Thor critiques CrossFit – Vol 3: Why I don’t WOD at a CrossFit box

CrossFit regularly posts in the journal contributions titled “A critiques B” where A is an expert, and B is a well regarded cross-fitter. Not that I claim to be an expert, but I thought I’d air my views anyway, hoping that they are of interest to the wider community. To put this in context – I am a big fan of the CrossFit principles, but I am not a CrossFitter in the sense that I have never done a WOD at a box – the reasons for which I will be clearer throughout this series. I have done however the odd seminar (eg on Olympic Lifting) at my local box and I have found that absolutely awesome. I also program my own WOD’s in the spirit of CrossFit. The beginning of this series is here.

Before going further into my CrossFit critique I wanted to elaborate where I am coming from, and why I am commenting on CrossFit when I have never done a WOD at a box.

The reasons why I have never done a WOD at a box are manyfold – and some of them are related to CrossFit, and some of them are related to me:

  1. Logistics – 45min each way vs 5min each way for my local gym
  2. Programming – I like to do my own
  3. Intimidation – I am not sure I want to train with fire-breathers (and they with me for that matter)

The first reason is logistics: my closest box is about an hour away with the subway (and between 30min and 3 hours by car) and I simply can’t face this journey for a one-hour workout, especially not a couple of times a week. I am conscious that other people are going to much more hardship to get to a box however, and I am not complaining. What I am really saying is that – taking everything into account, including the arguments yet to come – I prefer my local gym which is 5min away, and which has a great free weight area and pretty much everything else I need. I also would like to point out that I am going to the CrossFit box for seminars – there the trade-off is different as (a) it rarely happens, (b) the ratio between travel time and exercise time is better, and (c) most importantly, I simply can’t get this level of expertise at my local gym.

The second reason is programming: rightly or wrongly I like to take charge of my own fitness program, and I want to focus on the areas that I need to and/or want to focus on. I guess I could do that with a personal trainer, but in my personal view this is overkill: I am not a professional athlete, and whilst I would appreciate a thought-partner with whom to discuss my training goals and programming, I can’t stand someone supervising my workouts and sending me from station to station.

The last reason is something that I would loosely call intimidation: I am no longer in my twenties (not even in my thirties for that matter, but close enough) and the thought of working out until I throw-up (…a much used theme in crossfit lore…), or working out next to people who throw up for that matter – does not particularly appeal to me.

Related to this is the dichotomy between two fundamental aspects of CrossFit: on one hand, CrossFit is (forging) Elite Fitness. On the other hand CrossFit is meant to be inclusive. In the words of Coach

The question regularly arises as to the applicability of a regimen like CrossFit’s to older and deconditioned or detrained populations. The needs of an Olympic athlete and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. One is looking for functional dominance the other for functional competence. Competence and dominance manifest through identical physiological mechanisms.

We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.

IMHO a program can not be elitist and inclusive at the same time – this is a contradiction in itself. Some individuals are able to bridge the gap – I am thinking of exceptionally gifted athletes who do enjoy teaching their knowledge to other people, fully knowing that those will never be able to (and do not aspire to) follow in their footsteps, and it seems to me that many of the current CF elite – the likes of Chris Spealler – are such characters.

However, with a movement outgrowing its founders, and more and more people depending on it for their livelyhoods I would believe that there will forcibly a separation between the CrossFit Elite and the rest-of-us. David Beckham would not play football in my neighborhood team either after all – which arguably benefits him and the team.

So if CrossFit ever runs out of those larger-than-life characters there will be need to decide whether it is a program for the gifted few, or for the masses. Which is similar I believe to what Justin Bailey expresses in his comment

Also, I have the sense that there is a tension here because CrossFit still has this counter-culture, indie feel. I think the more popular it gets, the more stratification you will see from people who want something that is more exclusively “theirs.”

On a final note – I am somewhat like a virgin writing about sex in that the one thing I haven’t experienced – and through noone’s fault other than my own – is the camaraderie of a CrossFit box that can and will make all the difference to one’s personal experience. Maybe, if there was a box closer to me, or me local gym would be less nice, or if I was willing to spend an extra 1-2hours on the tube to allow for the CrossFit experience I would think differently.

Having said this – the lense through which I am intending to look at CrossFit in this series is whether or not it is a universal system that allows a large proportion of the population (including myself) to improve in fitness over and beyond what the current mainstream alternatives are offering. I am not considering whether or not the current Church of CrossFit (as Justin calls it) is a great place to be for its current members, unless this model is scaleable and can be maintained even after going mainstream – and we need a lot of benevolent heroes if we want to scale the current model!



7 thoughts on “Thor critiques CrossFit – Vol 3: Why I don’t WOD at a CrossFit box

  1. Pingback: Thor critiques CrossFit – Vol 1: Introduction | Thor Falk

  2. Pingback: Thor critiques CF – Vol 4: CrossFit Competitions | Thor Falk

  3. Pingback: CrossFit Games – The Fittest on Earth ?!? | Thor Falk

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