I recently conducted some very official research (I polled my friends on Facebook) to find out why people either do CrossFit or why they chose not to. I realized from the responses I got from those who do not find CrossFit appealing, that well, CrossFit is terribly misunderstood. I can’t deny though that they touched on many of the stereotypes, that to be fair, anyone who does CrossFit would admit to there being some truth to them. From the outside, CrossFit seems like a craze created by the devil. CrossFit athletes (yes we are athletes) appear to be weight lifting-arrogant-hyped up-injury prone bros and swolemates who grunt, sweat and over indulge in bragging about snatches, PR’s and squats. I want to, acknowledge that yes, these things do exist, but more importantly, I want to debunk these stereotypes (maybe once and for all?!)
- CrossFit is dangerous and you will get injured. Yes, injury happens at CrossFit. A lot. I ask though, does it happen any more frequently than any other form of exercise or sport? Many running injuries, for example (much like those obtained through CrossFit) come from the lack of stretching and mobilizing; over training; lack of rest days; improper technique; and plain stupid luck. When someone running experiences an injury, we do not tend to denounce running as a sport. Yet, when it comes to getting injured at CrossFit, there is an immediate reaction and assumption that CrossFit caused it.
The onus of injury should be on the individual athlete more so than the sport itself. We are all adults. We have the ability to choose for ourselves how much or how hard we train. We know when something in our body does not feel right. If we are injured because we feel peer pressure or that competitive feeling sets in, again, that is within our control. CrossFit is designed to have varied workouts and to always challenge us. Yes, it is a demanding and high impact sport, but it is completely possible to train at that level safely. Many CrossFits start athletes out in their fundamentals class so that newbies can focus on technique and continuously build on that.
Not every CrossFit box is the same. Some are better than others depending on their coaching, members and programming. A good box has coaches who are paying attention to their members and all the details that go into movements. A good box has members that are encouraging and supportive. A good box has programming that is methodical, calculated and designed for gains. If you find yourself in a box that does not have these 3 things, then there is more likelihood for injury. Again, we are all adults. We have the ability to recognize a good environment from a bad one. Be proactive enough to research and find a box that encourages and promotes a safe fitness environment, and injury is less likely to happen.
- CrossFit is too competitive. CrossFit is perceived to be highly competitive, which some people find alluring and some people find unappealing. Quite a few of my friends stated this as a reason as to why they have no interest in CrossFit. I can respect anyone who does not want to bring that to their fitness. However, just to be devil’s advocate, I will say this. I think of the competitive aspect as it is what you make of it. While some athletes’ egos thrive off of that competitiveness, there are plenty of athletes that use it for their own personal gain and gratification. Some are happy they beat someone else in a PR, but for most, they are happy they beat their own PR.
I also know it is entirely possible to take classes alongside other people and not give a hoot about what anyone else is doing. There are plenty of people who love CrossFit and pay no attention to the competitive side of it. For many of us, we are most competitive with ourselves. We strive to be better today than we were yesterday. For me, there are times I do benchmark myself off of others and it pushes me to get those tough reps in during a metcon or to push through that last 200m run. I get stronger from people around me, not necessarily because it is competitive. Rather, it is inspiring. To see someone do something you want to do can be quite motivating.
Also for every ounce of competition, there is twice that showing support and encouragement to boxmates. Many people CrossFit because of the camaraderie and not the competition. Sandra Dickson of CrossFit SouthBay reinforces this well, “I’ve stayed for the past 4 years because of the camaraderie of the classes and the friendships I’ve made.”
- CrossFit is too intimidating.
One of my friends said she feels intimidated to go to CrossFit and would want to be fitter and stronger before going. (Which for the record, I have heard other people say this about not just CrossFit but global gyms, boot camps and other group classes). People who CrossFit come in all shapes and sizes and all skill levels (not everyone is a Rich Froning or Katrin Davidsdottir). We are all at different levels and that is what is so amazing about it. CrossFit is so scalable that you could have 5 people doing the same workout with totally different variations. For example, not everyone can do a Handstand Push-up (HSPU) so when a workout has them at Rx, it is common to see some people doing them (with varying degrees of difficulty even: some with 1 ab mat, some with 2, some with none) while other athletes may be doing hand release push- ups and others may be doing inverted push- ups. No matter the scale, everyone is experiencing the same feelings of suck and elation. What is challenging for one person to the next is all relative. If you are scaling appropriately, the person cleaning 130 pounds versus the one cleaning 65 pounds is not having any easier of a time.
Personally, I prefer working out with people fitter and stronger than me. It is so gratifying to be successful at something that you previously had only been able to envy. I also like being able to be the one motivating others. It is what keeps it exciting and somewhat altruistic. Some days you are the ones getting encouragement and some days you get to give it. As Feo Diaz of CrossFit PT6 in Krakow says so well, “I do it because it’s much more fun and engaging than going to the gym by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you finish first or are still going after the time cap. The people in the CrossFit community always support and push you to do better.” I think this is far more prevalent in CrossFit than the intimidation factor.
- CrosFit is expensive. Along with CrossFit comes the finances. My friend, Jackie, who is a tennis fanatic asks, “Isn’t Crossfit expensive? Tennis is $8 for 2 hours.” Touché, Jackie, touché. Yes, CrossFit is expensive (it can be anywhere from $99 a month upwards of $300). I will argue though that if CrossFit is something you love, when it comes to finances it is how you prioritize this expense. Coming from someone who has worked for a cable company, there are plenty of people on budgets who manage to spend $120 a month to binge watch television. Whether or not that is practical, it goes back to the point that it is how you chose to spend your money. If fitness and health are a priority for you, it should be less excruciating to dole out the cash for it.
I fully acknowledge the cons to CrossFit. I fully recognize CrossFit is not for everyone. If it is any consolation, I have desperately wanted to get on the yoga train without much success. So I totally get it. The world is full of choices on how to be fit and healthy. I simply would hate for stereotypes to be a deterrent for even trying Crossfit. I also believe CrossFit to be a great phenomena that should be recognized for everything it has to to offer. Poojita Puligundla of CrossFit Fremont had one of the most encouraging testimonials about CrossFit that I hope puts some of the negative perceptions to rest.
“Pre CrossFit, I did work out but I was very limited in the sense that I would just stick to the treadmill or the elliptical. After I got exposed to CrossFit I do so much more because I’ve been trained by wonderful coaches about the importance of having the right form, exercising different muscle groups etc. Apart from that, it gave me a whole new perspective on my ability to challenge myself. I am the kinda person who can get comfortable too easy and with CrossFit I’ve never felt like I stopped at my comfort zone. I’ve learnt to push myself and started enjoying tiny victories. For ex: Before CrossFit I couldn’t do a single push up and now is a different story. This experience is beyond exercise for me, it’s changed my mindset.”