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August 16, 2022

164 – Current Thoughts On CrossFit + Market Research

CrossFit gets a lot of cult like love and a lot of, frankly, ignorant hate. Some justified I am sure. In light of the recent CrossFit regional qualifiers, I asked my Instagram audience a few questions. The questions were aimed only at those who have consistently participated in CrossFit for 6 months or more. So 3-5 days per week of CrossFit for at least six months. That was the requirement in order to answer my questions.

This episode is NOT backed by science. In fact a physical therapist friend actually said they had some recent decent research that debunks some of the common beliefs about CrossFit and injury volume or frequency, but I am still waiting on that data – I can’t and wouldn’t speak to it until I got the chance to read and dissect it myself. Because truly so much research is bias. But we always hope it is not.

The questions I asked were as follows:

  • What are the positives/pros/things you love(d) about CrossFit?
  • What were/are the negative sides of CrossFit? Personal experience or observation
  • How long have you done/did you practice CrossFit as your main medium of fitness?
  • If you stopped, why?
  • If you still do CrossFit, why would you ever see yourself leaving? Or doing something else? If you can imagine that.
  • For those who no longer do CrossFit, what do you do now as your made modality of fitness?

I was so amazed and interested by both the volume of responses and the content of those responses that I had to be consolidating that information into a podcast episode. Especially because no one but me gets to see all these responses in the question boxes!

As a disclaimer, I feel I need to share my background with CrossFit because I do and have undoubtedly had biases over the years. Now I feel much much more neutral about CrossFit – largely due to the changes I’ve seen.

I did CrossFit for over six months, under one year in my early 20’s. Loved it. So much. Thought it was way too heavy on overhead volume to lower body volume, and also lacked unilateral work, and lateral work – things I was learning about in school at the time. Ended up with a meniscus surgery, and an undiagnosed shoulder injury that the doc chalked up to bicep tendonitis. So, stopped and changed modalities back to weight lifting and more traditional conditioning with some retcons here and there.

I then as a professional jumped on the CrossFit hate train – “they use momentum for everything, that’s not a real pull up, lack of regulation and anyone can be a coach” etc.

I interned at a physical therapy clinic as a performance coach for six months at the tail end of my college career and past graduation. I was actually offered a full time position but turned it down. The owner and PT’s used to say “as long as CrossFit exists, we’ll stay in business.” They weren’t wrong. A massive percentage of the clientele came from CrossFit. Mostly  knee, lower back, and shoulder injuries. That’s the side I was introduced to next. Thus, my disapproval continued.

Even with that said, who doesn’t love watching the CrossFit Games? I watch them every year. Always have.

Stick around till the end for my current stance/view of CrossFit. But now let’s breakdown YOUR DATA.

  • What are the positives/pros/things you love(d) about crossfit?

Intensity

Unknown Challenges

Mindless workouts – show up, do what’s on the board

Randomness or Variety

Strength, aerobic and skills work all involved

Community – especially centered around WEIGHTS

Lots of ex-athletes mentioned feeling like an athlete again – from a team/community and intensity perspective

  • What were/are the negative sides of CrossFit? Personal experience or observation

On the flip side – too much variation, not enough consistency on same skills

Overstressed, under recovered (lack of variance in intensity) – too easy to over do it (competition culture)

Pressure to push hard/push through when it wasn’t wise

Joints always hurt/injuries

The world “cult” was mentioned a concerning amount of times…

Bad coaches with big egos

Lack of foundational training/progressing too quickly

Coach to athlete ratio

  • How long have you done/did you practice CrossFit as your main medium of fitness?

Average answer was 5 years – over 100 answers. So this is no joke. This is not data from people who half way gave CrossFit a go. These are people who trained via CrossFit for half a decade. Answers ranged from < 1year to 12+ years.

  • If you stopped, why?

Lack of balance in programming – wanted to try different programming

Needed less intensity

Injuries – lot’s of specified knees, shoulders and back injuries

Exhausted all the time/felt run down/worn

Finances – too expensive

Needed to adjust hormones and required lower chronic stress

Moved away

  • If you still do CrossFit, why would you ever see yourself leaving? Or doing something else? If you can imagine that.

Structured lifting program

Money

Olympic weightlifting

Body building style of training

CrossFit “toned down” – other things prioritized or sprinkled in

 – moving, money, injury

  • For those who no longer do CrossFit, what do you do now as your made modality of fitness?

Lifting – bodybuilding or squat, hinge, push pull style “regular strength training”

Power lifting, olympic weight lifting, kb training

Lot’s of people specifically mentioned my Built By Annie program LOL as well as FBB through Marcus Filly.

I find many women come to BBA looking for weights but a managed volume and intensity.

Crossfit is FUN – that’s where I think they win the most. Even I still love a metcon now and again. But I don’t think the way most gyms program is progressive or sustainable. That brings us to…

My current CrossFit conclusion is now seen through the much wider lens of the fitness industry as a whole.

I think CrossFit is easy to put under a microscope. It’s a nicely packaged and publicized modality of fitness that we can judge.

I do believe the largest downsides in most boxes/crossfit style gyms can be:

  • Lack of use of tempo and controlled movement, especially under fatigue.
  • Lack of management of volume and intensity.
  • Lack of coaches eyes on clients in order to monitor form.
  • Lack of balance within programming or modifications if someone misses a class/WOD

The experience someone has with programming, coaching, and results will ABSOLUTELY  depend on the gym they’re a part of. Some gyms are nailing the programming, smaller class sizes, and modificiations. Most are probably not. Because LIKE PERSONAL TRAINING, the standards are low. A weekend cert and you’re in.

I want to make very clear that I am drawing a big fat parallel to the personal and group fitness industry here. Low standards, education and internship or apprenticeship requirements, and shitty practices by coaches all over the place. In private and globo gym settings.

The cons are not restricted to CrossFit – but as I mentioned, CrossFit has just packaged itself in such a way that makes it easy to judge.

You might disagree with the practices or movements used in CrossFit, which is fine. Just be sure to look to your right and left before staying on your high horse because people in the same profession as you, with the same cert, and same title are likely having clients do push ups and squats on a bosu ball.

Fact is, most people enter fitness through one door and will continue through another as they learn or life’s demands change. Hopefully the entire industry is pushing to improve standards as time goes on. Very little in the world of health and fitness is inherently bad. And CrossFit is no different.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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