The CrossFit Workout’s Dirty Little Secrets Reveal That It’s Not What It Seems

Healthy Living 19

cross fit

There are so many great things about the workout craze called CrossFit. CrossFit is fun. You can get a hard workout in a very short period of time. CrossFit emphasizes that it’s okay -- in fact, it’s awesome -- for women to lift heavy weights as well. And yes, CrossFit will get you into shape. Those are all huge pluses for any workout in my book.

But here’s the thing -- I have a problem with CrossFit. Why? Well read on, because there are several reasons CrossFit may not be the best choice for everyone.

CrossFit markets itself as being functional exercise, and I agree that a lot of the exercises they use for the WOD (Workout of the Day) are excellent staples that should be in everyone's strength-training repertoire: squats, deadlifts, overhead press, pull-ups.

But for all their talk about being functional, you know what CrossFit is really making you functional for? For getting better at doing CrossFit. If that's your goal, then you've found the right workout. They even market themselves as "The Sport of Fitness." Now, I LOVE fitness. Fitness is my profession and my passion. But fitness is not my sport. When I work out, it’s to build strength and endurance in specific ways that will make me run faster, or longer, or make it easier for me to carry my kid around and lift him in and out of his crib. I don’t work out to get better at working out. It just seems pointless.

CrossFit is also crazy expensive. Each affiliate has its own pricing system, but you're looking at upwards of $150 a month to take CrossFit classes. And no, you don't get to use the equipment when a class is not in session. But at least you get to take classes with a certified personal trainer, right?

Um ... no, actually. The trainers are CrossFit coaches, not personal trainers. To become a CrossFit coach, you need a minimum of a Level 1 Training Certificate, which takes a grueling two days to complete. I’m talking about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday, 16 hours of intensive training in body mechanics, kinesiology, nutrition, correct form, and everything else you need to know. Then you take an exam, and if you pass, congratulations, you can start coaching CrossFit classes.

In contrast, I logged more than 400 hours of study to become a personal trainer, and the exam I had to pass requires me to take regular continuing education classes to remain a certified personal trainer. 

Which brings me to the next issue with CrossFit: it’s a competition.

Those very difficult, intense, and tiring WODs are done for time, and your stats are posted up on the whiteboard with everyone else’s. Now, no one likes to come last, right? So suddenly you’re not just pushing yourself to get through a tough workout in a short period of time. Now you’re trying to do it faster -- and better than the woman next to you.

Guess what’s going to happen when you’re pushing yourself past your limit during a very tough workout, you’re already tired, and the person watching your and 15 other people’s form doesn’t really know what they’re doing? You are going to get injured. You do CrossFit and you haven’t sustained an injury? No, you do CrossFit and you haven’t sustained an injury YET.

I know so many people who love CrossFit. I’ve seen people get into the best shape of their lives, I’ve heard all the rave reviews, and seen the amazing fitness gains. I understand that it’s super fun, and lots of CrossFitters are happy doing it to get better at doing it. I just hope they’re lucky enough to belong to a good affiliate, where the owner and coaches know what they’re doing and have more than the Level 1 training before they’re out there with a group of 15 people doing deadlifts while timed. 

Would you ever try CrossFit? And for those CrossFit lovers -- what's the biggest draw of the workout for you?

Image via CrossFit Fever/Flickr

exercise, personal trainer


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nonmember avatar ka

I have tried CrossFit & it was not for me. I have never been a gym person & I probably would have to build up to something like that. I have a friend who looooves it though.

wamom223 wamom223

Wow I actually think I learned something from a Stir blog, thank you!  After reading this it made me wonder if a lot of people like it because its a competition.  I"ve heard Biggest Loser contestants say the only way they kept the weight off after word was to have some sort of continuing work out goal.  I wonder if that is why it is popular with certain people.  I do like that we live in a world now where there are so many excepted ways to stay in shape. 

Smoke... Smokeygirl

One of my FB friends is a CrossFit-a-holic, she drank the kool-aid and is in it whole hog. Her posts are about nothing but CrossFit and paleo eating and it doesn't seem like a healthy life/workout balance. I'd join a regular gym before the cult that CrossFit seems to be.

wendy... wendywendy

I went through the inital 4 inrtoductory classes but did not join.  My friend is a huge crossfit person, paelo diet, the works, and tore her calf muscle during a WOD.  It has healed and she's still into crossfit.  I just felt that the WODs are too one size fits all, and some are too much for someone like me who has had three knee surgeries.  There's no way that someone who does triathalons and me should have the same workout, but that's the way it's presented.

Erinly Erinly

Thank you, Smokeygirl! I totally think it's like a cult! People who do CrossFit seem to be like insanely obsessed with it and all things that have to do with it! I tried it once and hated it, it was so hard and I was seriously sore (not just regular sore you get after a good workout) but like couldn't sneeze without yelping in pain because my abs hurt so bad. I am, however, obsessed with the Bar Method and go to classes like 4 times a week so I guess I'm in a different cult :)

nonmember avatar Erika

The trick really is finding a GOOD affiliate with good coaches - the one I go to is great about modifying workouts for people, whether it is a specific injury or just not being strong enough to do something yet. And the first rule is "Check your ego at the door". I think I also got lucky in that everyone is nice and friendly but not too "culty". My husbands favorite new saying is "I do crossfit, but I don't consider myself a crossfitter." You really can just do the workouts a few times a week without getting all paleo crazy....I love cupcakes too much for that nonsense!

nonmember avatar Michael

I have been doing crossfit for about a year and it has been absolutely great for me, 30 lbs down and a few more to be at my ideal BMI. Often times it is transformative and crossfitters tend to be overzealous in conversations with friends acting like crossfit is some panacea. That type of attitude is certainly off putting. The points that the author brings up in this article are all valid and should be considered before anyone tries crossfit. The one I hear most often is that you will injure yourself doing crossfit. For as much as I have heard this I have never actually seen a study that compares crossfit injuries per hour spent or calorie burned to injuries in other fitness activities/sports. I honestly don't think it is more than other sports or recreations. Whenever you engage in physical activity, especially one that requires high intensity, you run the risk of getting hurt. I got an overuse injury in my knee from jogging that kept me from running for a couple of months. A friend of mine broke his nose when playing basketball. My father-in-law broke his hand playing softball. Another friend tore his ACL kicking a soccer ball. I could go on but I think the point is made. Any activity you do comes with a risk and you need to judge if it is worth it to you or not. If anyone reading this is thinking about trying crossfit, try it. Go slow, go light, even then there are no guarantees in life except that you will be sore the next day :).

nonmember avatar Sarah

I guess I lucked out with amazing, well-trained coaches and a reasonable price as well. My husband and I both have unlimited classes for a total of $150 a month. On that note, the competition pushes you forward maybe, but it is not how you explained it. Yes, there is a leaderboard on the wall, but not everyone is on it. It is there for a goal to work towards if you so chose but every workout can be modified to your level. I started Crossfit 8 months ago and weighed in at 300 lbs. I couldn't do hardly anything at my size but (because I have good coaches) I started slow and smart and worked towards different goals like doing burpees and eventually running. 8 months in and I have lost 70 lbs. I can run, I can do burpees, I can even do modified pull-ups. I am not just better at Crossfit but I can play soccer and football with my kids. Crossfit is about endurance too. I recently ran my first 5K. My aches and pains are gone. I think it is important to be responsible with your workout. Work to the edge of the cliff but never go over. Push yourself but be willing to say no and slow down. Yes, some of these things may have to do with my weight loss but I can deadlift 310 lbs. I can back squat 200. I guess I should sum it up...all I can say is that Crossfit changed my life in a way NOTHING has ever worked before. If you find the right gym with good coaches then your golden :)

nonmember avatar Amanda

Just as with any gym or personal trainer, you should ask for creditionals and do your homework. My crossfit coach is a personal trainer with a degree in kinesiology. He scales the workouts to my level. I started crossfit VERY obese and am feeling better than I ever have and am sticking with it because I have a support group at Crossfit. Crossfit is changing my life. Don't knock it. It might not be for everyone, but if it got my big butt off the coach, eating healthy, and making good life choices then it is worth the money :)

nonmember avatar chrstina

I think before anyone even has a right to comment and judge crossfit, they should try it for a month themselves. Every body is different and as with anything, there are pros and cons. But unless you've tried something, you have no freedom of speech to comment on it. Just as I have no freedom of speech of being a personal trainer because I've never done it.

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