Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Should CrossFit save the fitness world?

As CrossFitters, we have discovered something wonderful. Something only a select few (comparitively speaking relative to the total population of the world) people in this world have found. We have discovered a brand of fitness that allows us to push ourselves to the limits. We have found something that allows us to be more fit than some people would ever dare to imagine they could be. We are under the tutalage of some of the best coaches this world has to offer, and we are happy people. We are taught, nay bred, to be elite athletes, able to compete at top levels, or just against ourselves. We are taught to use good form, work hard, rest smart, eat smart, and be healthy fit people.

We have fallen so in love with CrossFit that we dub ourselves things like psychos, firebreathers, and "Legit" CrossFit. We often feel offended if someone insults or questions CrossFit or our methods and we drink the CrossFit Kool-Aid the way some people drink their morning cups of coffee. Our version of fun is doing tabata on the weekends and at parties we like to see who can throw kettlebells the farthest. We are our own unique brand. We revel in torn calluses and bruises, and throwing up is a badge of honor that tells the whole world just how hard you pushed it in that circuit. We love CrossFit to the point of obsession. In fact, we love CrossFit so much that we recruit people to it at any cost. Anytime, anywhere. But the question on my mind is, should CrossFit save the fitness world? Should we continue to give people the information that we know? This is not to say that as CrossFitters we know everything. We are constantly learning. But we know the basics, and the theory behind it all. So should we continue to recruit people to our ways and give the fitness world globo gymers the information they really need?

We as CrossFitters know, and are walking/talking/living/breathing proof, that working your total body 4-5 days a week makes waaaay more sense and is way better for you than the old Tommy Trainer routine. You know that routine. That routine of cardio and arm and leg days with some abs thrown in so you can get your nice six pack to show off while you down 40's at Dewey beach on the weekends. We know that being completely fit is better for your body. We know all of this information and we try to pass it along to others. We talk about it, blog about it, do free drop ins, but the question that remains is, should we?

Let's be honest for a moment shall we? How good does it feel to be considered an elite athelete? How good does it feel to be able to, as Adrienne put it, walk among mere mortals and know that their entire workout probably equals your warm-up? We don't CrossFit so we can get that feeling, we do it because we love it, but man, it's nice to know that you can rock through a circuit, while some Joe Schmoes are telling you how hard their lat pull downs were today. It is a smidge of an ego boost.

But one of the really cool things about CrossFit is the kind of underground mentality that seems to persist. I remember an early Jerry saying that he doesn't like to advertise. He'd rather his name be spread through word of mouth. (PS-Jerry, don't think you need to worry about that anymore) We don't make lots of fancy pretty gyms. Hell, we don't need them or want them. Give us an open warehouse with a garage door and we're like kids in a candy store. We see lines of C-2 rowers and racks of weights, a few climbing ropes, a full scale chin up bar, and we can't wait to get some mats and a white board and be good to go. Hell, we don't even need paint. This mentality is part of what makes CrossFit CrossFit. How will that mentality change if we continue to up our membership and CrossFit becomes mainstream? And by mainstream, I mean like globo gym. We as CrossFitters fight to keep standards high, but even now, we know that some affiliates do not hold to the same standards. As we grow, will we be able to still maintain that high standard or will it slip? Will a few bad apples ruin the reputation of a really good program?

Think about it for a moment. Everyone, save the people with medical conditions or other impairing issues, can CrossFit. The scalability of CrossFit is part of what makes it unique and is what would make it possible for everyone to do. It's functionability would also help people the world over. So in truth, everyone should CrossFit. But let's say that as CrossFitters, we do such a good job of getting the word out, that lots of people do join CrossFit, and now there's a CrossFit on every corner. Or let's say, that Hollywood begins to push CrossFit even more after the 300 movie and Meet the Spartans. How does that affect us? With so many people, we can no longer call ourselves elite. Elite refers to a small select group. How can that be the case when CrossFit has won the world over?

Now, before everyone jumps on my hind end for posting this, I want you to understand one thing. I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this post. I am posting it with the intention of making you think. I can see the positives and negatives to CrossFit ruling the fitness world and in truth saving it from itself right now. The fitness world needs more functional athletes as opposed to athletes who specialize or just plain old aren't working hard enough. Or athletes who are convinced they are strong because they can't put their arms down. That's great. But when you need to drop down and pick up something off the floor, can you do it without injuring yourself?

Bringing CrossFit to a mainstream stage would show the world just how much functional athletism kicks the backside of specialized athleticisim and is better overall for your body, but my question is, what would the ramifications be? Our program basically practices natural selection. It is difficult enough that it weeds out those who are not able, for whatever reason, to participate and only the truely elite, not necessarily in body, but in determination and will, stay and choose to challenge themselves. If it is brought to the main stage will the program remain that way or will it be altered to accomodate those who are not determined enough? Will people begin to scale in a negative way? We know that as things gain popularity with the mass markets they tend to change. Perhaps as CrossFit grows, it will evolve. Perhaps we will have something similar to martial arts and have to level our skills. Who knows? But if change is in the cards and that is the case, what shape will the CrossFit evolution take? Where will CrossFit be in 5 years? 10?

Coach says that CrossFit is forging elite fitness while also forming elite community. I'm not sure your community could get much bigger if CrossFit were to hit the mainstream. Think of how amazing it would be to speak the CrossFit language wherever you go. But at the same time, it would no longer be an elite language. It may no longer be the "I workout in the downstairs basement of my neighbors house and we tore out the drop ceiling so we could hang a chin up bar" kind of mentality, which is often what draws some people to CrossFit. Like I said before, I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing with what I've written. I'm merely posing a few ramblings. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better. ~King Whitney Jr.

20 comments:

Tami said...

Theoretically it would be great if everyone did CrossFit. Realistically not very many people will simply becuase it's too difficult. Look how many people have globo gym memberships and never even step in the door.

We see the same thing at our martial arts school. It takes a certain type of person to even step in the door, and as they start to advance they slowly stop coming because it gets too hard. The people who end up staying and forming the core of the school have that special personality and mindset that drives them even when things get difficult or even painful in class. They truly are the elite -- not necessarily physically elite but elite in that they are willing to suffer and work hard to attain their goals, be it a black belt or a muscle up.

CrossFit is hard. Sitting on the couch watching TV or plodding along on the recumbent bike is easy. Most people will take the path of least resistance.

georgia said...

I've always felt that the reason so many American adults are not fit is because we no longer have access to the same athletic competitions that we did as children and teenagers. If events such as the CrossFit Games continue to grow and regional affiliates continue to band together for regional or local events, this provides athletic competitions in which both elite and intermediate athletes can compete. Example: Should only those who have the natural talent to swim at an Olympic level be allowed to swim...even for pure joy? Are the efforts and accomplishments of professional marathoners diminished by the fact that Grandma also crossed the finish line, though several hours later? I feel that doesn't take away from the sport. The more people involved in and consumed by a sport, the more intensity and the higher caliber of athletics.

Let's spread the knowledge and the passion. Let's create superstars out of the elite of the elite crossfitters. It's a huge time of growth in the sport of CrossFit. I know I haven't felt this alive or excited about sport since I was a kid competing in gymnastics. I want the whole nation and then world to be crazy and obsessed with CrossFit. Can you imagine how cool it would be for everyone to know Fran or Helen or Elizabeth?!?! If they were common words like marathon, freestyle, beam...it would be just too cool for school

georgia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Mirek said...

Katie...I concur with Tami and Georgia! They say what I would say only better.

Adrienne said...

Coach said (and I love this) when talking about the future of Crossfit, that it would not become "mainstream" because (like Tami said) it's too hard.

He also said his goal was not to make Crossfit mainstream, but it was to find the last Crossfitter in the world. That would make him happy.

Katie said...

Adrienne, I totally agree with you that I don't think that going mainstream was ever his true intention. But sometimes as things become more popular, it's hard to slow progress. Everyone thought that that crazy little thing called the internet was going to tank, and look what happened.

And I do agree that true CrossFit workouts are too difficult for many people. They simply can't, or in some cases won't, push themselves that hard. I guess the scenario I was posing, is what happens when people say, well it's scalable, and then scale for the wrong reasons, ie, to make it easy. It's not true CrossFit then if you are making it easy. I guess a good description of what I'm aiming at would be a spinoff. What happens if CrossFit spinoffs develop? Maybe that's a better way of putting it. I've noticed that Gold's has already started doing Kettlbell classes in some locations. Is a dumbed down version of CrossFit not far behind? Just some wonderings and musings.....

Brad said...

My prediction is this:

Crossfit and it's mode will become tweaked and bastardized into an "easy enough," more marketable, pop version. The attitudes associated with CF will remain and we will have flash over substance. People will pose as crossfitters and talk the talk but not walk the walk.

I am reminded of the "alternative" music scene and its diffusion. When I was in college (somewhere that song about 1985 is playing) back in the early 80s there was this move fueled by the punk/new wave movement of the late 70s, MTV and college radio that, for lack of a better term, was called alternative music. The bands included bizarre and new unknown names like U2, REM, The Cure, The B-52s, Pylon, Duran Duran... A quick scan of this list offers a contradiction - how could U2 or REM or Duran Duran (even the B-52s) be alternative? There were 4 U2 albums, 4 REM albums, 2 Duran Duran albums and 3 B-52s albums that were not mega hits. In fact, many people think that U2's first release was The Joshua Tree. Now - in the 90s everything was alternative and everyone bought it. Alternative was the new Pop. And then grunge...

Anyway, I see the CF explosion having the same dangers. Like I felt with the bands I listed, I feel protective of the "real" CF. I get nervous when articles appear in M&F and the like. Mass market will destroy it.

Hope - I still have my Fugazi CDs. I am past the U2 "sold-out" aggravation. I like U2's work - old and new. I have learned to ignore those who are faking it and enjoy what I get out of it. So, I will employ these methods as CF gets missunderstood.

Crossfit is the Punk movement applied to fitness.

georgia said...

"Crossfit is the Punk movement applied to fitness."

Thank you, Brad! I've never in my life felt so darn cool. I always wanted to be hardcore punk! :)

Katie said...

Brad! Good to see you! I've missed ya' the last few days. :) You've been awfully quiet... As always your thoughts are interesting and appreciated. And I think the analogy you came up with is pretty cool. We'll all punk rockers. I like it! :)

Splint Chesthair said...

I don't there's any need to worry about it going mainstream and splitting into a saccharin version of itself. You can't skimp on intensity. It's either there or it isn't. Just like you can’t dumb-down skydiving, you’re either falling out of an airplane or you’re not, there is no easier version. There’s nothing particular new about the specific Crossfit exercises either, they’ve been available to people for decades, centuries even. Most people don’t like pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, etc. because they’re physically hard to do and mentally difficult to prepare for. Do you know how shitty I felt right before starting the 120 pull-up, 120 dip workouts a few days ago? My mind kept telling me I was crazy. It kept on saying it’s going to be a grueling ordeal. It was reminding how sucky 100 pull-ups are and then it was telling me to imagine 20 more on top of that, plus not to forget the 120 dips, about oh, 50 more than you’ve ever done in a workout before. But for some reason I still did it. That’s not learned from Crossfit. It’s the attitude I’ve put into other types of workouts. I’ve done workouts similar to the WODs before and liked them but always believed the old weight training routines were gospel so I never let them ago. My migration to Crossfit and similar styles is just my attempt to optimize that motivation for the goals I want to achieve and finally experimenting on my own about what’s best for me, instead of listening to Muscle& Fitness (ughh, I think I just threw up a little).

Plus I don’t ever plan to join a Crossfit gym, even if one does open somewhere within 50 miles of me, which it probably won’t. So I guess it wouldn’t matter if I saw a Gold’s Tabata Weekend sign. :)

Tami said...

I see what you are saying about the "spinoff" version or the watered down version of CrossFit. That might happen, but if the intensity and difficulty are lacking it wouldn't really be CrossFit would it? Even if it does get watered down there will always be people like us who will take delight in being different and doing it the hard way. The punks, like Brad said.

On a completely different note, I just noticed your reading list in the sidebar. I love the WWII books too. And Marley and Me and Eat, Pray, Love are in my pile waiting to be read. Have you read "Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer? It's kind of like Stranger To Myself only a lot more detailed.

Katie said...

Hey Tami! I meant to thank you for your thoughts, and lost my mind. Imagine that. :) Thanks for dropping by and leaving your ramblings for me to read! I love it when people read what I write. I think I write for the same reason I CrossFit. I love to do it! :) Thanks for the reading suggestions too. I was sort of seeing this guy who got me really into WWII and I love reading stuff about it. Band of Brothers is by far some of the best stuff I've ever seen/read. I love it.

Marley and me was hilarious and moving at the same time. Eat, Pray, Love made me really want to go to Italy. :)

As for the spinoff, no it wouldn't be true CrossFit IMO. But I guess where else I was headed with all that was, would the spinoffs and the ease of them, prevent people who really want to push themselves from finding the "true" CrossFit? Would they be turned off by the spinoff and never discover the real deal? There will be people like you, or many of the others who read this blog, who are more into pushing themselves. But will they be able to get through the fluff to find the golden nugget? The real deal CrossFit? Image isn't everything, but will the spinoffs tarnish the CrossFit rep and prevent otherwise interested parties from finding it? Again, all of this is supposition that CrossFit will hit mainstream, but obviously it's provoked some good and interesting conversation! :)

Katie said...

Splint, thanks for your thoughts brother! :)

Katie said...

Oh God, I'm speaking Jerry speak. :P

Splint Chesthair said...

I don't have anything against affiliates, or the idea. I just prefer working out alone and I have free access to a non-globo gym due to my employment so I couldn't bring myself to pay for another membership somewhere. I'd drop by for clinics, and seminars, learning technique and stuff like that but I wouldn't work out there on a regular basis. I'm sure I'd do better if I did, but I'd also do better if I didn't drink so much beer, and that's not going to happen either.

Just goes to my point that Crossfit isn't the source of the people who are intense about their workouts, it just attracts them.

Katie said...

Interesting thoughts. As for the beer Splint, you could always drink Miller Lite and Michelob Ultra... you know they have fewer carbs... ;)

Brad said...

Splint - I totally agree with you. If it isn't truly crossfit, well it isn't. I just have a hunch that there will be a pop version of this that gets in they way of it saving the fitness world. IMHO the punk movement died with the Sex Pistols - even tho' many many punk bands still exist who play legit punk music.

We will still be crossfitters if we recognize (as Splint obviously does) that the culture part of this is not tantamount to getting fit, even if for some of us it is part of the fun.

Katie said...

The culture really is part of the fun. I will admit. It's fun to see the guys who drop ceilings out of places just so they can workout. I love it! CF 4 life!

Jerry Hill said...

Great post - interesting and thought provoking replies.

Random thoughts:
CrossFit programming works - 6 people, or 6 billion - Constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity - number of participants won't change the fact it works.

Everyone gets into CrossFit for different reasons - Ya gotta be a breed apart to stay. Young, old, athletic, blind with 2 left feet...we don't judge a book by its cover - we applaud a persons effort, are awed by their determination, and inspired by their heart.

Katie said...

Jerry, as always I love it when you stop by! Thanks for the comments! :) I'm glad I was able to be thought provoking. :)