What is CrossFit?: 12/20/11

Posted: December 20, 2011 in CrossFit, Training
Tags: , , ,

For those of you who may never have noticed, across the top of my blog is a tab labeled “What is CrossFit?

On that page, I try to provide some introductory resources to anyone who comes across this page to explain what CrossFit is, and some basics of the program. Last night I was asked to approve a comment on the page, and after reading it, I was instantly inspired to type a reply. When I finished typing and hit “send”, I realized that it would all be kept on a rarely visited tab of this page.

Instead, I am going to post the interaction here for all of you to see.

It is critical to me that lines of communication on this blog be kept open and RESPECTFUL at all times. This posted, Rachel, disagrees with CrossFit. However, she is very respectful in sharing why she dislikes it. Similarly, I tried my best to give a well thought-out reply while not resorting to some of the immature Pro-CrossFit stuff I’ve seen out there.

I’m sharing this with you guys to get your input. What do you think about what she said? What about my reply? Am I being a positive “ambassador of our sport”? That’s my goal.

It’s a bit wordy, but I tried my best.


Rachel’s Comment:
My advice is: Don’t drink the Crossfit Kool Aid. Don’t go into a Crossfit gym, even if they offer you free intro classes. Never sign up on a Crossfit mailing list. Don’t watch a friend’s Crossfit Class.

I am a runner, and I know some runners that decided to try Crossfit as a way of cross training. These were not weekend joggers, but people that run half marathons and marathons. Most quickly decided the Crossfit program’s workouts were too extreme for them. The WODs were making them too sore to do their best running. So they decided to go back to working with a personal trainer.

A few other runners decided to stick with Crossfit and see if they could get used to the workouts to the point they were not feeling so sore. Unfortunately, both got injured doing Crossfit WOD, and as a result, were not able to compete in some races they really wanted to run. After that, they also decided that doing Crossfit was counterproductive to their running goals.

For every Crossfitter that becomes an Elete Crossfit athlete by subjecting their body to the torture of Crossfit Workout of the Day routines, you can be sure that many, many more will end up in the emergency room with an injury that will sideline them from doing ANY exercise for weeks, if not months.



My Reply:

I can see that you have experienced quite a few major issues with the CrossFit program and how it has impacted some people close to you.

I 100% respect your experiences with, and knowledge of, CrossFit, and in response I can only offer my personal experiences with the methodology.

Have I ever known a friend to injure themselves doing CrossFit? Yes. But I can also tell you that the number of athletes I know who have been injured is a fraction of a fraction of one percent compared to the number of people I know (and have seen first-hand) change their lives for the BETTER through the program. Health Metrics (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc) improving, weight loss (in situations where that was critical to personal health), increase in overall fitness/flexibility/strength/energy levels/focus, etc. Those are the overwhelming number of stories that I see or hear about.

Is there some inherent risk with the program? I think it’s obvious that there is. However, have people also injured themselves running outside? Bench Pressing? Rock Climbing? Yes.
There is always a RISK for injury in any physical activity, and with CrossFit, in my opinion there are two things in particular that can impact one’s likelihood of injury:

1- Proper coaching – I’ve been an athlete for most of my life, and don’t think I’ve participated in anything as technically challenging day-in and day-out as CrossFit. The form, coaching and practice required to “master” these movements enough to perform them at the demands of the program are significant. Here’s the catch… at MY gym (I don’t own it, but where I work), I try my best to coach our athletes to a point where they can maintain safe form regardless of whether or not I am there to coach them.

2- Self-Awareness – Once the coaching piece has been addressed, I still feel that athletes need to be self-aware enough to identify when they are working out. The three “steps” in progression that they coach in CF are: Form, Consistency and Intensity. So, by the nature of the program, athletes should be sure to feel comfortable with movements before increasing weight. I have stopped my athletes many times, worked with them on form and then suggested (required 🙂 ) a drop in weight before they could continue, when I felt that their safety was in jeopardy. It’s part of the game.

You will never be able to eliminate the chance of injury, but I do think that the best gyms out there create an environment where athletes are better prepared to be as safe as possible, and understand why they do what they do.

Furthermore, part of CrossFit’s approach is that we specialize in NOT specializing. In the event that an athlete is training for a specific event (Ironman, marathon, hockey tournament) I think they should focus primarily on their sport-specific training, while using CrossFit as a supplement to increase strength/flexibility, etc. Have I seen people train only using CrossFit, then run their first marathon, remain injury free throughout their training and then not get injured during the race? Yes. That person is me.

Now, did I qualify for Boston with my time? OF COURSE not! Ha! But, that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to complete a marathon using CrossFit, and I did. And was safe and healthy throughout the process.

As I’ve said a few times on my blog, I’m not trying to coach someone to become the next “Fittest Man or Woman on Earth”. My goal in coaching is to continue to help people improve their health and wellness through working out for a few hours per week. All of the other positive stuff that comes from that is just icing on the cake!

That’s not the most eloquent reply I’ve ever written, but I’m on my lunch break and wanted to get back to you as soon as I could.

There’s no reason that we ever need to agree on this topic, and the most important thing for me to note is that I appreciate your input and thank you for your time put into sharing those thoughts with me! This it the type of dialogue I love having with athletes from all over! Thanks again, Rachel.


  1. Heather Beck says:

    I am not sure where to start… I’ve been “in a gym” since I was 14. I’ve always loved lifting weights, attending workout classes, bootcamps, running the stairs at Red Rocks. I force myself to do the Boulder Boulder each year because I hate running with a passion!!

    I started CrossFit after I competed in a fitness challenge where I took third place. After eating close to nothing for 13 weeks and training anywhere from 2-4 hours in the gym, I was burnt out and so ready for something else!!

    I saw a free CrossFit class posted on a friends wall so I decided to go. Yep, fell in love with my first class!! I went the rest of the week to the free classes and then singed up to CrossFit regularly.

    Typically you can’t even start CrossFitting until you have taken a week of skill or element classes. In this week you are shown the moves, learn ways to be safe ect.

    I’ve been CrossFitting for 8 months now and I’m by far stronger than I have ever been. I enjoy going and don’t dread it like the global gym nightmare.

    My issue is, you can get injured doing anything including running but I don’t think I would take a stand against running and tell the “runners” not to drink the running kool-aid because they can get hurt.

    Well maybe I would, as I said I do hate running… Okay I’m kidding. Anyway, if someone finds their exercise mojo in swimming, let them swim.. In running, let them run and in CrossFit… Let them CrossFit!

    I feel 110% safe and it’s completly up to YOU if you don’t want to do some part of a WOD due to not feeling confident, or needing it scaled to your ability.

    I also think maybe the injured friends might take some responsibility for not saying “no, I’m not comfortable doing xyz!”

  2. […] the post I just put out there a few hours ago, it just seemed like a good […]

  3. Heather Shaughnessy says:

    I agree with the Heather who replied previously- you can get injured doing any sport or exercise program. As a physical therapist I cannot tell you the number of runners I have treated with various overuse injuries. It lies with both the coach and the athlete themselves to monitor safety and avoid injuries. And, as Heather also said- if “it” (whatever “it” happens to be for you- running, Crossfit, etc.) gets you healthy and you enjoy it, then do it and who cares what everyone else thinks!!

    • buffbetty1 says:

      Great post! I’ve never met a runner that hasn’t had an injury. A converted a good friend of mine to crossfit who was a seasoned marathoner. Even ran in Boston. She came to crossfit and was amazed at how physically weak she was. Yes, she could run far, but is that all you want out of life? Not me, I would rather run far AND be strong. She was able to change up her running programming and actually ran her fastest marathon 6 months after following her crossfit wod’s and crossfit endurance program. For me, I have never ran faster in my life, and I never run! In fact I don’t enjoy running, but I can still do it. That’s the beauty of crossfit!!! You can do, and are good at everything! You are prepared for any scenario.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.