For some this could be an outdated post, or another eye roll worthy blurb about something that was soooo 2015 but wherever you sit there is no doubt in my mind you're still a little interested to hear another view. Especially when the value of the brand is about five billion dollars.
Am I right?
If I am you have probably read the the blogs that show through science and fact that Crossfit has some of the lowest injury rates of any "sport" or that the positive effect in peoples lives far outweighs any negatives that are floating around.
I like to take a different approach - if you can't walk away from reading this and feel like it hasn't hit you in areas that matter to YOU then what's the point in even writing about it.
What actually is it? I have this fun game that I play with people that have a solid opinion on well...a lot of things but as a practicing Ex Phys we get alot of prac students (students sent to us to learn from the inside out about what is relevant in the field today) and who better to ask than someone in the learning stage.
The game is I say a word and they say how they feel or what they know about a topic.
Of course I say Physio, Chiropractic, Paleo diet and my personal favorite being Crossfit.
The answers that come back are usually quite similar (sadly) and around "reckless movement with no structure or lack of focus from a programming perspective" or "extremely dangerous" to "causes the most injuries of any gym style training."
To which I of course follow up with "great that's your view but what IS it?"
To which most people can't ever answer. Without getting too philosophical it's amazing what people will confidently communicate about without even knowing what something IS.
Something I try to ensure is that these prac students realise and appreciate the power of their words - to someone (maybe alot of people) they will be someone's pinnacle of health knowledge and throwing around statements about what something is or what it can do in such a negative light especially when they are so influential can be extremely damaging.
It is mind blowing how many health professionals I liaise with that share their personal (key word here) view on key of areas of health without KNOWING without recognising the possibly value it could add to the individual.
I know you're sitting there thinking "well what the hell is it then you (insert impatient word here)?...
Firstly recognise Crossfit is an umbrella term, a name, a brand- like Nike or Adidas.
That is all it is and what it brings together is the important stuff Greg Glassman has chosen makes it what it is. Most people forget this.
Let's keep it as simple as possible so you can pick apart the pieces you like - all of the points below are key aspects of Crossfit:
Exercise/ Movement Focus
Gymnastics: Some would describe as the perfect balance of mobility, body-weight strength and joint integrity with a focus on specificity, quality and connection/coordination of the body.
Calisthenics: A bit of a crossover with the above but sometimes an easier word to absorb that for most people means bodyweight strength movement with no additives such as parallettes, gymnastics rings or bars. The focus being range of motion and strength in perfect synergy.
Weight Lifting (including Olympic and Power Lifting): Although some feel that Crossfit has bastardised these lifts they (Crossfit) recognise the importance of the lifts in building a strong body with integrity to lift heavy things and put them down again. Olympic lifters are arguably the most powerful athletes in the world (ever watch an oly lifter jump after finishing a big lift? Trust me go watch it).
Functional Movement: An overused trigger term that pretty much means "will help you with life day to day." The reason I say overused trigger term is that ANY movement will help you day to day. Any movement that uses a muscle will make the next day better. Even lifting a glass of wine will make lifting the next glass of wine easier and more comfortable. But for the majority - this means on our feet instead of on our bum.
Energy/Hormones/Physiology (programming perspective)
Anaerobic vs Aerobic: The debate between the anaerobic benefit focused side of the world vs aerobic is HUGE and also something enjoyable to watch from the outside. The arguments that aerobic metabolism and oxidative stress is linked to many cancer types, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and ageing in general where anaerobic is linked to reducing the effects of oxidative stress to it's focus on using other forms of energy (insert nerdy energy system information here). For the majority - Crossfit tends to be programmed towards anaerobic metabolism.
Hormones/ Physiology: Most people either forget or most don't even know that everything that happens in our body is usually due to hormone balance and interaction on a physiological level. Want to lose weight? Great but we do it by manipulating hormones and physiological receptors to create change. Want to feel more energised or more balance in energy levels? Great, the type and style of exercise will be a factor to assist this. Crossfit tends to include alot of science (even if people call it bro-science) to create a platform of programming to create balance physiologically and hormonally. It is actually a very complex process.
Too many people (coaches, trainers and practitioners) tend to forget that this is how things go down in our body and thing that just smashing the body into a hectic training regime is the way to results without taking in the fact that life is usually having some hectic stress effects on the body.
To put it as simply as possible - exercise is stress - you must utilise it and balance it out with effective recovery in the other areas of life to get where and what you want.
If you have the right person who really understands programming whether doing Crossfit or just lifting weights or heading to F45 then the body will adjust accordingly as long as you are looking after it outside of that possible 45-60 mins a day.
Alternative/Lifestyle Factors (Classes and Crossfit communities)
Community: This is a fun one - most people's negative views on Crossfit is based around the cult like mentality that comes with it. You know that feeling when you see someone turn into a child again who is learning something new or is enjoying movement like they never have?
Did you know that cult is the main part of the word culture?
Yep that sadly is one of the most consistent negative things you hear.
"Now they don't talk about anything else."
"All their friends are just Crossfit friends"
When was the last time you tried something new and scary enough that it gave you new friends who enjoyed getting fitter and healthier? You hear the same things about triathlon clubs, cyclists and pretty much anything that creates a new obsession as an adult (I feel knitting could create the same outcome).
Three statements that always stand out to me in this style of issue:
"Misery loves company"
"You will never find someone genuinely happier than you talking negatively about something that makes you genuinely happy"
"Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time" (Yes, it is from a Drake track)
Happiness: I don't think I have ever met someone who does Crossfit or Crossfit style training that doesn't enjoy it. In a world where exercise is tough and sometimes/alot of the time quite un-enjoyable for a lot of people. How is it that a sport/class of lifting heavy stuff and moving your body creates happier people? Seriously thing about it.
The next time someone bags out Crossfit simply ask them why then listen to all of the lack of understanding or misinterpretation come out - then realise they probably communicate similarly about other areas of life. And also enjoy the benefit of re-framing for them (or you if you have been one of these people)- you can find some examples below.
Answer: "I know a heap of people that got injured from it!"
Question to ask back: Which part of IT?
Re-Frame: If the barista made a bad coffee once would you never drink coffee again from that place or even any other?
Reason: Sometimes injuries happen, sometimes you can have an un-educated or inexperienced coach, sometimes you push yourself harder than usual and your body isn't ready for it... This list can go on. Take responsibility for yourself and your body and know that you know your body best. If something doesn't feel right then it probably isn't. If someone yells at you to do one more lift, and you think your form is off - then don't lift it.
Answer: "It seems really intense and so are the people!"
Question to ask back: Do you mean intense or passionate?
Re-Frame: Sometimes people use words that create a comfortable outcome for themselves so they can sit in comfortability - intense is one of these words. It usually means they are "too much." Use the word passionate and everything changes. Imagine that person was as intense about coming home and showing you they loved you that much???
Reason: Passion finds it's way out in funny ways, intensity is one of them. Find a way to trigger and bring forward passion/intensity and you may have unlocked an area of what used to be a somewhat boring or mediocre life.
This list could go on but I think you get my point.
Movement is movement - which is why even the shake weight made millions (because those looking for a quick fix were attracted to it). If not Crossfit, just find something that gets you moving.
My advice - figure out what you want or need and go somewhere that gives it to you and if Crossfit can do it then make sure you find a good coach or set of coaches you are comfortable with.
If you are a bit lonely - classes are awesome and can give you a community of people who are wanting something similar for themselves.
If you are in pain - move, nothing is better for pain that movement. Have fun playing with the right version for you. Maybe Crossfit is the one, maybe not.
You want to lose weight or put on muscle - cool, then get consistent in a space that holds you accountable and creates a feeling of more than just feeling obliged to pick things up and put them down because they news says it is good for you.
If you don't feel happy in yourself and your body/self image - Surround yourself with people that bring you up and inspire you. Never be the smartest one in the room - constantly be learning and changing yourself to be better.
You get my drift, and my one goal at the end of this was that instead of judging an umbrella term (Crossfit in this case) you lifted up the hood (of Crossfit and yourself) and found the reason why you might judge it, or lack understanding or simply listened to someone else who didn't want to see what it can do for people.
Thanks for reading.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist