Undeniably, crossfit does evoke a lot of emotions. Is the critique fair or is crossfit just a misunderstood phenomenon? Sebastian Avindell reveals his thoughts on the matter.
The attentive reader has probably discovered me getting more and more into crossfit. The always-changing training, the comradeship and the sometimes devilish grinding suits me perfectly. That I get to play around with some heavy weights while getting fitter is just the icing on the cake. As I joined the dark side (well, that’s how some people see it), I was prepared for some sneering comments and verbal attacks because of my choice. It’s the risk you take, I suppose, when trading game. In for a penny, in for a pound...
Having said that, I must mention a few things about crossfit which I’ve noticed been used as arguments against the sport, that I cannot agree with. Arguments dealing with injuries, the sectarian feeling in the box, and that you get thin as a rake doing crossfit, whick makes all us muscle-lovers back down and hide, like a vampire facing daylight. But is there any substance in alla of these arguments? This article is for all of you out there who would like to have a few counter-arguments up your sleeve, when chance given. But. This is also for all of you with a negative mindset when it comes to crossfit, despite not knowing much about it.
When first mentioning my interest in crossfit to a few friends, they all cried out – injuries! In their mind, it would basically lead me to invalidity. It would also inevitably lead to dislocated shoulders, broken backbone, and most probably to rabdomyolysis (muscles breaking down leading to acute renal failure). No wonder my crossfit debut was postponed. According to my friends, doing crossfit sounded like something comparable to reaching the shores of Normandy at D-day.
In fact, during the six months of training as well as participating in a competition, I have not had one single injury. Must count for something? Especially when considering the fact that I am one of those persons who could get a deep cut when using a dull butterknife, or even slip on an ice patch in the middle of summer. But when doing crossfit? Nothing. Why? I think it has to do with my skilled coaches.
When attending the instructor-led class, it is like having a personal coach watching you. All the advice you receive then, you take into your own individual training. Also, everything you do in crossfit is possible to scale down – you’re not supposed to do things you’re not in control of. As long as you listen to your coaches and don’t make up your own routine, I honestly do not think the risk of getting injured is bigger than in other sports.
It should be added though, that everything that increase the intensity, simultaneously increase the risk of getting injured. If you compete, for example, as you then probably push yourself to the very limit of your capability. But that goes for any sport. Many kneecaps have been torn at the soccer field and fingers dislocated when the old gang get together and go head to head in a handball game. Generally, injuries are not far away when men over, say thirty?, are trying to reach the forlorn levels of achievement in whatever sport again. Countless are the examples of this that I alone have come across in my former job as an ER nurse.
A smaller study performed using teenagers exchanging ordinary physic lessons with more crossfit inspired lessons, proved (except promising results concerning muscle development and weight loss) no increased risk of getting injured. Another argument proving my thesis being correct.
In summary, I do not believe the risk of getting injured when doing crossfit is as high as it is sometimes stated. But, if you’re still not convinced, then take a moment and reflect on the cases you’ve heard of when someone has stretched his back in a deadlift at the gym, or ripped the Achilles tendon when playing soccer with the old mates. After that you try to remember how many you’ve heard of getting long-time injuries from doing crossfit.
The risk of losing your hard-earned muscles
While crossfit contains quite a few (loads) of cardio-intense exercises, which will get the pump going, fear of losing muscle-mass and being constantly catabolic has become a strong argument for many wanting to avoid crossfit. When you’ve been working on your biceps year after year you don’t want to risk losing them, right?
It is true that traditional bodybuilding and HIIT don’t match very well. That is, if you want to look like a body-builder. If your goal is to look like Ronnie Coleman, Arnold or Iris Kyle, then crossfit is not the exercise of your choice. Just as bowling is not a first choice if you want to excel at underwater-rugby. But, if your goal is to build
muscles and at the same time get rid of those lovehandles? Well, many different forms of exercise will do the job. Crossfit is one of them.
Crossfit will not magically transform a muscular body into something looking like Marilyn Manson. Neither will it turn you into a bulky Jay Cutler. It is quite simple really, the kind of work you put in will ultimately give you the results you strive for. But the argument that crossfit will make you small, weak and without muscles is false.
Alright, some might consider me biased. I do crossfit on a regular basis. And now I am about to shed some light on the infamous sectarian vibe that crossfit is so intimately connected with. It’s a bit like asking a Christian if his belief isn’t just a bit twisted. I realize the problem. In my defense I want to add that crossfit is still new to me. I remember the doubts I had when first stepping into a box. The image of intense people in Reebok-outfits screaming that lifting heavy weights was a piece of cake and that they all hated newcomers was in my mind.
Facing the opposite confused me. Cannot remember being greeted with such warmth in any training related context. Maybe it’s due to the fact that crossfit is something so unique as an individual sport, but still performed in teams. In class, you compete solely against yourself and nobody else. And you’re surrounded by people doing the same thing. And in the end we all cheer each other on. I get (almost) just as happy when somebody else gets a PB or leave everything out there on the floor, as when I do it myself. The same goes for everyone else in the box. We all cheer each other on, all the time. But does that make crossfit into a sect? I don’t believe so.
The undeniable fact that many crossfitters like to talk about their training... well is it so surprising? We’ve all met them, the long-distance runners preparing for next trail run, the downhill experts getting ready for yet another challenging competition, they all have this one thing in common – they cant stop talking about it. And they keep posting updates on instagram/facebook/twitter of which stage in their training they’re currently at and what they do to improve their results. But does that make them crazy? Lunatics? Sectarian?? No, of course not. They’re just passionate about doing what they love. The same goes for crossfitters. They love what they do and therefore they like to talk about it. Just as many others like to talk about politics, food or Beyonce. But it is passion and dedication we’re dealing with here, not sectarian atmosphere.
In summary; no this is not a blind celebration of crossfit. Like any other sport, it has its pros and cons. This I am totally aware of. Having said that, I still think that crossfit often gets wrongly accused of being what it is not. Despite the rumors it will not turn you into a (body-wise) disturbed person with no muscles left. Nor will it brainwash you into believing in crossfit as the only possible sport worth doing, as opposed to any other form of exercise. More probable is that it will make you passionate about the process and all the news you will be faced with. That’s all. No hocus-pocus. No hidden motives. I promise.
More joy in training (the more the better!) to the people!