Monday, April 04, 2011

Op Ed: Crossfit

Continuing along the lines of my last blog, this week I'm going to speak about the other thing I'm most often asked for an opinion on: Crossfit.

Now, in the interest of demonstrating a balanced point of view, I'd first like to list some of the positive things that I believe come from it:

  • It has gotten a wide scope of people to embrace the concept of "functional training" - getting healthy individuals off of rehab and muscle isolation exercises like the leg extension and pec deck.

  • It has helped to create a culture where women get stronger and faster; they don't worry about "getting too big", or just being "toned".

  • It's pushed people to actually challenge their comfort zones - no more mindlessly swinging your legs on an elliptical machine while reading a magazine or talking on a cellphone.

On the flip side, the inherent problems I have with Crossfit:

  • It's dangerous. Olympic lifting, for example, should only be performed by people who have had appropriate training, and never for high reps to fatigue. These are complex movements, that require precise timing and coordination - allowing form to degrade under high volume is irresponsible and negligent.

  • It's attitude towards these risks is deplorable. Two of their mascots are a couple of clowns, one called "Pukey" (no further description necessary) and "Uncle Rhabdo" - a reference to "rhabdomyolisis" which is a painful and potentially life-threatening condition wherein muscle tissue breaks down rapidly as a result of damage to the muscle, and which has popped up enough as a result of this system to lead to the creation of a mascot. In fact, the article "Killer Workouts" was written by a Crossfitter...!

  • There is no quality control. Crossfit gyms are affiliates, not franchises - meaning for a cost, they can call themselves "Crossfit" with no checks and balances to maintain competency. You may have a highly-trained Crossfit coach that is a registered kinesiologist in one gym... and some guy/girl who's completed nothing more than a weekend certification in the next one. In fact, in many cases they may be unable to get insurance through legitimate companies - thus, the Crossfit Risk Retention Insurance was created... a self-managed, in-house insurance run by the very people who the companies won't insure (see here for a better explanation).

  • Finally - and perhaps this is the reason for all of the aforementioned issues - anyone who questions their methods or approach is immediately attacked, both professionally and, in some cases, personally; detractors are labeled as "weak", or "cowardly" and there is no debate or discussion that might lead to improvements. In fact, some high profile individuals that were connected to Crossfit have left under rather "unpleasant" terms (read one example here).

A final note: if you are one of the devoted "Crossfitters" and take issue with my thoughts (see the final point above), then feel free to deride me for them - I'm probably not going to debate it with you. Firstly, because I've made it clear that this is an opinion piece. Secondly, I have more important things to do than argue with you, especially when neither of us is going to change our mind as a result of it.

Let the public look into it themselves and make their own informed decision. I'm just one guy with an opinion.


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