In part 1 of this series, I took a stab at answering the common questions I often get asked around CrossFit as well as providing basic information around what it is and expectations. This week, I will be providing my perspective on some of the issues with CrossFit as I see them.
I love CrossFit. I coach it. However, I am not so blind to see that it is not a perfect system. First, nothing is perfect and second, it doesn’t do any one any good to blindly cling to dogma about any one system or subject matter. Keeping an open mind and seeing the pros and cons of something while being able to discuss those things in a reasonable manner is how I try and approach most things..even those things that I hold dear in life.
1. CrossFit CAN be unsafe.
- The reputation is out there and just like stereotypes it comes about often for good reason. The bar is low to open an affiliate – $1200 for the Level 1 class plus the $3000 or so to pay for the affliate name to be able to call yourself a CrossFit gym. Some one with little to no experience training people, programming or little regard for the safety of their athletes can open a gym. It happens. Inexperience with training people and programming and lack of or inadequate concern about safety added to the intensity of CrossFit can be trouble. Of course, keep in mind that people get injured in regular gyms, sports teams and just being active in life all the time so there can always be risk with physical activity.
- A frequent criticism is the use of the Olympic lifts for high reps especially at heavier loads as being unsafe and a poor practice. I don’t come from an Olympic lifting back ground so I don’t feel qualified to comment on if this is the right way to train or not. It was CrossFit that actually introduced me to these lifts. I love them and am fascinated by them. It was however doing a workout where I did power cleans at 95 lbs where I hurt my back some where around the 45th rep. Might I have gotten hurt doing something else? Maybe. Will I do high rep, heavy weighted Oly Lifts again? Probably not.
2. The programming might not be right for you depending on your goals.
- The thought behind CrossFit programming is to be random: crossing the spectrum of time domains and a range of activities, preparing you for the “unknown and unknowable”. The idea behind this is to help you get generally better at every thing – referred to as General Physical Preparedness (GPP). It is the opposite of specialization. The programming may not help every single athlete meet their individualized goal. Not every one will simultaneously get as strong as they want to be or as lean as they want to be on one program. I will say, in general, though you will get stronger and more than likely leaner (although there are many factors at play for that). Know what your goals are. You might need supplemental work to get better in the areas that you want to get better at. (Please don’t think I am recommending CrossFitting 6 days a week and then adding extra cardio or weight lifting! MORE is not better, better is better!)
- A common complaint from the fitness industry about CrossFit programming is that there is no periodization. I have found for many, but not all, CrossFit gyms this is true. In athletic training, there is the training season, the offseason and a prep/improve time. You don’t need to run at 100% capacity all year around. Our bodies just aren’t meant for that. Some CrossFit gyms do program in deload weeks to help their athletes recover but it is not a consistent practice. You will need to be smart and monitor yourself around this.
- It is not sports specific training. If you want to be an Olympic lifter, soccer player, baseball player, etc you will need to spend most of your time doing that. CrossFit can certainly help with the conditioning and mobility but you will need to get better at the skills you need to play your sport.
3. The Clock and The Board. At each CrossFit gym there is a board where scores/times/reps are written down. Each workout is timed. There are positives to this for sure. People rise to the occasion in the competitive environment and do more than they thought they could. Also, there is truth in ‘what gets measured gets improved’. Consistent measuring of workouts helps you to see where you are improving. All good things. However, the clock some times gets in the way of getting work done. People get overly concerned with what is written on the board and how they did in respect to others in the class or for the day and it can take away from how you feel you did on any given work out. I feel like some times work outs should be run with out a clock especially with beginners and let them build confidence in their skills and what they can accomplish. Who cares what the clock is? How much ass did you kick today?! 🙂
4. Drama I think because I fell so in love with CrossFit that I took the drama that I heard about to heart. De-affliating some really respected fitness industry people, outing and shutting down people who criticize CrossFit HQ and crazy twitter battles really made me question if I wanted to be involved in any way with CrossFit. I had to take a breath and remember that none of that has ANYTHING to do with the athletes at my gym or my gym owner and the type of environment he works to create. I love my CrossFit gym. I love the CrossFit community in Richmond and at each one of the events that I have attended and other boxes I have visited. I have no idea what the drama and politics are at other corporate headquarters of places I enjoy frequently – Apple, Facebook, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods – nor do I care. I have since tuned out the drama and just focused on what I love about this way of working out and the awesome people involved it.
Again, no system, company, ..um.. anything is perfect and CrossFit is no exception to that.
Despite some of the drawbacks I think it is one of the best things out there for challenging people and help them grow to be better in life. I do love it for that reason especially. I am going to keep coaching it and supporting the amazing community that is CrossFit.
Would love to hear your thoughts on what I presented as the positives and negatives to the phenomenon that is CrossFit.
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