Because I’m a personal trainer, people have always asked what I think about Crossfit–the hot ticket, very controversial latest fitness trend. Now, I had never done it, but I had done plenty of research on it. Its proponents indicate that it’s an intense lifestyle that’s unlike any other kind of exercise, as it knocks even experienced athletes on the floor. It has produced superstar athletes like Rich Froning and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, last year’s Reebok Crossfit Games champions, who are both extremely fit and extremely good looking humans. Contrary to popular perception, Crossfit is also universally scalable, which means that anyone can do it, not just gym rats. It’s quick, efficient, and effective.
However, there is definitely an alternative position. “Uncle Rhabdo” is a character representing rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscle fibers break down, like in normal exercise, but to such an extent that it dies and releases into the bloodstream and can cause kidney failure and death. This is popular in Crossfit circles to such an extent that the cartoon was born. Others make arguments that Crossfit is too culty, because it encourages the paleo diet as well as the workout plan, thus becoming more of a lifestyle than simply a gym routine. “Real” lifters or bodybuilders knock it as not being a real routine, or for being solely based on incorrect form. (Ever watched Crossfit Fails?) And most of all, there are the wisecracks about how people who do Crossfit will DEFINITELY tell you that they do Crossfit. So what’s my official take, after having actually done Crossfit and not just read about it?
Honestly, it depends on your box.
Yes, Crossfit does have some crazy jargon. But doesn’t everything have ridiculous lingo? Crossfitters casually throw around “hang squat clean” like English majors throw around dangling participles and the Oxford comma. Every institution has its abbreviations, too, so don’t even go there.
Yes, people do tend to get obsessive about it, because the workout plan does come with its own philosophy on diet. But any training regimen should be focused on both exercise and nutrition. No bodybuilder lifts and then measures their Big Macs. There’s always some sort of nutrition involved.
Yes, people are always talking about it–but if you see a new TV show that you’re excited about, aren’t you going to bring it up in conversation? If something makes you genuinely feel good, and feel like you’re living your best life, don’t you want to tell the people you care about; both because you’re excited and because maybe they’ll try it too?
Maybe it can be culty, but anything can be, at a certain level. And sometimes what people perceive as a cult is really just a community.
As far as Rhabdo and the form issues, again, it depends on your box. I’m working at Reebok HQ for the next 6 months, and so I’m lucky enough to start my Crossfit experience at Reebok Crossfit ONE. The coaches there are some of the best in the world–they’ve competed at the Crossfit Games, judged at the Crossfit Games, and have endless credentials. They make you go through a four week On-Ramp class to make sure that you understand the basics of each movement. And everything is scaled–your weights, your reps, even the movements–so that anybody can do it. They pay attention. They correct form. They don’t let you do anything that is going to hurt you.
The problem I see with Crossfit is that not all coaches have to be as excellent as the ones at this box. There are boxes where the coaches aren’t as knowledgeable or experienced. But I’m going to say, from someone lucky enough to work with such an elite level of knowledge, that Crossfit, when done correctly and safely, is one of the most effective things out there. People walk in thinking they’re in shape, and then they tell you, gasping for breath from their backs on the ground, that maybe… maybe they’re not.