Confession: I want to be a part of CrossFit without actually doing CrossFit. Yes, I want to have my paleo gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free cake and eat it too.
I’ve done CrossFit. I’ve done it as a formal Great Fitness Experiment twice and the Gym Buddies and I have mixed in various CF workouts into our schedule for over four years now. I’ve done it in a CrossFit affiliate gym, in a garage, in the YMCA, and in my house. (And with a mouse! And In a box! And with a fox! And in the rain and in the dark and on a train! Okay, not the train. But totally with a mouse. My house is a mouse farm.) So I like to think that I know of what I speak. Well, at least as much as I know what I’m talking about with anything which, I’ll admit it, can be dicey. And here’s the thing about me and CrossFit that I had to learn the hard way: I get injured if I do it the way it’s written.
The repetitive motions (100 handstand push-ups sounds hardcore but it was worse for my carpal tunnel syndrome than my 25 hours a day of typing), the high impact (the higher the plyo box, the farther down to the ground!) and the surprise 15K runs (I know very few people who can slam out nearly 10 miles with no preparation) all made me start to dread reading the WOD (workout of the day) when we were doing the CrossFit Experiments. Not to mention the damage you can do to yourself with the Olympic lifts if done improperly. (I thought the bruise/scrape from cleaning the bar into my clavicle would never go away. It looked like a hickey from a 1950′s Hoover.)
And I’m not the only one that has issues with CrossFit. It’s just that nobody really talks about it – it’s okay to say you’re not tough enough for CrossFit or that you simply don’t like it but it’s taboo to say you think the workout foundation has cracks. A fitness professional friend of mine (whom I won’t quote by name since I didn’t get their permission first) explained to me that they had quit CrossFit even though they were a certified CF trainer because they weren’t making progress any more and were getting injured. It turns out that CF may be one of those workouts that you need to be fit to do rather than one that you do to get fit.
My other problem with CrossFit is I don’t eat Paleo/Primal. I’ve tried it three times and those Experiments were the most epic fails I’ve had in my history. I’m not saying it’s a bad way to eat but simply that it doesn’t work for me. And while CrossFit isn’t officially linked to Paleo you’d be hard-pressed to find a true devotee that isn’t eating that way. The pressure to conform to that diet is immense in many CF circles.
But I also happen to love CrossFit. I love how it trains both men and women to be tough. I love the challenge. I love the competition. I love the gymnastic elements (even if they are only pulled from men’s gymnastics – where are the cartwheels CrossFit?!). I love that I now not only know what a clean and press is but how to do one. Heck, I love being told what to do every day! And I love the cult(ure) of CrossFit. Some workouts inspire an unholy devotion that makes holy rolling look boring and CrossFit is definitely one of those. The 2012 Reebok CrossFit games were subtitled “Fittest on Earth” and I wanted to add “Most hyper” as well. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a group of people so enthusiastic and energetic about their workout. And I’ve been in a room with 200 women doing Zumba with a male stripper teaching the class. Although that class definitely won for loudest screaming of any workout I’ve tried. My ears are still ringing. (For other fitness programs with cult followings check out my Shape.com slideshow to see if your fave made the list! I drink the Kool-Aid!)
It wasn’t until I talked to a die-hard CrossFit friend that I learned the solution to my issue.
“You do the WODs from the actual CrossFit site?” he scoffed. “Only noobs do that! No respectable affiliate gym even uses those!” Another friend introduced me to sites that either scaled down the workouts for more skill levels or offered alternate WODs. And that opened up a whole new world. It meant I got to pick and choose which CF workouts I did. (Yes to Fran and Fight Gone Bad, No to Elizabeth. I’m sorry but I just can’t do ring dips no matter how sternly I lecture my triceps.) It meant I could mix and match different moves. And … it also means that what I call a “CrossFit workout” now most likely isn’t one. Technically.
All of this was going through my mind as I bopped around The Games and interviewed some insanely fit people and admired the grass-fed burgers (from afar, the line went around the block). I love it but I can’t embrace all of it. Happy medium or huge cop-out? I’m still not sure but it’s where I’m at now. And my wrists have never been happier.