Friday Fitness: CrossFit Q&A
FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve been participating in CrossFit for over three years and have been a member of a CrossFit Affiliate gym for the last two.
I recently received an e-mail from a guest of H3 that writes for a major Chinese newspaper. He was interested in writing an article on a growing fitness phenomenon called CrossFit. You may have recently seen the CrossFit Games featured on ESPN. The CrossFit community has outgrown Bally’s, 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym combined. And, within the last two years CrossFit has inked a multi-million dollar partnership with Reebok. CrossFit’s mentality has often been described by the following 100 words that were originally coined by the founder, Greg Glassman:
“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.”
I was asked to answer the following questions about my experience with CrossFit and my thoughts on their style of training:
Q: When did you first hear about CrossFit?
A: About 4 years ago. One of the Hilton Head Health interns had an advisor that owned a CrossFit gym in Statesboro, GA. At that time there was no “crossfit gym” nearby. I used crossfit.com to try a few workouts and research the methodology.
Q: What was your very first CrossFit experience like?
A: I don’t remember the exact workout, but I remember how I felt. It was more challenging, yet rewarding, than any other workout I had ever performed.
Q: What do you get out of CrossFit that you couldn’t get out of other fitness regiments?
A: The most obvious is the camaraderie. At other gyms you go with your headphones in and pay little attention to anyone else. At crossfit you interact with dozens of individuals that help push you to your max. The second is the intrinsic competition that is cultivated from racing against the clock. Everything at crossfit is measurable and can be compared to previous attempts. This helps push you in future workouts. Finally, because the workout of the day (WOD) is posted for you either through your individual gym or crossfit.com there is very little time spent confounded by the rigors of creating and sticking with an exercise program.
Q: Do you have any problems with CrossFit?
A: The only problem I have with CrossFit is their affiliate structure. To my knowledge CrossFit gyms can be started and run by anyone that obtains a CrossFit certification and pays a yearly affiliation fee. The certification is a 3 day hands on workshop with a practical assessment at the end. But, none of the instructor applicants are required to have any prerequisites. Therefore, I worry that some gyms are being led by unqualified instructors. Many of the CrossFit moves are technical Olympic lifts and require specific training to avoid injury. This could be avoided if there was a system of regulation, like in the franchise model. But, to my knowledge as long as you pay the yearly fee to CrossFit headquarters they stay out of your business. I have personally visited 4 other CrossFit gyms from San Francisco to Florida and found that their styles and levels of expertise dramatically vary. So, most critics of CrossFit target the safety of the program. As long as you seek a reputable gym with significant experience I believe that you’ll be safe. When compared to other fitness certifications that are out there CrossFit’s certification procedure stakes up well. Even the most notable certifications, NSCA, ACE, ACSM only require a written test and in some cases no prerequisites.
Q: What about the CrossFit nutritional philosophy? Do you agree with/ follow that?
A: This is another area that I personally slightly disagree with. I like that the CrossFit/Paleo Diet focuses on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, good fats, nuts and seeds. But, I worry that they are missing the boat when omitting legumes and whole grains like quinoa, millet and barley. Legumes are some of the most nutritionally dense foods available, high in fiber and protein, and are regarded worldwide as very healthy part of a balanced diet. Whole grains, specifically in their original form like quinoa, barley, millet, oats, etc. are also widely regarded as an important component of the human diet. There is very little large subject group, long duration, peer reviewed studies on the CrossFit/Paleo Diet. I would recommend to CrossFitters a Paleo plus diet, include grains in their original form and legumes, 99.99% of nutrionists world-wide would agree.
Q: Would you recommend CrossFit to everyone? If not, who would you recommend it to and who would you discourage?
A: I would recommend it to everyone. CrossFit is able to modify the exercises to accommodate all fitness levels and limitations.
Q: How do you respond to the well-known criticism of CrossFit? Pukey the clown? the risk of Rhabdo and the problems people have with Greg Glassman?
A: I think the most legitimate criticism of CrossFit is safety. I think with a seasoned CrossFit professional you’d eliminate this hazard. Do your research and find a good CrossFit coach with experience. I think “Pukey” , “Rhabdo” and images of ripped hands are the types of things that will limit the growth of CrossFit. They might bode well for a young testosterone driven male. But, the majority of the market is disturbed by these images. I am unaware of the problems people have with Greg Glassman. However, I was motivated by many of his videos when I first started CrossFit.
Q: Have you ever been injured doing CrossFit?
A: Yes, and I have no one to blame but myself. My ego got in the way. I lifted heavier than what I was ready for. It was minor, but certainly could have been avoided.