The Latest Bit of Madness From the CrossFit Crowd

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Posted in category Fitness

I really have many issues with CrossFit training, having tried it, practiced it, and then decided it was not a good fit for me and the philosophy I have developed in recent years around conditioning and fitness. I don’t intend to diss crossfitters personally, for so many of them are libertarian and /or paleo-primal, and many crossfitters are also my friends and acquaintances.

I combine a lot of crossfit-style fitness work, combined with powerlifting type workouts, fun strongman routines (functional, creative fitness), boxing/MMA, and creative indoor (in the gym) fitness routines. This is in combination with many functional, outdoor sports and activities. High intensity for low amounts of time has been my mantra for the last few years, especially concerning the strength training. Additionally, working in a lot of simple movement at a more primal (play) pace is a big part of keeping myself from consistently engaging high-intensity madness.

Having “been there, done that” on chronic (endurance) cardio training and chronic weightlifting, I can speak from experience. But after 23 months of struggling through four major joint injuries, a sixth orthopedic surgery, and my delaying a seventh and probably inevitable surgery, my experiences (and flashbacks to my mistakes) have shaped new and more creative routines. My joint injuries were caused by two separate sports-related, blunt force traumas (one was a cycling collision caused by another negligent individual) and two older injuries that have left me with badly torn hamstrings dominated by painful and stiff scar tissue, and ensuing lower extremity mechanical problems due to compensation factors. While dealing with the fallout, I began to see life, and the path to ultimate conditioning, through a very different lens.

The joke is, if you want to get a glimpse into the crossfit world and the results of their training, go onto any of their website forums and look at the “injury” threads. They run a zillion pages long, with the same old, predictable injuries. I’ll save a more complete assessment of crossfit and its many faults for a full article, but one article caught my eye recently, and it was a piece NPR ran last week, ”Is CrossFit Training Good For Kids?” From the NPR article:

For thousands of people across the country, going to a regular gym just doesn’t cut it. Instead, they prefer CrossFit routines: like swinging kettlebells, flipping tires, and doing squats and dead lifts until they drop. Now kids as young as 4 are taking part.

…The owner, Justin Bacon, explains there are three classes for different age groups, one for 4- to 6-year-olds, another for 7- to 12-year-olds and another for teenagers.

Now, I dislike the hysterical reactions that many “experts” have to kids lifting weights and doing “adult” fitness. The hysteria is often based on inane safety obsessions and/or the dumbing down of the (young) human condition. In fact, it is great when kids can explore fitness and strength work. But the question that many very fit people who do not choose crossfit often ask is, Why do regular people want to mimic military, Navy Seal-like training? And then, they do this in group sessions, against a clock, and in competition with all others in the group? Then the real question is, why do they want their kids to do the same? The photo of the children lifting heavy bars is actually quite freakish.

Kids need not engage “hard” training, and why should they do crossfit in order to make their parents happy? They will only succumb to the feeling of “all work and no play,” and they will almost always use inappropriate form and therefore get an early start on joint, tendon, and muscle pain and/or destruction. They should, however, engage functional, primal training through play and assorted activities. Kids need to do jumping, running, biking, spontaneous sprinting, rolling down hills, water activities, and even Mark Sisson primal/functional-type activities or MovNat-style interaction with things in one’s environment. Putting these young kids through structured, results-oriented strength training – reps and sets and specified exercises – in a group environment is absurd. What are people thinking?

Here’s Mark Sisson on the importance of “chill time” or play, which is about movement and experimentation, along with the lack of structure.

“The Lost Art of Play” by Mark Sisson from Ancestry on Vimeo.

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6 Responses to The Latest Bit of Madness From the CrossFit Crowd

  1. David Smith says:

    October 4th, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I’ve seen a good many guys in the Army do the whole Cross Fit thing, and I’ve done some myself; certainly, it has some great benefits for people doing the kinds of things the military is training for, but at some point, the uniform is going to come off, and the mission will be completed (at least for you). I know too many who have enough injured body parts that they no longer have a need for the Weather Channel to predict the weather! At some point, we’re all going to have to go to a workout program that is more sustainable.

  2. Michael Morning says:

    October 8th, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I don’t get into the whole competition thing. When it comes to fitness, the only person you should be competing with (if that’s even the right word) is yourself. HIIT training was popular back when I first started in the industry in the early 90′s. Crossfit is just HIIT in a fancy getup. The many injuries are proof enough that you can overdo a good thing. As I’m now in my 40′s, I’m paying the price for the ridiculous things I did in my 20′s. I’ve been fortunate to have avoided most injuries, so at least that’s something. Perhaps even more fortunate, Crossfit wasn’t around back then ;)

  3. Otaddy says:

    October 9th, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I think what annoys me about the whole Crossfit craze is that it caters to those with a “herd” mentality–people who believe things are only genuine or true if done in groups and that if it came from the military, it must be the best way to train.

    Maybe when I was younger, I would have bought into this, but at this stage in my life, I really don’t want to be screamed at all of the time!

  4. Karen De Coster says:

    October 9th, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    John – I wish I had said it that way. Perfect!

  5. Gil says:

    January 10th, 2013 at 2:07 pm


    Like yourself, i have tried CF and simply decided it didn’t fit me either. My perfect workout after searching and experimenting for years is a good ‘ol solitary boxing workout in my garage with some rope, pushups and running thrown in. During my time in CF, I have met some of the most motivated men and women you want to have the honor of meeting. However, I felt that being competitive for the sake of it far outweighed my safety. When that imbalance persists, injuries are inevitable and I did get injured at one point.
    I think the mentality over the last 15 or so years is if you are not feeling pain when excercising, AND pushing through that pain, you are not training. Working out should be fun, yet challenging to the point where it does not become a beatdown. Ultimately, we all have to find out how and where we are comfortable working out.

  6. Karen De Coster says:

    January 10th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Gil – I am on the same page as you.

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