Being an athletic person and having a blog that talks about all of our adventures and races all over the world, it’s no surprise that I get asked quite a bit about my fitness background. Of course being primarily an ultra distance runner, the most common ones are “how many miles a week do you run?” or “Do you do any other sport?” But I’m writing today about a question that usually comes up a little further into the conversation, when we finally touch on the topic of cross training. Whether I initially bring it up as a regime I followed for a while, or others ask simply with it being such a hot fad right now, I often field the question “do you do crossfit?”
The short and blunt answer is no…. but also yes. No, because I don’t label my workout style as “crossfit” nor do I follow any one persons programming style, online or in a “box.” Yes, because the cross training workouts I work into my programming highly resemble the crossfit methodology based around constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity.
But if you dig into my thoughts enough, I definitely don’t see myself as a crossfit athlete or even an enthusiast, so I thought I would share my reasoning why. Sure this opens up the floodgates on hardcore believers to criticize and to be honest, I love passionate discussions, so I welcome everyones comments!
My history with the cult (don’t get all worked up I called it that, it is one)
While I was attending UWO for my undergrad degree, I had always been a gym junkie in the sense that I would hit the gym on a regular basis, wore the fingerless gloves, drank the weight gainer protein shakes (I was 150 pounds, and someone convinced me that was a bad thing) and of course I liked to justify my crappy overeating by simply stating that I was “bulking up!” So one week, my brother and I tried a couple of WOD’s off crossfit.com, and to be frank, got our *sses handed to us! But in a good way! I was quickly addicted to the fad, with its new workout style, awesome new exercises (rarely did I see people in the gym doing Olympic lifting, or gymnastic movements), and not to mention the obvious competitiveness.
I attended branded crossfit gyms for quite a while, subscribed to the crossfit journal, and watched pretty much any informational video I could find that was crossfit related, just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could. I was a full out “crossfitter”. I played no other sports, I scoffed at other peoples workout styles or beliefs, and not to mention I owned all the typical crossfit gear.
So what changed?
The constantly varied got less varied —> If you compare the workouts and types of exercises, during any single month, between a stereotypical gym junkie weight lifter and a crossfitter, then crossfit will definitely seem constantly varied and novel. But if you compare two separate months of a crossfitters workout routine, the number of rounds might change, the number of reps might change, but essentially it consists of a core group of exercise that isn’t all that much longer than what you would do at globo gym. My bottom line = I started to get bored hearing and doing the same“ish” workouts all the time.
Not everything is for f*cking time —> I’m no doctor so I won’t even dabble into the scientific stuff, but high intensity workouts need to be done at very high intensity, but balanced with lower intensity skill work and even lower intense restorative movement and exercise. Speaking strictly from personal experiences I) Going for a run in the forest can be one of the most liberating experiences, no watch, no music, just your breath and the fresh air, II) My new passion for AcroYoga has been a humbling experience, for strength has never been matched and balanced so well with flexibility and control of movements, and III) Here in Chile, we’ve started meeting up with a Barstarzz group down on the beach, and these guys might not jack out a 2 minute “fran” but their front lever hold contests are ridiculous, and they focus more on skill and form rather than time.
My bottom line = it’s all about balance and no one regime will be perfect, find your interests and blend them to challenge and excite you at every workout.
Crossfit is not a sport:
This was one of the biggest Aha moments for me. I thought to myself that I’m going to crossfit, so that I can get fitter to go back tomorrow and … do crossfit better??? If you even look at the crossfit games, they call the winners “the fittest people on earth!” Really… Would any crossfit fan agree that Lance Armstrong was (pre drug scandal) the fittest man on the planet during his Tour de Franc streak? No, he was a good cyclist, period. It’s the same difference of perspectives and definitions. My bottom line = I wanted to learn new sports and improve at them, cross training helps, but I didn’t really like the idea of “exercising” being my primary sport.
I noticed holes in the skill sets being taught —> This one is purely based on common observations, not strictly from my own weaknesses developed (Lets face it, I caused those myself). But if you think about it, why are handstand pushups being taught when the person can’t pull-up into a handstand or even hold a free one. Did I miss the memo that we are now forcing babies to run before they mastered walking? This carries into a number of different areas of training, but I feel crossfit is developing people on shaky foundations, which only opens the doors for injuries to happen.
My bottom line = said so well by Ido Portal “Until you master moving yourself, you have no business moving another object.”
I always say that the crossfit methodology is sound, which is why I build some of my workouts in a similar fashion. It’s mostly the corporate stigma that it has grown that has turned me off. Kelly Starret from Crossfit Mobility said a quote that I loved “the fittest person is not the best in any sport, but the person who can learn a new sport the quickest.”
Final thought – I would love for people to start viewing crossfit or any style of cross training as a supplement to their primary activity. In a similar way you view protein powder as a supplement to your overall diet. You would never eat ONLY supplements to fuel yourself would you? So why would you only do cross-training workouts? Get out there, try something new, meet new people and ditch the timer every now and again.
Mel and Jon