argue that they don’t have their athletes/clients best interests at heart. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say over the last ~3-5 years CrossFit has had as big of an impact on individuals results as most of traditional training has. CrossFit has helped people who have never felt like they belonged anywhere feel like part of a family. The camaraderie of CrossFit athletes almost seems fake if you were to look at it once and not experience it again. But, you know what? That same camaraderie happens every single class.
I’ll admit, I am not 100% sold on their programming philosophies. Olympic lifts for time? Never a good idea in my opinion to pair the most technical lifts in the world with a timer and a hot garage with box fans. I also do not think that CrossFit is the best way to prepare athletes for their individual sports because CrossFit lacks the specificity needed athletes must have. Personally, I don’t see kipping pullups as being conducive to shoulder health (especially if you can’t perform 8-10 strict pullups) but I digress.
On the flip side, for an average Joe who is wanting to get in shape? CrossFit is a viable option (assuming you have a quality box nearby). CrossFit has brought small group training to the masses that may not have had the chance to afford it otherwise. On average, a CrossFit membership will (normally) be substantially cheaper than a personal trainer working with small groups, myself included.
So many factors can and should play into your decision to which path you take to start your fitness journey such as; current health status, injury history, budget, amenities at the gym/box, how big (or small) of a group you want.
Is CrossFit for everyone? Of course not. We are all individuals; a single exercise program will not work for everyone.
Realize is that no matter what subject you’re talking about, there are going to be very broad spectrums involved. From awful to superb.
It is this way with gym memberships, it is the same with personal trainers/strength coaches and it is not any different with CrossFit. There are fantastic boxes along with terrible ones as well.
How to spot a quality box:
- They offer a comprehensive “OnRamp” or Fundamentals course of at least two weeks. If they want to stick you into classes immediately and you’re new to exercise and CrossFit, leave and leave fast.
- You observe a class and like the feel of the structure and the overall vibe of the gym.
- Ask if all coaches know how to scale/progress movements properly to fit every athlete. This is imperative.
- See how they react when you ask what makes them different from other boxes in town.
- Be sure that their current programming structure is the style you’re looking for. If they are in a 12 week max strength type phase and you’re looking to shed pounds you may want to find a box that is more focused on metabolic conditioning.
- Make sure they know the difference in training a general population client compared to those looking to compete, especially those with the aspirations to reach Regionals and the CrossFit Games. That line is toed too closely or crossed altogether at some boxes.
The root of the problem is that many have let the stigma that comes with the word “CrossFit” effect their entire opinion of it. Is that fair? No, but life rarely is.
Part of the stigma is self-induced from the polarizing founder who sounds like a loon half of the time, their pompous HQ staff and another source you may not have thought about — the traditional fitness industry. When CrossFit came on the scene, traditional fitness wrote it off as taboo and something that could never make an impact on “the industry”. But once CrossFit signed a giant endorsement deal with Reebok, made a TV deal with ESPN and a guy named Rich Froning came along the threat of CrossFit digging into the coffers of those in the industry became real.
If you go back and look at some of the most negative articles and “studies” written about CrossFit, they ironically started to come out around this time. I don’t think that is a coincidence. As a trainer/strength coach I will continue to adapt my programming as I learn more and more information is available. I stay within a framework/a system of training if you will, but the system has the ability to adapt. Right now, some pieces of CrossFit type programming are in almost every single one of my programming (mostly on the metabolic conditioning side).
Will I be joining a CrossFit box any time soon? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a good option for you.