We want to get this straight. If you do CrossFit, you are physically, morally, ethically and socially superior to everyone, and anyone who refuses to agree that CrossFit is the best and only form of physical conditioning is a loser who doesn't "get it."

THINK INSIDE THE 'BOX' Atypical concepts such as timed Olympic lifts have created legions of CrossFit believers.

We want to get this straight. If you do CrossFit, you are physically, morally, ethically and socially superior to everyone, and anyone who refuses to agree that CrossFit is the best and only form of physical conditioning is a loser who doesn't "get it."

Or, if you do CrossFit, you have been brainwashed by a cult-like following whose workouts are led by unqualified weekend-certified zealots whose unscientific and reckless Workout of the Day, whatever that might be, will lead to inevitable injury.

Do we have that about right?

To be upfront about this, we have a financial interest in a local CrossFit gym (a box, as they're called). We are involved for several business reasons, among them that somebody was going to open a box in our market and we'd rather be partners than competitors. To also add to our credibility (we think) in discussing CrossFit, we'll mention that a) we're completing our 18th year as gym owners, b) one of us is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and c) both of us have been certified Olympic lifting coaches (which we mention due to the importance of Olympic lifts to CrossFit).

So, with all that in mind, we'd really like everyone on both sides of this argument to take a breath and relax.

 

SOMETHING UNIQUE
CrossFit is fine. Sure, the workouts are largely unscientific and random: "Hey! Go run a quarter mile. Then do a few minutes of snatches. Then do some kipping pull-ups and some box jumps. Then do it all over again." It's okay that CrossFitters think there is genius in the workouts, but they're still workouts. Stringing together a bunch of existing movements is not rocket science.

On the other hand, there is something unique there, and it is the introduction of time into these movements. When we - as many of you likely do - lament that we didn't invent CrossFit, we are comforted in knowing that never in a million years would it have occurred to us to do Olympic lifts, for example, in a race against the clock. To take a fixed amount of weight and say, "Snatch that as fast as you can," would have made no sense to us.

But people love doing the snatch and everything else that CrossFit offers, even if they are terrible at it. They move fast, get their workout in and get on with their day. They see it as efficient, exhausting and exhilarating. They love the camaraderie. And while camaraderie isn't unique to CrossFit, it is different. Like CrossFit members, our gym members look forward to seeing each other, feel accountable to each other, socialize outside the club and post on social media about their experiences. But what they can't do is measure themselves against each other.

CrossFitters are "athletes" when they are at their box, and they have performance metrics to share and compare. With standardized, named workouts, they all have something in common, and there's a lot more to talk about than "How much do you bench?" Whether it's the new person measuring his or her performance improvement on Fran or the person who wants to compare performances in Chipper with world champions, they know that there is a global community of people like them. They have shared experience, and they like to talk about it.

CrossFit people are ambassadors - evangelists, even - for the movement, and this is how they are different from people who get their high working out at the health club or by participating in any other number of outstanding fitness activities. If a friend of a non-CrossFitter is complaining about his or her fitness level - "I just can't seem to lose weight" - that might be an opening - "Come to my gym with me!" or "Would you like to play tennis with me?" But CrossFitters don't need that opening. They'll just tell you, "Oh, man, I did CrossFit this morning and Fran kicked my butt. Who's Fran? Oh, that's a WOD. You don't know what a WOD is? Let me tell all about it. You'll love it." And off they go.

This exact sort of interaction was recently portrayed in the opening scene of an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles. A character starts talking about how sore she is from her previous night's workout and starts explaining CrossFit: "You are tired, you are sore, you are miserable, you are stretching muscles you didn't even know you had, you are in a pool of sweat, and yet all you can think about is doing it again as soon as possible." We couldn't help but wonder if this was a paid-for product pitch, or, more likely, the result of the cast and crew being CrossFitters who wanted to shout about their passion to a nationwide audience.

 

RECOMMENDED COOLDOWN
And that's where we think the CrossFit community needs to cool it. We hear you. We get it. You're in love. But the idea that you're tired, you're sore, you're miserable, yet all you can think about is doing it again is not unique to CrossFit. It's unique to activities that people enjoy. Just ask the middle-aged mom who just took BodyPump class for the first time and didn't think she would finish.

As for fitness professionals, we'd ask you to relax, too. CrossFit is exercise. Sure, people are going to get hurt, but people get hurt lifting, running, doing ballet and playing summer softball. The weekend CrossFit Level 1 certification is likely inadequate, but the same can be said of weekend certifications for yoga, Pilates and even Olympic lifting. Many of the movements are contraindicated, especially for beginners, but have you ever seen a beginning yoga participant, or even someone trying to squat for the first time in a group fitness class? Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you feel threatened and/or annoyed by CrossFit, take away the best of what it offers. If you are a personal trainer and afraid you might lose clients to the local box, ask yourself what you are doing to get your clients as excited as those CrossFitters who are luring your clients away. If you are a gym owner, ask yourself what you are doing to build community among your members.

And if you are an exercise physiology purest who is dissuading people from CrossFit, ask yourself if you are just as annoyed by other less-than-ideal forms of working out, or is CrossFit just especially bothersome because you didn't think of it first.

Rob Bishop & Barry Klein is Guest Contributors of Athletic Business.
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As a person with a degree in Exercise Science, several certifications and 40 years of experience I have seen many types of exercise fads come and go. I also trained gymnasts for 20 years so I am quite familiar with many of the types of exercises that Crossfit promotes. But any good trainer knows that not every exercise is good for every "body". Since the onset of crossfit type programs weight training injuries have dramatically increased. In recent talks with Physical Therapists and two seminars that I attended with degreed Exercise Physiologists that were also NSCA CSCS certified the concensus is that ANY form of exercise will get you in shape. However, it does not mean that it is safe, or appropriate for everyone. The issue that I take is that Crossfit promotes high intensity, that is not always appropriate, predisposes the person to increased risk of injures (much more than "yoga"(as touted in the above article) and many of the Crossfitters use momentum and sloppy form, which does not build strength. It does build commaraderie! I personnally know of MANY people who were injured doing CrossFit at many different "boxes". Has anyone tracked the number of injuries that have taken place doing Crossfit vs doing yoga or other traditional programs? It would be an interesting study!
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You cannot justify a training program because people get hurt doing other activities as well. If there is no quality assurance and no oversight, it's not the best program or an objectively sound program. Like you said, you have a vested interested, so your biased opinion/voice is not objective in your writing.
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I think the authors make some great points. I'm not a cross-fit advocate because I see the results people can achieve with even a moderate exercise routine. and that will attract millions more participants in our society. No, they won't be able to compete in the crossfit games, but they can realize great health benefits. Anyway, I think your argument has merit (and don't forget there are less injuries in Crossfit than in full contact football, which is a "national treasure.") I think it's a great cult, and in the good ole USA, those who want to go can go!
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In the longer run Crossfit, and Crossfitters will show CrossFit is not a sound business concept (sorry for those of you invested), and it is an even less sound concept for those seeking true, long term fitness. Formerly, both a skiing and bicycle professional athlete, and much later a trained, certified fitness professional I have a love/hate relationship with Cross Fit. Likewise as a successful serial entrepreneur I have that same love/hate relationship with CrossFit. As a trainer who does a lot of post Physical Therapy Rehab, I hope CrossFit continues to grow like the weed it is. The number of injured is huge and growing. I hear the same from others involved in rehab near and far, even in this article its more or less admitted. I have never seen the number and variety of injuries that I have seen coming from CrossFit. So for those reasons I love it, keeps me with a substantial pool of potential clients. Its also the reason I dislike it....somehow, and kudo's to CrossFit, it attracts those who have never been inclined to exercise before. Likewise those that have never put the urgency or intensity into their prior more traditional exercise seem to find a home at CrossFit. So CrossFit is not to be dismissed, it is to be studied. As a business concept, CrossFit will I think come and go, and then come back in far smaller numbers. Those that have invested, and don't get out, or diversify before they loose their shirts will find the market declining (I think) in the not to distant future. CrossFit not only attracts those I've already indicated, but also those that seek out that which is generally to be considered "alternative". Back in the day when I worked in a commercial big box gym, I became immersed in a new training technology. The Gym mgr, a women told me that we don't do those sort of crazy antics in this gym....she was talking to me about "Suspension Training", prior to that she also made similar reference to my fascination with the so called "Physio or Yoga Ball". The point is, while I am not fan of CrossFit, it offers all of us opportunities to learn. It seems all the controversy serves no purpose. On the other hand, coming to an understanding on how to create that same evangelistic attitude toward "our" brand is invaluable. Likewise, learning what it is about CrossFit that attracts those that have never before been inclined to exercise would be amazingly valuable. Perhaps the most important lesson we might learn from CrossFit is how to offer the "CrossFitter" that same feeling of attraction so they don't leave whatever more traditional fitness program and facility they are with, which is to say, how can "we" provide that same feeling of accomplishment and jubilation that a WOD (Work Out of the Day) does. By the way....A similar controversy is going on within the Indoor cycling community. The traditionalist are horrified that there are those out there advocating doing resistance training (weight lifting), Yoga, and/or Pilates moves on the bikes. Again lots of arguments on both sides of the fence, and so on. My suggestion would be the same, there is much to be learned from each....focus on that, not the controversy.
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Mary Helen Sprecher Friday, 06 September 2013
Fantastic analysis of the whole CrossFit phenomenon. Remember how much shouting (in the electronic world) was going on when the authors discussed Zumba? Same here -- CrossFit is a workout that has its devotees and those people feel very strongly about it. This is another great, well-thought-out column that pays attention to the fact that the hype around a program can make people lose sight of the fact that exercise is all about what works for the individual, and what keeps that individual coming back for more. Isn't that what we all want?
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Hey Matt are you my twin from another mother ? Seriously our backgrounds, and are thoughts on Crossfit are almost identical. I am also a nurse, and former military Master Fitness Instructor.
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As a former bodybuilder, athlete and massage therapist for more than 24 years, I have angst over the mismanagement of people's well-being. I see athletes on a daily basis who blindly trust a generic protocol given to them not specific to their body type or specific sport. Once injured, they are then given labels as a diagnosis and another generic protocol for rehabilitation. The ramifications are not only physical but mental as well. The competition of Cross-fit will surely subject athletes to push themselves beyond their physical limits, resulting in injury, to beat the next guy or to be better than the new one. Peak physical fitness should be about being the best 'you' you can be. Is living for your next workout really living?
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crossfit training is high & intense, it get your heart accelerating to the point that you may feel your burning fat calories, but being fit beyound does not mean your fitness leavel as a cross fit personal is that superiour to a anyone else.I believe that the human body can adopt to any hostile environment it is place in.Therefore toplace ones body under constant pounding & pressure, there will come a time when you yourself will either quit or stand the consequences of injury. it is easy to get carried away in the hype of things, but much research has been done to the development of strength, power, endurance, flexibility, etc in humans.while crossfit is exciting & gives you the challenge & rush that you may need it also can give you warning to when you should take it down.In my conclusion once a person can push, pull & hold his/her body weight your on the way to becoming or being fit & well capable, therefore there's need to kill yourself out.
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I too have a degree in both health science, exercise physiology and over 30 years in the fitness industry. Like Marie Abbott I have seen trends come and go and come around again the second time in a slick new advertising package. I think the aggravating aspect of all this is the spirit in which these various programs are presented. It's riddled with arrogance, exclusivity, shame and ridicule towards those not "on board". It's a myopic view of what health and fitness is about. While I'm happy for people when they find something that fires them up and gets them moving and or eating healthy, I'm not thrilled when they believe & perpetuate the notion that this is the gospel & should be gospel for all others. The insinuation is that non-participants are lost idiots who don't get it.
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The idea of "timed" workouts is not unique to CrossFit. One blaring example is Bruce Lee's book, The Art of Expressing the Human Body. In the book, Bruce details how he came to the mindset of timing his workouts when repeated (time to completion) as ONE metric of guaging improvement. However, Bruce espoused PROFICIENCY over time. In my position, Glassman infringed on just about everything in Bruce's book, but through away the efficacy and adherence to certain training principles and sensibility that Bruce practice. Aside from Bruce, time to completion of physical activities, circuits, running, weight lifting, etc., existed well before Crossfit. But anywho. I agree with one of the other commenters.. The authors have a biased view because of a financial interest. But, not many Crossfitters are objective to begin with. Crossfit is a shotgun attempt at an elite Strength and Conditioning program. People that spin, swear by it.. yogees swear by yoga, so devotion to a program or sharing your love for it is also not unique or new. CF just brings a sort of douchbaggery look at me braggard to the table.. you're sore, worked out hard.. great, would you like a cracker? I will not even address ignoring the signs of over training. The first thing I tell a Crossfitter that comes to me for advice on why they cant recover, their performance is stagnating or decreasing is to take a day or 3 off for active rest. Of course you're beat up,.. fatigued muscles cannot produce or absorb the same amount of force as recovered muscles so the force has to go somewhere else. Yet, I cease..... MS, BS, CSCS, HFS, USAW-1