Fallacies of the CrossFit Athlete

You do this job long enough and you will find a number of fallacies are pretty common among CrossFit athletes – which can probably be extended to athletes of any kind over all. Here are some of my top fallacies that impede the progress of even the most intelligent person. Please note the following caveat: these are generalizations and should not be taken as doctrine for any person that considers themselves in any particular group.  Anyone can transcend the boundaries of their particular group and be the outlier!  The important thing to consider is whether or not you are committing the fallacy at all – and then fucking stop doing it.

 

The Strongman Fallacy

Time and time again big strong guys frustrate the most persistent and patient of coaches for their reliance on strength to accomplish all tasks. For some reason, grace, fluidity and finesse are often lost and the method to success is 1) power 2) more power and 3) when all else fails, power to the max.

This is particularly prevalent in movements such as muscleups, double unders, Olympic movements and rowing. There is significant technique that accompanies these movements and one cannot just grunt and heave through them for results. I have seen many a strong man tickled to death at their ability to power clean (often times nearly muscle clean) 250 pounds with ease only to poop out at 255, because they are slow with the elbows, terrified to drop under the bar and have a poorly supported front rack. No, we are not upset with you because you muscle clean our max with ease – we are upset because you are satisfied with a clean of 250 when you could easily clean 315 with a bit of technique. Strong guys – release your inner dancer and be fast, light and agile. Trust me, you will feel infinitely more accomplished when you hit that 3-wheel clean.

 

The Shortcut Fallacy

In observance of someone with more experience, a CrossFit athlete may erroneously come to the conclusion that those skills are an endowment from the heavens and not a product of sustained hard work. As a result, they wish to “do as they do” and employ more advanced technique such as kipping, open grip muscle ups, touch-and-go cleans, rebounding box jumps and all around, heavier, faster and more complex movements. WHHOOOOOAAAAA-HOOO, sloooowww down there son! These are movements that can FUCK. YOU. UP. If done improperly. Let’s be clear about that – and the people who do these movements routinely and well, have likely put in the time to graduate past false grip muscle ups, high volume strict pullups, lighter, slower less complex movements in order to build that baseline strength and competency to warrant higher risk maneuvers. Here is an analogy – you insist on throwing a weak and spotty curve-ball because you have a greater than zero chance of confusing the batter with novelty instead of perfecting your fastball by hitting spots, adding movement and varying speeds. Without an effective fastball, you’re weak curve-ball’s impact is severely undermined.

Those with an eye for advancement, the question should steer away from is, “how do you do movement X?” in favor of “what do I have to do to get to this point?”  The devil is in the details – knowing how to get to point A is different than wanting to be at point A immediately, right now.

 

The Kipping Fallacy

If strict is good, kipping is better! Right?! “But I can kip like 10 pullups!”

Ok, let’s be real here – kipping (in the sense used in CrossFit) is an invention of CrossFit to add an additional dynamic to the routine. It is not bad or good, but it is something that merits discussion. If you cannot do at least 5 of the strict version of the movement, you have no business doing the kipping version of the movement. Why is this? Well, one is a component of strength (strict) and the other of metabolic conditioning (kipping). If we were to include 30 pullups in a workout, performed strict you would poop out quite quickly. Unless you spend an inordinate amount of time doing pullups, you will likely never cross 20 strict pullups – it is just a threshold that is very difficult to cross. But that is ok, there is nothing wrong with having 10 or 15 – BUT, having ZERO is not particularly indicative of one being able to control their body movement effectively. Adding velocity to the movement puts your shoulders at significant risk as, by default, we have established that you lack that control to begin with. This is the chief complaint of CrossFit detractors in regard to the kipping pullup.

However, on the flip side, if you have 10 strict pullups, 30 kipping pullups should be very obtainable. For every strict pullup you add, your kipping volume should go up as a result. That is to say, there is no particular reason to “train” kipping pullups aside from improving the technique. Contrarily, 50 kipping pullups does not imply that you strict pullups have improved – in fact the opposite may be true.

This applies to all things – hand stand pushups, pullups, feet to bar and any other thing you can conceivably “kip into.” Kip enthusiasts out there – sack it up and improve your baseline strength. Two steps “back” now in volume will lead to three steps forward down the line when your strength has improved.

 

The Weak Girl Fallacy

The weak girl fallacy basically comes in the form of “I cannot right now, therefore I never will.” I blame society, culture, television – all the usual bullshit – that shapes girls minds from an early age that they are weak, in need of protection and incapable of physical tasks. I routinely am asked to lift things in the office that probably weigh no more than 20 pounds. 20 POUNDS! That, had they been a guy, would been practically forced from a gender role perspective to try, even if they had never lifted something so heavy in their life.

In the gym, this translates very often to fear that they might in fact be crushed under the weight of a 33 pound bar and exertion of any kind might sprout a penis and chest hair. Closely accompanying this is the idea that women, for some strange reason, have the magical capability to put on large amounts of muscle volume by simply touching weights in excess of 8 pounds. Also known as the “I don’t want to get bulky” line of reasoning.

Fortunately, I feel that these concepts are being slowly eroded by an opposing force of honoring women in athletics, departing from the skinny-is-everything body image campaigns and showing that women can, in fact, be strong AND sexy without looking like men and having Adam’s Apples that sword fight with their boyfriends when they get close.

Women are also finding that it is INCREDIBLY difficult to add mass. Also that being strong is empowering and nothing to be afraid of. However, the advertising and cultural messages are pervasive and persistent. No matter how deconditioned a person is, there bubbles occasionally to the top some random non-sensical fear or doubt that prohibits them from just attacking a movement, weight and or set with determination. You are woman – I hear you roar! Now hit that set!

 

The WOD is GOD Fallacy

“Can I just come in and get a WOD in to make up?” Is something of a generalization of the mindset that the WOD is what gets you stronger. This is not particularly true. In our gym, we employ basic precepts of strength and power – pulling, pushing, squatting, jumping and other related baseline movements. Those movements trained with efficacy build your strength, agility, coordination and power. Applied to the WOD, they provide a unique cocktail of conditioning that allows for a super charged dose of “cardio” that is difficult to replicate. That being said, doing 10 deads at X weight for Y rounds is not really what gets you stronger. It is the other way around – you do the standard strength (5×5, 5-3-1, starting strength – some combo of volume and mass with recovery) IN ORDER TO better perform the deadlift more effectively in the WOD. The WOD is an ends, not a means. I fell for this fallacy tremendously in the beginning – all I wanted to do was attack that WOD! But, my strength eventually became my weakness as I could power through just about anything that wasn’t heavy. I got “good” at CrossFit but was limited significantly by my inability to walk up to any weight and rep it out. The high you get from the WOD should not be confused with the gains you get from basic old boring strength. Any program that does NOT have strength incorporated is wasting your time (unless you want a glorified bootcamp).

By comparison, you will certainly get better at basketball by playing lots of basketball. However, if you take the time to drill, drill, drill, dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot, shoot, shoot endlessly for hours at a time, you will find that is where the skills are refined and honed. You take your skills to the court to learn the dynamics, cooperation and tempo of the game, but there is no substitute for sound hands refined by hours of dribbling and shooting.

 

There you have it folks!  Ideas that, if completely abandoned, would lead to an all around better CrossFit Athlete!

 

 

 

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The Value and Monetization of Fitness

CrossFit is expensive, in an absolute sense, there is no doubt. With prices ranging from about $120 to $250 per month in the US, it likely ranks among the most expensive gym memberships out there – especially considering that most boxes rarely offer additional amenities that are ordinarily associated with high price health clubs.

This is a common criticism leveled against CrossFit, and not without its merit. It would be an unseemly amount of money to pay and, in turn, get little to no return in fitness or be unable to attend as you would like for whatever reason.

However, let’s introduce a little thought problem here.

What would you pay to be presented with a button that would, upon being pushed, instantly and permanently allow you to be in fantastic shape? $1? $10? $100 maybe…?

What if that button cost you $10,000? Keep in mind, it would be instant and permanent and the results FANTASTIC. We’ll even do you one better, you get to choose the body obtainable through any mode of exercise. Want to look and function like a gymnast? Click – done. Rock climber? Click – done.

Pretty attractive button, right? I would pay the price in a heartbeat. That type of investment for elite, permanent health, strength, mobility and agility? This is an easy sell.

Well, there is no such button. In fact, the fitness industry has lied to you for at least two decades now trying to imply there is, in some sense, a “near button.” There is no way to target belly fat. No way to melt away pounds with a pill (that won’t perhaps kill you as a side effect). No contraptions to get you that six pack you always wanted…nothing. This lying has been so persistent and so pervasive, that I often here fairly seasoned athletes trot around some of these possible solutions, perhaps intermittently entertaining the possibility that they might be true. They are ALL false.

There are only two ways, and you can ask anyone that is actually in this position to share what it’s like, to get a rocking six pack, beefy squat or insanely jacked arms.

1)      You are born with favorable genetics

2)      You work your ass off

And in reality, the equation looks something like this: (genetics x hard work)/excuses = results. If the inputs in parentheses are low or zero (obviously all the effort in the world paired with spinal bifida will show some significant limits), you get little out. The greater number of things (i.e. excuses) that get in your way, legitimate or not, the greater the buffer on your results.

So, to bring it all back to center. What if I told you there was a way in great shape (maybe not FANTASTIC), with enduring results (not permanent) and you could achieve that in one year? Well, that is about the best that is out there. CrossFit is one mode, among many, that can achieve that. Why wouldn’t I go all out and say CrossFit is THE BEST way to do this? Well, obviously, people have gotten in freakishly good shape without and prior to CrossFit, so I can’t quite say that genuinely. However, many people bounce from routine to routine without getting what they want until they finally settle on CrossFit and it becomes the witch’s brew that finally gets them where they want to go – that’s my story anyway. It shouldn’t take too much explanation that an industry surge the likes of which CrossFit has enjoyed, self-evidently demonstrates that many people are satisfied with its structure, results and, finally, price.

So, after many tangents, let’s come back to price. First off, let’s kick around a few prices you can ordinarily expect:

Bargain basement super deal – $10 a month

“Standard” Gym membership – $50 a month

“Premium” Gym membership – $100 a month

CrossFit membership – $150 (on average)

“Elite Health Club” – $200 a month

Personal Training – ~$300+ for regular training

They are not all perfectly exact, but this is not really the point. The point is the spectrum available. I will happily remove Elite Health Club and Personal Training as I think they offer something outside the realm of a “normal” gym and may very well be considered a great value. We are left with CrossFit at the top of the pyramid of price.

As a gym owner, I can tell you straight up that the bargain prices, and probably even the standard prices, are a complete lie. The model can be easily informed by an experience I had joining a UFC gym a few years back:

Sales Rep: So it will be $80 a month

Me: Ok, sounds fair. When are the busy times?

Sales Rep: After work, you know, the normal times.

Me: Ok, pretty normal. How many members are there?

Sales Rep: We currently have about 8,000, but are looking to gather about 20,000 at full capacity.

I’m sorry, are you fucking kidding me? For those that may have missed the obvious – the model works like this:

“If we have a capacity of X and utilization rate of Y, we can reasonably accommodate Z members.” The built in message: they are expecting you to NOT utilize their services. The system would crash if all 20,000 tried to get a daily workout in five times a week. The New Year’s resolutioners, the guilty yo-yo dieters, the mid-life crisisers, the I-want-to-get-in-shape-but-have-no-timers and the tag-along-with-spousers are subsidizing the memberships of the people that actively engage in routine fitness as a life decision. If you have ever been a regular and attending member, of a gym of any kind, you have benefited greatly from people who look at their monthly bank statements (or not) and sigh heavily as they wish they could use their gym membership more, but cannot justify cancelling it because, “it’s only 29.99 a month…maybe next month…” The model is built exclusively on non-utilization of the product. They don’t want you to come – they want you to not come AND pay…paving the way for more to do the same and beefing up their bottom line. No gym could function with their current rate structure if had 100% utilization of membership.

Our gym, on the other hand, has an active user base of, oh, I dunno, something closer to 100%. In fact, I routinely field requests for people to freeze, suspend and otherwise adjust payment schedules because it is so damn expensive. They are involved in their membership, not passive subsidizers. The threshold for payment ambivalence has long been crossed – if people do not plan on attending, they are quickly figuring out how to cancel their payments. I suspect this is true among just about every CrossFit gym out there. And we want this – we WANT you to attend as often as possible. We have structured our class system expecting you to use your membership to the fullest.

That all being said, is it really that expensive? I contend it is a true market value of what it costs to attend a properly utilized gym that operates on an instructor led class basis. But, let’s break it down.

If you were to attend 5 classes a week, you would be attending, on average, 23 classes a month. If you were to be paying $199 a month, that would be about $8 per class (even less with a couples/service/student discount). The thing that makes it expensive is that it is routine – day in and day out. It would be a tremendous bargain to be able to attend college for this price – about 22 weeks of instruction, 3 instruction hours per week per class, $8 per hour or $528 per class. That is $2112 per semester for a 12 unit load. I am not aware of a 4-year university that charges rates that low…

What about child care? The average cost of center-based care in the United States is $11,666 per year. Granted, this is your child and your education – not a recreational habit. But, the point is being made that any sort of routine attendance or utilization of service is going to accumulate incrementally over time.

So we return, having navigated many venturing circles, back to the original question, what would you pay?

Well, 12 months of membership at our facility will cost you $2,388 if you want unlimited access and have no accompanying discounts. If you committed to 6 months ahead of time in two segments, it would be about $2,150 for a year.

So, would you push the button for $2,150? I know I would. Absent a button, CrossFit is among the most reliable methods to get you fit with hundreds of thousands of people have found success in the method. And, at $8 a class, about the best damn deal you can find if attending regular gyms has not been successful.

Those who have made the leap, had great strides in their fitness and love CrossFit understand this. They are sold, the price reflects the necessary cost to achieve what they could not before (speculating, but I cannot think of any other reason this might be the case). If we consider the prophylactic nature of fitness on disease, injury and overall health consequences paired with its intrinsic utility and interest as a life practice, it is actually one of the cheapest things in which you can endeavor.

But, this is coming from a business owner who has long been sold on the benefits of CrossFit and has actively practiced it nearly every day for 5+ years. Not everyone has prepared themselves psychologically to make that investment, nor they necessarily believe that it is worth it – and that’s fine. I write this purely to try and help ground this conversation in something other than “other gym memberships are cheaper.” The remaining questions are simply: if you have been doing CrossFit, is it worth it? If you have not been doing CrossFit, have you been getting what you want or been slowly bleeding your money away chasing empty promises based on a button that doesn’t exist?

The source of knowledge, Bro-Science and what you don’t know

Occasionally, when onboarding new members, the assertions put forth in class are challenged. Sometimes they are in earnest – wanting to know the meaning and purpose of what was said. Sometimes they are confrontational challenges, trying to undermine the coach’s knowledge for whatever reason. In any event, it happens, and here are my thoughts on it.

The true source of knowledge, that which we know, is ordinarily hard won with evidence. Evidence is something that is gathered to form a conclusion about phenomena. Evidence is also very hard won in its own right, having to be independently verifiable, reproducible and, above all, not conflated with other elements – noise, confounds and experimenter error (among other things).

This all contributes to what we know as “facts” and, as a result, bodies of knowledge we can rely on, often coined theories. I have an intimate understanding of this process having completed a graduate degree, culminated by the production of a thesis, which was then published in an academic journal. And, believe you me, these mother fuckers don’t mess around – you better have your shit in order for the content to be considered something that “contributes to that which we know.”

So, when we get challenged in a class, for whatever reason, we ought to resort to facts to support our statements, right? Weellllll….we can’t. See the same standards that apply to traditional academic and industry science rarely get applied in the gym. To put it bluntly – people are studying the shit out of cancer and not too much about how to get someone to back squat 300+ pounds.  But, does that preclude us from instructing someone on how to accomplish this?

Certainly not! But at this juncture, we have a distinct departure from what is “known” to what is known. The difference is purely that which is studied versus that which is accumulated through experience, anecdote and case studies. There are, and please correct me if I’m wrong, no studies that suggest that specific elements of Jay Cutler’s methods of body building work…except that he does them and it works. But, that is a sample of one applied to a population of one – it’s basically not worth discussing.

What if I assert that one should hold their breath while lifting, the valsalva maneuver, in order to achieve a heavier deadlift? Where is that supported? Blogs? Gyms nationwide? Are there an equal amount of people that disagree?

Well, I know that shit “works” and so do bajillions of other gym rats pumping out heavy sets of squats and deads. But, there are probably a lot of other people who disagree and suggest that it is dangerous. And where lies the answer? There is no answer, there is only an approximation of what works through the accumulation of experience, anecdote and case study. No one will ever design a study tracking 1000 individuals over 6 months, monitoring a group who deadlift without the valsalva maneuver, those who deadlift with and those who are not instructed to do anything in particular (control). This is the standard ordinarily applied to qualify something as “fact” or, at the very least, evidence. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could pull that off?!

Fitness experiments are notoriously low in sample size as well as guilty of having participants drop off without warning…test re-test effects…measurement effects…environmental effects…honestly, its barely worth the effort to “prove” what we already “know.”

As a result, we have to rely on sound logic to eliminate alternatives and go with the best approximation. This is not to say that fitness research is useless, but only that whatever is about to be studied is probably already common knowledge amongst those out in the trenches pumping the iron. That, or it is so specific and esoteric, that it is difficult to meaningfully apply to training (i.e. the effects of incremental glucose intake on V02 max during stationary running – or some bullshit like that).

Despite all of this, we cannot simply go around asserting bullshit because we believe it works. And here comes the actual message:

 

Coaches – figure out why you do what you do and critically assess if that is the best maneuver, practice, advice or insight to provide to your clients. There is an abundance of free information on the internet and you should be savvy in most of it, so that you can provide informed answers to your clients. In the event you don’t have an answer, you should be self-aware enough to say, “You know, that is a really good question that I do not have the answer to. Let me do some research and get back to you.” You earn respect by admitting what you don’t know and showing a willingness to continually learn. In the event you are called out on your bullshit…well, that should be pretty self-explanatory.

The Coached – be critical of the words coming out of your coach’s mouth. Understand that a lot of this is the gospel according to “whoever taught them what they know” which often regresses back to untraceable bro-science bullshit. Don’t be a smart-assed usurper when your coach says something, but do your homework in whatever field you are practicing so that you can ask pertinent, relevant and thoughtful questions. As it is your health and wellness at stake, blind trust in your coach is probably a poor bet to make.

Back to life! (and a class based society)

It has been awhile since there has been a post here, but I was lured away with promises of a large audience, compensation and so on.  Well, the posts are censored, the time lag is ridiculous and the incentive to continue contributing is quite low.  At the end of the day, writing contributions are often an afterthought (as they probably should be) and it just didn’t pan out.

So, back to a smaller audience, but absolute freedom!

The topic for today revolves around an activity undertaking over the weekend: puppy training.

There is this cool place in Walnut Creek called Zoom Room (which I have just learned is quite a bit more prevalent than i would have imagined) that conducts all sorts of classes for dog training.

I find this interesting.  70 years ago, I suspect that most dogs were just kind of farm dogs, mutts, puppies from a local litter or something to that effect.  Once you had said dog in possession, you probably trained it to the best of your ability and didn’t really abide by any overarching principles so long as your dog shit outside, stayed off the couch and didn’t bite the neighbors.

But, times have changed.  There are now professional celebrity dog trainers with their own television shows.  Whether this is bad or good, this represents a distinct change it the way we do business in society. 

CrossFit (and exercise in general) is really no different.  70 years ago, the only people that “exercised” were probably in the armed forces.  Any exercise obtained otherwise was probably a result of manual labor…not recreation.  Fast forward 70 years and the same thing has happened – celebrity trainers, a new vigor for exercise as recreation, $1000s spent on tools and gear and an all around willingness to dedicate large amounts of time and money to these activities.

So, this coming Sunday we are taking our dog to a class, and it all started to sound so familiar. “yes, you sign up online and can buy punch cards in this amount or that amount.  This class is more popular than that…” and I began to feel quite at home with my understanding of how their operation worked.

I view the future of CrossFit, and really any recreation type activities, to be destined for a class based system – if it is not like that already.  Certainly, not everyone can afford $300 of dog training nor do they necessarily want that.  Some simply wish to train their own animal just in the same way they like to exercise on their own.  On the flip side, not everyone has the time to educate themselves thoroughly in the most up to date techniques in any endeavor.  Imagine trying to learn about a modern day vehicle to the extent that you could repair a cracked valve.  The people who can do this must a) have spent years learning from a parent or experienced person b) spend a metric shit ton of time on YouTube learning enough not to permanently render their vehicle useless or c) obtain specialized training to turn this from a daunting challenge into a routine task.

At some point, an internal dialogue begins asking, “Just how much is my time worth?  Do I actually want to invest to learn how to be an expert in this area or would I rather pay someone to share that with me?”  Life used to be simpler: get a free dog, train dog, dog gets sick, shoot dog, start over.  Now you need insurance, vaccinations, socialization, assurance it won’t bite anyone, microchips and orthopedic dog pillows – supposing you wish to be considered a responsible pet owner.  Our interest in these areas has increased in both breadth and depth – I don’t foresee the simple days returning soon.  The reason being, with this increase in focus, depth and breath also comes an increased interest, reward environment and all around enthusiasm.  There was probably a marked difference in interest between plain old “playing in the snow” and the advent of skis and then once again with the invention of the chairlift.  There is no going back…

In any event, the group dynamic, the socialization, the share interest and goals just seem a bit more human to me, as we are not hiding military secrets from Cold War Russia via our dog training and bicep curl methods.   Secrecy is not a particularly useful aspect to modern day education.

As a consequence of this, I wonder what other aspects of human learning are destined for small group classes taught by educated individuals and attended by those looking for a shared experience?  Surely there is a enormous business opportunity lurking for the person the is able to predict the next hot thing that people want to get all excited about and would be willing to pay top dollar for expert instruction.

All the wonderful varieties of CrossFit

Differences between gyms

There is something so refreshing about CrossFit that each gym you go to is a new, unique and enriching experience to behold.  So, perhaps overly flowery words for just a place where people sweat, but as a box owner, these distinctions (and their accompanying popularity despite all lack of consistency) makes CrossFit truly special, in my humble opinion.

I’ve come across a number of gyms and they all boast their unique flavor.  If you are looking to find a new home, consider the following things to look for:

Wellness Gym

If you want to mix in some yoga, massage, eating seminars and child care into your routine, this might be the place for you.  You won’t find many games competitors here, but you will find many of the conveniences and supplementary practices that other gyms will lack.

Member Requirements: May have to tolerate an off-center focus on CrossFit and a slightly higher dues (or be treated to lower dues depending on their model) because of the additional services offered.  Expect things to be moderately paced, the energy level to be brisk but subdued and the members to be friendly and not overly competitive.

“Globo Gym”

This is used in the negative context more often than not, but there is a distinct upside.  Large CrossFit boxes will have more members, more classes, more open gym times and often lower dues as per how many choices you have in return.  There will likely be a few elite athletes to which you can benchmark yourself to as well as a healthy balance of men, women, highly fit, new entrant and everything in between.  This is also a great place for autonomy as there is guaranteed to be plentiful open gym times.

Member Requirements: you won’t know everyone, you may feel isolated in the community, may experience some cliques, but you will most definitely get the most bang for your buck in terms of access, amenities (showers, lockers etc.) variety of offerings.

Beast Mode gym

Caution to the wind, lift heavy things, no flowery anything, blood, dirt, sweat and tears.  The members and coaches alike will relentlessly push you, progress in CrossFit is priority #1 and you will get shredded – that’s a promise.

Member requirements: must be resilient to injury, live and breathe CrossFit, be tolerant of brisk instruction and don’t give one goddamn about anything besides your WOD.  The desire to compete is essential.

Hobby gym

A general neighbor hood, not-too-big, not-too-small, middle of the road kind of gym where general enthusiasts of fitness congregate to make some general improvements in their life.  There will be a few big dogs that can make the WODs look silly, but most of the folks will be former athletes, moms and dads, desk jockeys and other folks just trying to keep the fat off, keep up some muscle tone and have fun doing it.

Member Requirements: you can’t take CrossFit all too seriously or mind a smaller gym with a limit of classes and variety.  You’ll get good coaching and instruction, but don’t expect to be pushed to your absolute limit and turn beast mode any time soon.

Convenient Gym

As it sounds, this will be the closest gym.  Sometimes this can be just as attractive as any other spot.  Think about it, you can travel all the way across town, pay a slightly higher rate, get the best coaching and unleash the inner beast…on Monday at 6am, Tuesday at noon and Saturday at 11:15 OR you can hit up the “lesser” gym 5 days a week and get some solid results anyway.  The point is, you have to do what makes sense and sometimes that is what makes the best use of your time.  If the gym is decent, go for it!

Member Requirements: Basically can’t be picky, gotta take what is there and love it!

Technical gym

A “walk before you can run” “better safe than sorry” kind of place where elements is comprehensive and instruction is constant and thorough.  You may get impatient with the reluctance to kip your pull-ups, take a heavy load over head or otherwise care “too much” about your form and so on, but you will

Member Requirements: Patience and persistence.  If you show them you can do it, they will hopefully push you to where you can go.

Mega combo gym

Some gyms just have it all and have a flavor to cater to all folks.  Usually, this will be your larger, more established gym that has had a chance to expand, add showers, add massage centers, have retail shops and basically combine everything that has been previously mentioned.  There is a pretty good chance that new and veteran members alike will be present, that there will be classes with the skill level predetermined (level II, for instance) and classes at any time or date.  There might be an adjoining Ju-Jitsu gym and probably seminars that will come through frequently.

Member Requirements: Much like the globo gym, there will be some anonymity in the member base, but the perks are probably great to make up for it and the prices will probably remain fairly low considering what you get.

Now here is the reality, no one gym embodies these categories to the fullest.  They should more be considered elements of a gym that are represented in various strength.  Anyone who is going to make it to the games, also has to be very technical.  Anyone that offers a host of amenities, must also offer variety to offset more expensive dues and a games athlete can come from just about anywhere.  As my brother and co-owner at CrossFit Walnut Creek says, “If the WOD was easy, you weren’t pushing yourself.”  That being said, the programming and coaching can only get you as far as you are willing to go.  Perhaps rather than the type of gym one should seek, one should first identify what type of “CrossFitter” you are first – it should all logical flow from there.  Happy hunting!

Douchebags of CrossFit

Douchebags of CrossFit

In the sake of sexual fairness, douchebags will be used interchangeably between men and women.  Now that that’s out of the way…

In order to be very realistic about the business one operates, the fitness one pursues and the culture one is a part of, one must reluctantly swallow their pride and traverse into the territory of the hater.  CrossFit has many haters.  I rarely meet a hardcore detractor in person, but the internet is replete with all kinds of bold message board warriors and cut throat bloggers.  But that is ok, I do not take issue with them.  In fact, they have helped me identify something very important.

It’s not CrossFit: its CrossFitters.  There seems to be rare attacks against the methodology, but the rants against those participating in this methodology are almost the sole subject of this fitness industry melodrama.

When you boil it down, CrossFit, and the version of fitness it espouses, is a fairly simple and elegant program “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

There is nothing about pukie or paleo (specifically) or kipping pullups, high socks or bad tattoos.  Just hard work and discipline.

This is where the path diverges.

The culture of CrossFit has garnered a tremendous amount of attention from the calls to bad form, the cultishness of participation, the clothing options and so on and so on…

I think this is essentially where the whole discussion can die.  We are not talking about CrossFit anymore, we are talking about fanboys, groupies and those that get excessively wrapped up into culture more than what is useful to participate or that which detracts from the sport/event/activity itself.

Are we not equally annoyed by “lunks” who grunt and pump in front of the mirror at regular old muscle gyms?  Are we not just a little uncomfortable with the folks at work who start little chest puffing matches in regards to their particular sports teams?  TEAMS THEY ARE NOT EVEN ON!  Isn’t it just a little annoying to be stuck in traffic behind someone who has taken the opportunity to adorn their vehicle with every imaginable inflammatory political statement and cringe-worthy one liner?  Is it not just a little sad to see angry adults yelling at little league umpires during what should otherwise be pleasant afternoon?

Ladies and gentlemen – its people.  Let’s face it, no matter what it is you do, there are always douchebags that drag the whole thing down.  The inability to operate within social norms, to be excessively aggressive, to actively pursue the primal in-group/out-group activity that lies at the root of all human conflict is the very crux of some unfortunate people’s character.  I believe at the core of this is insecurity.  I have never met someone who was fully satisfied with their life, fully committed to their sport/craft/activity that is also an active participant of this sort of strident, attention whoring nonsense.  You will probably not meet a nicer, more humble person than a CrossFit Games athlete – one who will likely not care about the distinction of CrossFitters as athletes or not, who don’t particularly care if you do CrossFit or not.  I suspect there is a take it or leave it attitude, likely because they are too busy trying to be winners to get wrapped up into being a complete douche.  But, where mediocrity of skill is found, mediocrity of character is likely to be more present – ESPECIALLY in the peculiar fan/athlete hybrid culture that is CrossFit.  We all get to feel like big strong winners when we participate in the Open Games.  Even if we are the “10,000th fittest person on the planet,” we can leer at those sitting at home and take pride that we are doing something great and meaningful.  Embracing and incorporating that mentality as part of thing that keeps you going in a sport of any kind is likely to make you a raging douchebag.

I love all our clients at CFWC and I love CrossFit.  I love that it gets people off the couch and LOVING fitness.  But, there is a percentage of the population that will inevitably make everyone in their respective fields look silly and awful, whether you are an engineer, a dancer, a hobbist painter or an amateur restaurateur.  I guess the only option is to tolerate the jabs, continue to do what we do and wait for people to get bored bashing CrossFit.  If it’s any consolation to anyone out there, we are all talking about the same folks…”they” are making a spectacle of themselves and we kind of wish they would stop.

 

 

 

Threats to CrossFit

Threats to CrossFit

As a box owner, I cannot help but consider what might be a threat to the boom of CrossFit.  Of course, nothing will prevent an individual from partaking in CrossFit or CrossFit style exercise in the long run – this is a given.  However, there are potential market factors that could disrupt the success and ongoing spread of CrossFit programming as seen within brick and mortar establishments grown and run by fitness entrepreneurs.

Here are some thoughts on threats, some small some large, perceived, real and otherwise worthwhile to consider.

The Popularity of CrossFit

One might call this the fad-factor.  Will CrossFit die because people lose interest?  I would say this is the least of our concerns.  The results, community and all around fun of the program lend itself to longevity.  The fact that an individual can participate for YEARS and still have goals on the horizon is testament to a sustainable practice.  We have members who have made great gains in our first year.  However, NOW is when the fun really begins for them…they see what is possible and they are hungry for more.  If one year is the starting point for “true” CrossFit…then the shelf life is not something I worry about.  The fact that there is incredible longevity in the sport itself (with participants ranging from early 20’s all the way to 60+ on a broad competitive level) suggests that interest will not fade.

This is not to say that the current infectiousness will continue.  At some point, there will be fewer entrants to the sport and those with a lackluster attitude towards it to begin with will burn out.  But, a hardcore base will remain – stable and waiting to take on new initiates.  If CrossFit does not become as industry prevalent as Yoga, I would be very surprised.

 

The Rhabdo Boogey-Man

Everywhere you go, those naïve to the program will often either refrain from participating or high-mindedly resolve to traditional exercise in the same of safety.  “Isn’t that dangerous? I heard that A LOT of people get hurt.”  Essentially, could there be an industry backlash that quells the demand by branding CrossFit as dangerous?

Well, I think this has been tried and essentially gathered zero traction.  CrossFit, and Greg Glassman to the extent which it applies, has already answered to the Rhabdo boogey-man which seems to be the last remaining blight on the efficacy of CrossFit.  This is often blown out of proportion (the bonafide cases of CrossFit induced rhabdo remain very low) and the recognition and education of this risk will certainly prove to be instrumental in its decline. 

The rest of the stuff, knee, shoulder, wrist and back injuries are simply a consequence of physical activity as I personally know more people who have completely fucked themselves up being a weekend warrior on the basketball courts or biting off more black-diamond than they can chew then people who have been sidelined exclusively as a result of their participation in CrossFit.  Those who juggle physical risks will ultimately reap some reward (in some cases pure fun and enjoyment, in this case great physical fitness).  Some will get hurt, but most will not. 

 

Low Barriers to Entry

The barriers to opening your own box are very low.  Get a cert, apply and pay.  This goes little to demonstrate how effective you will be as a coach, but there is no market factor precluding one from giving it a shot.  On the same note, the current market saturation indicates that you would be equally foolish entering the “management consulting” field with nothing but a weekend cert on performance management and a few bucks to open an office.  There are some very big dogs in the CrossFit market and the geographic distance between boxes narrows by the day. 

Now, the consequence I was getting to was that crappy, poorly trained coaches essentially open the flood gates to the previous two threats mentioned – mundane and ill-informed coaching lead to quick boredom and risky participation.  However, this is self-defeating as each box is independent and probably rarely gain any attention on a city wide, much less county wide, state wide or nationwide, level.  Unless someone managed to open a “chain” of boxes (currently not a possibility under the current governance of CrossFit) and, in doing so, opened the most jacked up, irresponsible and reckless set of programming – injuring every client that came in the door –  this is so remote its barely worth discussion.

 

CrossFitter Arrogance

It’s hard to be in this damn good of shape and not subconsciously shake your head in pity when someone talks about all of their wonderful 5ks and how they would like to train for this marathon or that half iron man.  When the folks in question still look they can barely roll out of bed without busting a gut, the tongue biting can itself puts one at risk for compartment syndrome.

But, most of us happily support our brothers and sisters in fitness, because, at the end of the day, hey – it’s whatever floats your boat.  CrossFitters are the new kids on the block and we may as well accept that the “fittest athletes ever” to adorn this amazing list and that top 10 countdown are, by and large, distance athletes.  And, good for them, most of those folks on those lists ARE indeed extremely fit.  However, this template for the common Joe is a recipe for being just fit enough to shuffle around for a few hours.

There is a certain swagger that accompanies most CrossFitters who understand what it means and what it can do for you.  I have met very few who are outspoken, rude, arrogant and condescending of other fitness endeavors…but that low barrier to entry and influx of folks who haven’t been down in the trenches for years might just bring out the worst.  A few outspoken fools can certainly put the rest of us in a bad light.

 

CrossFit Affiliate Carelessness

CrossFit is an odd business model: find a warehouse, set up equipment and run with it.  There are no health and safety codes. Decorations are irrelevant.  We often find ourselves in auto districts.  There is no supply chain, no inventory, no network servers, no food handling…basically, there isn’t much to it.

As a result, a naïve business person (like myself) can carelessly sign a lease and get into all sorts of trouble when the city finds out you haven’t done a goddamn thing that you are supposed to when occupying a building.  A hard financial lesson learned, but, the question remains…how many more are there?

Restaurants are a known risk and rather formulaic…cities like that.  Retail shops are low risk, high rent and generous tax revenues for the city.  Cities like that.  CrossFit gyms are new, odd and independent.  The status quo is certainly disrupted when a group of folks runs around the block 2 or 3 times during an hour and 4 or 5 times a day.  What ARE those people doing

Could there at some point be a “nuisance” of CrossFit gyms so they are relegated to the outskirts like strip clubs and muffler shops?  I suppose it is simply incumbent upon us to self-regulate and ensure our continued livelihoods. 

 

Dangers from Above

There was a point where CrossFit faced a terrible dilemma in that a controlling share of it was proposed to be sold to a 3rd party.  Thankfully, Greg Glassman is a ferocious protector of the brand and the name.  So long as he experiences no change of heart…I think we are safe in that regard.  This is probably the most serious threat, as dilution of the brand makes the barriers to entry functionally non-existent.  Once everything becomes “CrossFit” then, unfortunately, nothing is CrossFit.  Nothing will ever prevent an individual from creating whatever crazy workout they choose and calling it by whatever name they choose (up to and including a “ban” on CrossFit where people still “do” it but without the official facility, sanction or atmosphere) but the establishment and maintenance of a central concept of CrossFit is rather crucial to the current industry.

 

At the end of the day, the risks appear to be in check.  Aside from “the next CrossFit” breaking out and completely undermining what is coming to be known as the gold standard in fitness, there appears to be little threat to the industry.  The catastrophes awaiting companies like Facebook (constantly changing or die), energy companies (increased pressure for clean energy) or manufacturing and customer support industries (outsourcing) seem far from affecting our little neck of the woods.  As far as I am concerned, CrossFit is a solid bet into the future and I will be continuing to bank on its success.

But, that’s just my view…what else might there be?