Crossfit: Good Theory, Good Practice?

    If you ask people in the exercise physiology world about Crossfit, you will most likely get a multitude of responses. Some might say it’s the best thing since sliced bread, while others might laugh in your face and tell you not to waste your time. How can one subject have such a wide variety of responses? Which is closer to the reality? Are the supporters of Crossfit just those that have drunk the Kool-Aid? Are those who are opposed to it so archaic they still look forward to reruns of Happy Days every Thursday night? Hopefully the following discussion will shed some light on the world of Crossfit.

    If I were to tell you I had a new fitness concept (even though those really don’t exist), in which  I would open a gym welcome to all  and create an inviting community feeling in that box-shaped space, how would you react? If you’re in the fitness industry, chances are that you’re too cynical and would tell me to pound sand (I’m sort of joking). But if you were like most people, you would probably think that is an absolutely amazing idea. An inviting place to promote fitness for people of all ages? Sign me up. Before I opened my mind I was guilty of saying, “the concept behind Crossfit is great, but then again so was Communism.” So where does Crossfit go wrong? Why do so many people bash it and come up with creative nicknames to poke fun at it?

First, let me disclose that I am an Olympic lifting competitor, and as such my training spaces are very limited. I do train out of a Crossfit box, one that I believe is actually very good when compared to the rest of the field, and the top in my area. I have certain beliefs about how Olympic lifts should be performed which the Crossfit community may not share, but that is okay. At first, this disagreement led me down the path of Crossfit-hater. However, I began to see that although the lifts may share the same names, Crossfit is it’s own sport, and therefore the movements are performed differently. My Olympic clean and jerk is just different than a Crossfit clean and jerk. It is always important to be receptive and keep an open mind. The most dangerous kind of mind is a closed one.

    Most of the issues that arise from Crossfit are simply due to a lack of education. In some cases, the only knowledge for those that own and work at Crossfit boxes has come in the form of the weekend long Crossfit certification. It is not possible to learn information that encompasses an undergraduate, or graduate, degree that some people have in the field of exercise science in a single weekend.  This issue becomes apparent when it is time to scale the workouts. Yes, Crossfit does offer some scaled workouts, but even those may not be appropriate for a first time client who is 55 years-old, is overweight, has a knee problem, and has not been to the gym in 30 years. When trainers or coaches do not take the time to think about each individual’s capabilities, it can lead to the injuries that most people claim come from doing Crossfit. Specific programming really is not something most people think of, or even want to spend the time doing.

    Also, not everyone needs to train like the top Crossfit competitors. People like Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir are exceptions, not the rule. Yes, Crossfit is demanding, but too often people stray away from the concept that it should be a way to make fitness inviting for everyone. If you can find a box that offers more than your standard Crossfit services and has experienced and caring coaches, then you will most likely be able to flourish and avoid injury. Those boxes do exist, and I believe the expansion of the industry and increase in popularity has begun to raise the standards compared to the early years. You just need to look for the right spot.