Let’s face it, this post was bound to come up. If you’ve already determined that CrossFit is the devil’s spawn based on the trillion articles on the Internet, just try to keep an open mind (and thank you for reading anyway!). But let’s say you’re tired of your current fitness routine, and you’ve maxed out on your downward dogs, 5-8 mile runs, looking at your hot Zumba instructor, and fighting the frat dudes for the free weights at 24 hour Fitness. You’re also in touch with the latest fitness “trends”, and took some interest in CrossFit after watching it on ESPN2 over the summer and watching a lot of ripped gals and guys do workouts. You’ve heard a lot of bad stories about people getting hurt, seen all the internet memes about how people who do CrossFit don’t do “real” pull ups, and assume that doing CrossFit means taking off your shirt to work out and wearing booty shorts. But even after all of that, you’re interested. Or maybe you’re just curious, but need a place to start tackling the idea that you want to be a part of this concept that’s vomited all over the Internet and has made its way into your Facebook or Twitter feed one way or the other.
I can’t say I can offer all the answers, but here’s how I’ve approached debunking some of those “myths” that exist or what CrossFit is accused of:
Myth #1: CrossFit is only meant for people who are in super amazing shape.
When I get questions about CrossFit, everyone immediately says, “There’s no way I could ever lift that much weight. That guy I saw on TV just pressed my 1 rep max for 20 reps.” What a lot of people don’t know is that CrossFit is very scalable. In fact, I would say that most people who do CrossFit can’t do all the things that are on TV. But on the other side, there are people in my gym (including some very nice older ladies), who do CrossFit alongside me and are working just as hard with their scaled options. In addition, CrossFit has highlighted the ability to participate in workouts with scaled options by highlighting individuals who have a life-threatening disease, amputations, are in wheelchairs, have heart or weight conditions (Biggest Loser & Bob Harper, is that you?), and other physical limitations, to name a few. Knowing your scaling options is important and an easy way to prevent getting hurt. Make sure you talk to the coach about scaling when looking for the right gym for you.
Myth #2: CrossFit is for everyone.
CrossFit is great for people like me who used to go to a gym, stare at the weights for awhile, do a few sets of things in between here and there, and then go back to checking my Facebook feed. When I found CrossFit, I was so relieved in knowing that the workouts are already made for you, and you don’t have to think about what you’re doing that day for a workout. That being said, I know it’s not for everyone. Let’s say you’re out on the road at least twice a month for work, and committing to a gym that doesn’t allow for membership transferability is, well, not an ideal investment (yes, CrossFit is expensive, especially if you got the big box gym $30/yr membership at Costco). You like your mainstay programming of the leg day on Tuesdays, the treadmill/running outside on Wednesday, and the free weights on Thursdays. If this sounds like you, then you’re in the same boat as my husband. It’s not to say that my husband doesn’t like CrossFit, or isn’t curious about it, it’s that his lifestyle just doesn’t align with it right now. He’s mastered the art of the hotel gym no matter what city he’s in, and knows how to fit in his workouts based on his work schedule. But I know better than to try and commit to CrossFit right now. Here’s another read on why CrossFit isn’t for everyone.
Myth #3: As a woman, you’ll bulk up by doing CrossFit as soon as you start getting into it.
I get questions about CrossFit with caveat of, “I want to get toned but I don’t want bulk up.” This statement just boggles my mind. First of all, if “bulking up” was truly that easy, I’m clearly not doing something right. And, what exactly does “toned” mean at this point? You want muscles but not too much muscle? I’d love to know how to be able to control my physiology down to that kind of precision (sarcasm). Here’s an extended version of the perspective on “muscle toning.” It’s another blog post for another time, but the point is, doing CrossFit does not immediately imply that you’re going to start showing your bicep vascularity and V-shaped back ASAFP. CROSSFIT ISN’T BODYBUILDING. Does CrossFit get you strong? Like any other fitness program, if you stick with it, you’ll see the results. But, like any other fitness program, abs are made in the kitchen. And for the record, I’ve been doing this for almost 4 years and most definitely don’t have a 6-pack or look like Miranda Oldroyd.
…but even Miranda’s journey took a long time!
Myth #4: CrossFit is insanely dangerous.
If you google “CrossFit”, there’s a good chance you’ll run across a number of articles that talk about the likeliness of injury. For full disclosure, my injury was associated with CrossFit, but not a function of a CrossFit workout. Yes, you do read about how doing Olympic lifts for reps and for time does result in compromised form, and yes you do read about those incidents where someone is severely hurt, developed rhabdomyolysis, or had injury that resulted in surgery. The real danger of CrossFit comes from not being aware of the key fundamentals as it relates to form, or from coaches that are either not in a position to watch you perform the workout or not trained to look for deficiencies in your technique. Those dangers I just mentioned? Those can happen from working out on your own in a globo gym or in your garage as well. I also go back to #1 in scalability and knowing how to change the workout that’s conducive to your fitness levels and goals. And while people think that it’s funny to talk about “Pukie the Clown” or “Uncle Rhabdo” in the CrossFit community, the reality is, no one wants to really feel that way. Have I thrown up from a workout? No, but I’ve had a handful of instances where I’ve been insanely close (Dry heaving anyone?). Have I had rhabdo? Nope. And I’d like to keep it that way, and I have good coaches that I trust and who know my limits. The facts are that CrossFit gets, in my opinion, a bad rap for being overly dangerous when there are things I did with my basketball conditioning that are far more dangerous and put me in compromising physical situations.
Myth #5: Joining CrossFit is like joining a cult.
This one was mentioned to me a few months ago, and the person who said this to me said, “CrossFit’s just a really big cult and everyone’s brainwashed.” Are there people out there that are guilty of all of that? Yeah, sure. I’ve definitely been in CrossFit gyms where no one wants to talk to you since you’re an outsider, and I know people who don’t date guys/girls unless they do CrossFit. But, one of the many things I truly value is my CrossFit community. There are CFOs, moms, Vice Presidents of big banks, doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, baristas, students, wine connoisseurs, Ivy League graduates, lawyers, big wigs for big wig companies, and more at my gym. Some of it is that I’m located in a wonderful world of San Francisco, but I truly love my community. And while SF is a small place, the chances of being able to meet all of these wonderful people wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for our main interest in CrossFit. Many of the people I’ve met have become my good friends, mentors, coaches, and people who I invited to my wedding. Without them, it’s just exercise. Similar to the community factor, I never thought I’d be telling people how much I love group exercise. Because no one wants to struggle with a 5×5 back squat by yourself. But to call CrossFit “cult-like” is unfair, especially if it results in having a larger network of support and an increased number of Instagram and Facebook friends.
Myth #6: CrossFitters work out in their underwear and without a shirt.
OK so, I’ve been guilty of this when I’m in Kauai when it’s insanely hot and humid, but SF definitely doesn’t ever get that hot. But, when I take a step back, I look at all the things that I’m wearing during a workout (and not so much what I’m not). Sure having more things isn’t essential for adding 5# to your snatch, clean, or squat, but hey, some of the science and stuff that goes into those things are pretty cool. Here’s a quick list of things that I’m generally wearing at some point during a workout:
- Tank tops from various gyms, events, or fundraisers
- Shorts (ok, fine, yes, I enjoy the spandex shorts)
- Knee sleeves
- Weightlifting shoes
- CrossFit shoes (side note: I attempted those silly barefoot shoes early on in my CrossFit career)
- Compression tights
- Compression socks
- Compression calf sleeves
- Wrist wraps
- Weightlifting belt from Valeo
Myth #7: CrossFit forces you to eat on the Paleo diet.
FALSE FALSE FALSE. No one’s making you do anything when it comes to your nutrition. In fact, I actively skipped out on the most recent Lurong Paleo Challenge because I know that Paleo’s not for me. I enjoy a gluten-free, low-carb diet, but that by no means is a function of CrossFit forcing this on to me. Nutrition is obviously a huge part of how you train, recover, and prepare. CrossFit exposed me the value and importance of food and helped me form my own opinions on what I need to be successful. It also gave me the opportunity to learn how to cook, use kitchen appliances, and how to feed myself and others. But the important part is that it gave me the awareness I need to make an educated decision about how I approach my diet.
Myth #8: CrossFit doesn’t help you make any gains. In fact, you lose your gains by doing CrossFit.
This goes back to what your objectives are when you start a fitness program. Do you want to become a bodybuilder? Do you want to be a marathon runner? CrossFit can work with all of those, but it depends on what your goals are. One of the things that CrossFit’s taught me is that I’m truly capable of doing some crazy (but cool) things. Whether it’s conquering Fran for the first time, finishing the CrossFit Open, competing in your first competition, or getting a new PR, mental toughness is something that can be applied inside and outside of the gym. With good coaching and strong community, you’d be surprised what you could do in a short period of time. Gains aren’t necessarily found on a barbell either. The mental gain sometimes outweighs the physical gain.
Myth #9: Not a CrossFitter? You can’t sit (or lift) with us.
One of the wonderful things about my gym is that it brings in a variety of people with a variety of goals. And, not everyone’s goal is go to the CrossFit Games. Some people are ultra runners, some are triathletes, some are Olympic weightlifters, some are just your average individuals who just want to work out. There are a lot of people who turn too clique-y with the CrossFit movement, but take heart in knowing that some people’s objectives for being at a CrossFit gym can go beyond simply doing CrossFit.
Even hip hop artist Rick Ross has gotten into the movement!
A photo posted by Ricky Rozay (@richforever) on
Myth #10: CrossFit is just a fad, it’ll be gone and out of memory like the Shake Weight.
To put a few things into perspective, in 2014, 209,585 people signed up for the CrossFit Games Open, a five-week, online, worldwide qualifier for the CrossFit Games. For comparison purposes, about 36,000 were registered for the 2014 Boston Marathon, Tough Mudder gets about 10,000 to 15,000 participants per event, and 25,000 participants in this past year’s Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. But, being a numbers person myself, who cares primarily about the growth perspective, this particular stat interested me: In 2011, about 26,000 people signed up for the first-ever Open (myself included!). The next year, 69,370 people signed up. In 2013, there were 138,619 participants, and this year registration closed with 209,585 people. Is it a fad? I mean, maybe? But showing a historical Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR, if you’re a finance geek) of approximately 68.5% is awfully compelling. I value businesses based on their historical and future outlook, and if I saw a company that had a historical growth rate like that, it would something that wouldn’t go unnoticed, and it’d be a good indication for what the future might look like. (Sources: Tough Mudder, CrossFit Games, Nike)
Again, I’m not saying that CrossFit isn’t without its flaws; there are certainly some truths into each of the myths I’ve touched on. And, as it relates to injuries, I certainly know that I have a large responsibility in making sure that I’m doing things according what’s in my health’s best interest each time I step into my gym. But despite all that, I love CrossFit. I love what I’ve been able to accomplish, I love the people I’m around, and I love the mental toughness and challenges that are presented to me every time I do it. If you’re interested in hearing more about my CrossFit journey, please shoot me an email (lisa at stilettostosnatches dot com) and I’ll be happy to talk about it more detail!