I started reading the Crossfit journal in 2002, playing with it in 2003, and then working out at an affliate in 2005. I’m currently employed at a former affiliate so I while I’m not arrogant enough to think I’ve been there since the beginning I feel like I’ve been around long enough to have an opinion. Over the past few years I realized I had much to say about it as a concept and a movement, but didn’t really have a forum to share my thoughts. I guess I could have posted this on the Crossfit message boards, the Catalyst message boards, or even the now famous Irongarm Couch thread, but as I gave it more thought I soon realized that my opinions would be lost amongst a sea of either hatred or adoration. Unfortunately, I sit somewhere in the middle – I love and hate Crossfit.
The Things I Love:
1. The Crossfit Journal – I firmly believe that this is the best value in fitness for the cost ($25 a year). From its initial issues in 2002 which included Glassman’s analysis of “Who is Fit and What is Fitness” to his call to return to the garage gyms,the concepts and material were groundbreaking. I still remember reading the what is fitness article while sitting in a hotel in Amsterdam in early 2003 and thinking this is freakin’ genius (Over the years I’ve changed my mind about this assessment quite a few times and frankly I’m not sure where I currently sit related to this topic). Over the years the Journal has only gotten better with the introduction of the Journal version 2.0 and now version 3.0. The addition of video clips, archive access, and commenting feature has only added to the experience. Sure the amount of exaggeration, number of videos that are basically advertisements, and overall arrogance has increased as the Crossfit machine has grown, but the volume & quality of information available is worth the cost many times over. In recent years the number of articles/videos on improving biomechanics and movement quality has dramatically increased giving me hope the general quality of movement you see in the Crossfit community will continue to improve.
2. More Real Gyms – The reasonable cost of affiliation, the focus on using light industrial space, and low barrier of entry combined with the explosion in popularity of Crossfit has resulted in a what seems like a Crossfit popping up on every corner. As a consumer I find this a wonderful development and once I trained at a Crossfit affiliate I knew from that moment on I would do my best to train at similar places. I used to travel extensively for my job and had the opportunity to train at a large number of affiliates. The variation in quality was huge, but I always knew that if I went to an affiliate I would likely see barbells, bumpers, and gymnastics equipment. They would understand what I was trying to accomplish. I would also be welcomed with open arms as a fellow Crossfitter and be surrounded by folks that were willing to actually work to achieve their fitness goals.
3. The Movement – As a personal trainer and coach I generally support anything that encourage folks to move more (and move better). For many folks I think that Crossfit is focused on the mixed mode high intensity circuit training that is the WOD, but to me the Crossfit movement has helped popularize old style training where strongmen and bodybuilders weren’t just strong or didn’t just look good, but embodied the essence of a physical culturalist and sought to challenge all dimensions of their fitness. Crossfit is what first got me (all 6’4″ 240 lbs of me) interested in seeking out adult gymnastics classes and learning how to play on the rings. It also got me thinking about the broader application of gymnastics training both for the generalist and for sport (The potential here is huge and mostly underappreciated). I also think we have Crossfit to thank for introducing the Olympic lifts to a broader audience. The introduction of any form of exercise to the mainstream public always comes with unintended consequences and initially movement quality suffers, but in my mind the average person could not be better served than by considering the addition of gymnastics and olympic lifting into their program. No Crossfit isn’t perfect, but the fact that it encourages folks to dabble in gymnastics, olympic lifting, and powerlifting is a drastic improvement over programs that are focused on one fitness quality as the expense of all others. I realize that depending on your sport (powerlifter, soccer player etc.) some of these physical qualities may have more or less application in your life, but for the generalist I am a firm believer that these modalities have tremendous application.
4. The Community – Those outside the Crossfit Community have often criticized it as a cult and I will be the first to admit there are many zeolots within the community, but in general I find the Crossfit community to be tremendously open and positive. The average Crossfitter is motivated, healthy, and works really hard. From the beginning the successful Crossfit affiliates understood that folks showing up at their door wanted results, but people generally like to feel like they belong and that the fostering of a sense of community within their gym would improve their clients’ experience and the gym’s bottom line.
To Be Continued…