First of all let me just say that Crossfit is great. It's great! Crossfit will get your ass in shape. There's no question about it. I certainly am not going to say anything that would make thousands of people in "WODKILLA" t-shirts unduly angry. So it must be said, right up front: Crossfit is a very, very good workout thing.
That said, fuck Crossfit.
Let's talk about the good parts first! Honey before... flies, or whatever they say. As far as workout fads go, Crossfit is absolutely outstanding. Because it features actual hard workouts with real exercises that will in fact get you in great shape, as opposed to, you know, fake kickboxing moves, or a glorified dance party, or an expensive contraption that does poorly what could be achieved better and cheaper elsewhere, or something that requires you to look at John Basedow's face for an extended period of time. In terms of its actual fitness activities, Crossfit is not a hustle at all. It teaches a good, productive variety of real exercises that produce real power. Its workouts are hardcore. Can't complain, about that! Great stuff! High five, or whatever the similar term is in the Crossfit™ lingo!
It must be said, though: there are a few things wrong with Crossfit.
1. It is group exercise. I'm biased, because I despise group exercise in a rather venomous and irrational way, but fuck "group exercise." Workouts should be done alone. The Crossfit workouts themselves are fine as long as the gym is empty and locked and located far away from any Crossfit members.
2. It is generalist. If you've ever joined some crappy chain gym for the first time then you've probably been approached by some peppy personal trainer who says, "What are your fitness goals?" The vast majority of people just quizzically wrinkle their brows, then gesture to nearest copy of People with Jake Gyllenhaal on the cover. "Look like that guy, I guess," you grunt. "Get in shape." If your own fitness goals possess this near-absolute level of vagueness, Crossfit is perfect for you. You do a little of everything. You do some Olympic lifting, and some powerlifting, and some bodyweight stuff, and some cardio stuff, and some running, and some sprinting, and some intervals, and some circuit training, and some whoop do doop. And you will, yes, "get in shape." You may even get abs to show off at the office pool party.
See, Crossfit does not train you for anything specific—their one brilliant stroke of marketing genius was to declare themselves "The Sport of Fitness," making it an end in itself. You're not doing those 1600-meter bear crawls and timed rope climbs to get in shape for anything; you're doing them to get better at doing them so one day you can go to the Crossfit games and do them alongside a dozen other people in front of a small crowd. The simple counterpoint to Crossfit is that if you are training for something specific, you'll want to train for that thing, rather than training for "what if you're caught in a burning building and you have to climb out while carrying someone on your shoulders and then run away at top speed and then throw a kettlebell at an angry dog that chased you," as Crossfit does.
Do you want to be a powerlifter? Don't do Crossfit. (As your MAIN WORKOUT, assholes.) Do you want to be a distance runner? Don't do Crossfit. Do you want to simply add muscle bulk at all costs? Don't do Crossfit. Are you training for a specific sport which requires you to sharpen very specific physical skills? Don't do Crossfit. Instead, train for what it is you actually want to achieve. This may seem self-evident. But have you ever tried telling a Crossfit person that Crossfit is not that panacea of all physical training activities? I wouldn't recommend it, unless you are the type of person who enjoys getting into heated religious discussion with Jehovah's Witnesses.
3. It is too expensive. A Crossfit gym is like a regular gym but purposely dirtier and with all the expensive exercise machines replaced by ropes and iron balls. (Which is great!) It is far cheaper to outfit a Crossfit gym than a stupid commercial gym. Those savings are... whatever the exact opposite of "passed on to the customer" is. The normal gym closest to my house costs $40 a month. The Crossfit gym closest to my house costs $250 just to do the "on ramp" classes to be allowed to pay an additional $250 per month to take all the Crossfit classes you want. This is one reason that Crossfit tends to attract an outsized proportion of INTENSE POWER YUPPIES. (Which is fine!) Crossfit is too expensive, the end.
4. Their pullups suck. A pullup goes up, and then down. Crossfit likes to teach people to do these god damn "kipping pullups" which involve propelling yourself up and down using hip generated momentum, like some undulating fish flopping from an iron bar. THIS IS NOT A PULLUP. DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED. Here's a guy who did 100 "pullups." Yeah real impressive but those ARE NOT REAL PULLUPS. Yes, they are something. But not pullups.
One of Crossfit's trademark workouts is "Fran," which involves doing sets of 21, 15, and 9 pullups. Now: a very, very small percentage of the population is able to do a single set of 21 proper pullups, without stopping. I guarantee you that the majority of NFL football players cannot do this. But since it's so god damn important to make the numbers in the workout, Crossfit people do 21 kipping pullups instead, and then they're all, "Yeah, I just did 21 pullups right there." Yeah, and I can dunk a basketball as long as I'm jumping off a trampoline. Those are not pullups. This reveals a deeper problem: this whole "sport of fitness" mentality means that Crossfit tends to make people more concerned with the number they put up in the workout—the fastest time, the heaviest snatch, or just finishing the more grueling workouts—than with the benefit derived from the workout. In the same way that lifting a lighter weight with perfect form will give you more benefit than lifting a heavier weight with bad form, so it is that focusing on making the numbers can often derail you from receiving the greatest benefit of a workout. Which brings me to:
5. You will get injured. All these timed workouts and competitive spirit and shit where they write your scores on a board and there is constant peer pressure to push yourself harder? You will get injured. You won't get an Olympic medal or a Super Bowl trophy for this. Just an injury. Enjoy that.
6. The whole "cult" thing. The standard knock on Crossfit is that it's a cult, of fitness. It's not really a cult. (Although everything on this blog is horrifyingly true.) It's more like church: plenty of nice folks there. But the ones who are too into it are fucking creepy.
7. You can't trademark working out, you fuckers. Doing burpees or overhead squats or 400 meter runs followed by handstand pushups does not mean you're "doing Crossfit." You're just working out. You don't own that shit. You bastards.
And wear some fucking regular socks why don't you.
Other than that Crossfit is A-OK.
[Image by Jim Cooke. Photo: cf-nl/ Flickr]