Cutting CrossFit a Break
There’s certainly been no shortage of scathing articles directed towards CrossFit, its brand, and its oftentimes cultish followers in recent times.
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
I don’t know if it’s something in the water or because ObamaCare starts in less than a week, but it seems as if there’s been an influx of “CrossFit is the worst thing since Pepsi Clear” themed articles that have hit the media-stream as of late.
This is NOT one of those articles.
Yep, that’s right: My name is Tony Gentilcore, and I’m growing tired of the incessant CrossFit bashing.
Now to be fair: I’ve written my share of “choice words” towards CrossFit in the past. And to be perfectly frank, there’s still many things about it that I don’t agree with nor advocate. Then again, I think Veganism is kinda weird and there are some people out there who think Justin Bieber makes good music – so who am I to judge?
We could make an argument that Veganism has it’s own list of benefits, and well, Beiber does have a few top ten hits so there’s that.
Moreover, there are plenty of things I used to quote-on-quote “hate” that I changed my mind on later in life. Hell, I used to hate Ben Affleck and Brussels sprouts, now I love em both!
Seemingly, however, there’s a growing “line” being drawn in the sand when it comes to CrossFit between those who love it and those who hate it.
It’s almost as if we’re in the midst of a modern day West Side Story where the Sharks and Jets still hate one another, albeit instead of knife fights and dance-offs, in this version the weapons of choice are kipping pull-ups and arguing over whether or not potatoes can be considered Paleo.
Those who love it espouse it as the end-all-be-all of fitness and point to it’s growing (viral?) popularity. I don’t know about other cities, but here in Boston I can’t walk more than four blocks without walking past a new CrossFit affiliate.
Those who hate it blame CrossFit for everything from global warming to the copious amounts of injuries amongst its members.
To that last point a friend of mine – who’s an avid CrossFitter herself – linked to an article that’s been making its rounds across the social media spectrum titled CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret.
To summarize: it’s basically an article taking a look into how CrossFit “nurtures” a culture of exercising to excess, to the point where the condition rhabdomyolysis – where myoglobin is leached into the bloodstream from muscle cells literally exploding,
which in turn puts many bodily systems (kidneys) at risk of shutting down – is a real concern for some members.
I don’t know the numbers offhand: but there have been several documented cases of rhabdo in the CrossFit community.
They even have a mascot for it ————————–>
I’d argue not the best choice, but I’m not the head of the marketing department.
My friend asked for my opinion on the article, and here’s what I said (with some other stuff added because I actually had some time to sit down and think about what I wanted to write).
I think it (the article) is a bit sensationalistic – and just a way to take a hot topic, use it to toss some numbers out there, raise some alarms, and to garner some significant web traffic.
It absolutely succeeded in this regard.
This isn’t to say that I don’t agree with some components of the article. We had a client who switched to CrossFit a few years back, and she was someone who’d I have complete confidence in being able to do the WODs with no issues at all.
Except that she was in really good shape and had a killer mentality, and did NOT know when to stop. She was one of those people who would push herself, and unfortunately she ended up in the hospital for a week with a severe case of Rhabdo.
It IS a REAL concern, and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
This, among other things is what I don’t like about CrossFit. I don’t like that there’s a low barrier to entry. All someone has to do is take some weekend course to become “CrossFit Certified,” then pay the franchise fee, and BAM, they’re in.
Baking a homemade apple pie is harder!
It uses a one-size-fits-all programming model which I think is asinine considering you have people from all walks of life walking into CrossFit gyms on a daily basis. To say that Mrs. Smith who’s never lifted a weight in her life (let alone knows the difference between a squat and deadlift), is 25 lbs overweight, has two herniated discs, and just so happens to be a type 1 diabetic should be doing the same workout as Greg, who’s a 25 year old former college athlete and has been lifting weights for the better part of a decade, is downright absurd. But it happens. A lot.
Compounding this last point, and while it varies from affiliate to affiliate, there’s a definite lack of assessment which takes place, as well as a lack of a proper progression and regression system.
As an aside: Last weekend at the CP Seminar I was talking with a fellow strength coach and he mentioned that his wife walked into a CrossFit affiliate, and without any assessment, she was put through a workout that included overhead squats and high-rep cleans and snatches on day one.
I don’t know about everyone else reading – but I’d trust a coach who advocates high-rep OLY lifts about as much as I’d trust a barber with a mullet.
But now I sound like a cynical SOB and am just regurgitating what everyone else says.
To save face there’s also a lot that I like about CrossFit.
There’s no question that it builds an unparalleled sense of camaraderie. People are EXCITED to train and workout! How can I hate on that?
In an era where we celebrate gluttony to the point where competitive eating is broadcast on ESPN, it’s hard for me to dismiss anything which gets people fired up to get off their ass and move – regardless of how much it makes me scratch my head.
CrossFit also emphasizes compound movements (awesome – assuming they’re coached well), and they don’t waste time advocating traditional “aerobic training,” which as many may recall from a few weeks ago, is a topic which caused a shit-storm on my blog when I suggested that there are other ways to elevate your heart-rate other than climbing onto a treadmill.
Offhandedly, I do feel that CrossFit isn’t the right choice for a lot of people who don’t otherwise move well. There are people who take on a bit more than they can chew, who end up hurt, and worse, end up causing serious harm to their body.
And much of that is on the shoulders of the affiliates who don’t take the time to properly assess their clients and who don’t otherwise implement appropriate exercises progressions and regressions.
I really have a hard time believing people can’t agree on that point.
The affiliates who give a shit, actually assess their clients, and take the time to coach the lifts properly are the ones that generally do very well and are the ones which I applaud. Unfortunately, it’s the “bad apples” that give CrossFit as a whole its bad reputation.
I “get” the tone of the article, and understand that it’s just trying to raise awareness of an actual issue, but it most certainly doesn’t apply to all affiliates or should serve as the umbrella of the CrossFit mentality.
Many affiliates do what they do very well and they should be applauded for their efforts.
Another article, or rather picture, which has set the interwebs ablaze is that of 35-year old Lea-Ann Ellison who, two-weeks before her due date, was photographed, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY…………..lifting weights.
This is a case where I wish people would just STFU and mind their own business.
To her credit, Ms. Ellison, prior to her pregnancy (which for some reason many people deem a disease that should leave every woman incapable of doing anything past putting dishes away or walking up a flight of stairs), had been participating in CrossFit for two and a half years.
It’s not like she decided two months into her pregnancy that she’d head down to her local affiliate and start tossing barbells over her head and dragging cars across the parking lot.
She had a solid foundation of fitness underneath her belt, and even though she was consistently training throughout her pregnancy, she admitted that the weights she was using were far LOWER than what she’d normally use, and that her workouts were far less CrossFitish in nature.
She listened to her body and knew when to back off when needed (which is advice I’ve given to every female client I’ve trained through their pregnancy as well).
You can read more HERE, if you’d like.
Here’s a woman who had the audacity to take a more proactive approach to her pregnancy and not subside to societal norms, and people are going to go out of their way to judge her for it?
The human body is a lot smarter than we give it credit for. If putting a barbell on our back and squatting it (or doing anything which requires physical exertion) was so detrimental to the existence of the human race, we would have died out a loooooooooong time ago.
I’m unsure about what actually caused all the hooplah in the first place: whether it was the fact that she was performing CrossFit workouts so close to her due date, or that it was a provocative photograph that was taken? I guess that’s up for interpretation.
But at the end of the day people are exercising. And that’s cool.