If you head out and grab the November issue of Men’s Health, you’ll find an incredibly good article about CrossFit tucked into the middle of the thick magazine. I was initially amped up about this piece because I bought the magazine to entertain me during my plane ride out to California. Much to my delight, I opened the pages to see a picture of my good friend and old training partner Blair Morrison! Pretty cool.
Well, as I write this I am actually on the plane (will probably finish n my old Starbucks in San Mateo seeing how we are only 20 minutes out!) and I am so eager to keep my eye on shit-show that will be CrossFitters complaining about how stupid the article was. Interestingly enough, my initial reaction was similar. How dare this guy rip on the fitness methodology and now sport that I believe in so much? How dare he go so far as to even use the nutritional upper-lord Robb Wolf as a resource to strike up more controversy about the program? Well, once I put my angry kettlebell down, cleaned up the chalk, and put my short back on I realized something: this was one of the best articles on CrossFit I have read in a long time. I say thins because the truth was written.
My frustration with the piece was similar to that of one written by a Washington Post Express journalist who decided to try out the whole minimalist shoe craze. He bought a pair of Five-Fingers and went out on a 5 mile run. He then promptly ripped the craze a new one because he couldn’t walk for a week! Well, any somewhat smart human would understand that he was an idiot. If you spend your whole life running in moon-boots and then one day go barefoot, you can’t expect run for hours and be cured of all your problems. That would be like an obese person deciding to eat healthy, doing so for one day then saying it doesn’t work and is stupid because he didn’t lose 100 pounds! The writer of the CrossFit piece became so turned off by CrossFit that after one final humiliating day where he finished dead last in a workout surrounded by women, he walked out, never to return.
Well, my immediate reaction was: out of the now 3000+ affiliates around the world, perhaps you just went to a crappy one? Perhaps if you went to an affiliate who’s coaches understood that learning the kip as part of foundations is probably going to lead to a lot of injury. Or where they don’t program 4 days of weighted, heavy loaded snatch work in one week. Or, where they don’t ask you to deadlift 225# in a 15 minute AMRAP on your first day! Unless you’re “drunk on the kool aid” you’re probably going to burn out at some point pretty quickly at a place that pays no attention to your needs. I mean, all of the problems this guy had at his “box” pissed me off because I would never let those happen at mine. So, I found his article stupid.
Then I realized something. His article was clearly NOT stupid. I mean seriously, I have been to some 50 CrossFit affiliates and I would say that well over 30 of those could easily be placed in the category of CrossFit that the author was writing about. If you went and talked to the coaches you’d hear them talk the same way founder Greg Glassman talks about the program, that it’s about become generally physically prepared, that it’s about becoming overall athletic, and not specializing, and that their program is the best thing you could do for your body. Most coaches (and depressingly, nowhere near all of them) could even go into the science behind why CrossFit style of training is so beneficial. They talk about the need for good form over good times, about how they teach a full understanding of the basic movements. They talk about avoiding injury and how their program is scalable and modifiable. Then you walk into their gym and see 15 people thrashing around trying to complete “Fran” as fast as humanly possible. Backs are rounding, heels are off the floor, hands have a death grip on the bar, people who cannot perform 2 consecutive pull ups are swinging around the pull up bars, screaming as they push out one more rep. And those coaches who talk so wonderfully about their program, about how focused they are in avoiding injury and taking care of each and every one of their athletes? They are standing their screaming at everyone to get back on the bar, fight through, keep going, don’t stop, go faster and on and on! All of a sudden everything they just talked about is thrown out the window and the truth comes out as to how this place is run.
Damn, I guess this guy was right! I guess when we step out of the crazy cult following CrossFit has become and look at the whole thing objectively, you find something pretty damn scary. Step back in and do a little searching and you find some really freaking great places that take the time and energy to do things right. But with 3000+ affiliates around the world, how many of those do you really think do it right? Judging by the poor quality of gyms, trainers and coaches out there in general, we can probably assume that not too many of them are all that great. So what does that mean for you? Well, this is where you, as the consumer must take on a bit of responsibility and take the time to make sure you’re finding the right fit. And of you find that fit, I can pretty much guarantee that your life will change for the better! If you don’t take that time, if you just expect things to work out for you the first time you walk into any CrossFit gym, well, as sucky as the truth is that you’re probably going to be let down, just the writer was.
Oh, and a HUGE point that should not be taken lightly: just because a head coach knows how to talk about CrossFit, does not mean he/she knows how to teach it. Think of it this way: if some guy is really good at pithing his amazing new smoothie, how healthy and good tasting it is, would you just go ahead and buy ten boxes of it right then and there? If you would, your kind of an idiot. No, you’d probably want to see an official ingredients list, and taste the damn thing, right? Same goes for finding your perfect gym. If a coach tells you that he/she has the best training program, yet tons of the athletes there are getting hurt, are out of shape, complain, or just don’t; represent what the coach is pitching, well, maybe it’s not the best place for you! But don’t write off CrossFit gyms in general because of that; just write off that one! What I really need to write actually is a note to all CrossFit coaches to stop putting out crappy programming and so on and do better! And well, I have that post started already. But please, please, please, as a consumer, as athletes or soon-to-be-athletes who want a better lifestyle and are looking to CrossFit to be that change, take it upon yourself to find the perfect fit. Find a gym that programs intelligently, supports each and every member equally and passionately, supports an honest, healthy lifestyle, and doesn’t just talk about it. If you take the time, you should be able to catch on to this within one or two classes. And if the gym won’t let you try their space out for a few classes before committing to some crazy membership scheme, well, go find another place!
Remember, finding the right gym for you is just as important as eating the proper foods, working at a good job, finding a great partner and so on. It should be a complete part of your entire lifestyle, one that YOU want a part of. So be patient, be demanding and be open. And to all those would be CrossFit bashers out there, if you want a better view of CrossFit, give me a call, if you can’t come to my gym, I have a pretty good list of gyms you could go to to have a great experience!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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