Anytime there is a new fitness craze, I get asked during training sessions, social events, trips to the food store and ball games if the workout, diet or program has merit. Many of these often come and go so quickly that I don’t bother to take the time to even learn about them.
The questions that I currently am getting often involve Cross Fit, a workout brand and chain of clubs that are popping up in cities everywhere. I will admit that I don’t know as much as I should about them, but as with anything I always try to give the benefit of the doubt. From what little exposure I have had to their programs, here is what I have been able to derive:
-The atmosphere and energy surrounding CrossFit workouts and centers is certainly infectious and appealing. In a country that is facing an obesity epidemic, anything that can motivate people to improve their physical health and well-being should be applauded
-The minimalistic approach to their workouts, focusing on a lot of bodyweight and foundational high-intensity strength training is refreshing in a fitness industry that has for too long been dominated with a machine based, 3 sets of 10 on selectorized equipment, mindless approach
-The fact that such a huge emphasis has been placed not only on getting females involved, but extolling the virtues of making them strong, is also a breath of fresh air. The days of women’s fitness being confined to step classes and treadmills are as archaic and outdated as old school, “Leave it Beaver”, “the woman’s place is in the kitchen” thought processes.
-CrossFit facilities are all independently owned and operated so the philosophies and quality standards of each one can vary greatly. For the average consumer, it may be difficult to distinguish the true and passionate providers from the ones who have jumped on the bandwagon for the quick buck.
-Some (not all) of the CrossFitters that I have come across are a little cult-like in their allegiance to the program. They have developed both a style and lifestyle that is unique and if you don’t fit that mold, it can be a tough clique to blend in with if you don’t have the right high socks, minimalist footwear, Paleo diet and secret lingo.
-In a perfect world, everyone who joined a fitness center would look like the people in the CrossFit commercials. They would be tanned, lean, muscular, have perfect exercise form, always be smiling, wearing perfectly matched lycra outfits, they never sweat and their hair never moves. The reality is that more often the people who join gyms are overweight, stressed out, weak, dysfunctional, and have lengthy medical histories and overloaded schedules and personal lives. Although some of the workouts and techniques done at Cross Fit may be very good, they may not be appropriate for many that attempt them.
-In the 15 years I have been training people, no 2 clients have ever had the same goals, injury history, lifestyle, training experience, personality and work ethic. Therefore it is very hard to create a plan that best suits any or all of them. My belief has always been that “the program that works for everyone usually works for no one.” At CrossFit, there are programmed “WOD”s, or Workouts of the Day. These workouts are the same for everyone, which means they are great if they fit your abilities or goals, but if not, you may be at best just sweating but not improving and at worst, risking injury. We have unfortunately begun to see a rise in the number of people coming to us after getting injured doing Cross Fit workouts they were by no means prepared or capable of doing.
Now before all of the Cross Fit people starting bashing me and lashing out, realize that I never said that Cross Fit itself was bad. I am simply pointing out my observations from the outside, which I believe most true and intelligent CrossFitters would agree whole-heartedly with. In the past few months, my staff and I have had the good fortune of meeting some really forward thinking CrossFit facility owners who have brought us in to do continuing education for their staff and consulting them on how they can make their programs more functionally sound and adaptable using advanced Kettlebell technique training, Functional Movement Screening and applying progression and regression models for their coaches with the daily workouts. In fact, if you were to attend one of our facility’s Boot Camp classes it very much has a feel and look very similar to CrossFit, which is absolutely by design.
Just like choosing a dentist, golf instructor or accountant, there are good and bad practitioners in any profession, with CrossFit being no different in terms of choosing an exercise program. The goal of this article is not to promote or dissuade you, but rather make you an educated consumer.