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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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
Structured lifting program
Body building style of training
CrossFit “toned down” – other things prioritized or sprinkled in
– moving, money, injury
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…
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:
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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