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 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.

around the web


  1. Marketgirl305

    Why didn’t Paleo work for you?

  2. I’m sorry but what are WODs, I’m not that familiar with Crossfit lingo.Crossfit never appealed to me because it looks so painful and grueling. I’ve heard women who have completely stopped their periods from doing too much crossfitness. Also heard of people breaking and fracturing bones. I like the idea of being strong but I’ll stick to weightlifting.

    • @Hehe:

      WOD = Workout of the Day

    • Stopping their period? First of all I wouldn’t be complaining and second this is not some magical phenomion that happens because a female does crossfit! ha ha Any woman that reaches a certain fitness level runs the risk of thier period stopping! There are plenty of elite athletes that this happens to who don’t know what WOD’s are either! =)


  3. Charlotte,

    The CrossFit workouts found on are designed to challenge the most elite athletes in the world, even a cursory scan of their website would have told you this. If you look AT ALL into the publications CrossFit puts out on how to implement the workouts for the average person, you would find vast amounts of information they provide on scaling, modifications, and adapting these workouts for people of all ability levels. Watch this video to see a CrossFit program run for wounded warriors with missing limbs:

    Sounds like you did your homework before writing this piece huh?… or maybe not.

    • @Marcus: You sound like one of those testimonal characters on televangelist program. Personally, Crossfit seems cool and motivating on the inside but all things that have that kind of ritualistic workout has to have some sinister foundations. Kipping pullups are terrible yet those are lauded by followers. I just think it’s for people who really want to push their bodies past normal fitness levels and have competitive aspirations but for a casual exerciser, it needs to be left alone

  4. I felt like it was a bit suspicious when 5 “Boxes” (CF Gyms) opened up within 10mi of my house in just the past year. I feel like there are some similarities to a multi-level marketing, or dare I say PYRAMID, scheme here. No ego’s and no mirrors? Nice try. Ive lost count of the alleged ego-fre CF’ers who insist on showcasing every single personal best via facebook video or through Instagram pictures. An old coworker / CF fanatic Is about 5 more lbs from shearing her ACL from her knee joint on one of her Olympic lifting CF videos. I just hope she’s got a phone nearby since she likes to showcase these vids with not a single person in the gym with her.
    The intensity, I get it(kinda). I’m a semi-pro competitive athlete and I’d love to have some intense motivation during the off-season. However, I would prefer something more sports-specific, not something that’s going to blow my knee out, herniate a disc, or destroy a rotator cuff. Seeing a few girls wearing bright pink weightlifting shoes, cute little CF knee high socks and some booty shorts just isn’t enough motivation to put my body at such risk.

  5. Definitely more ‘cult’ than ‘culture’. I tried CrossFit for a couple of weeks and felt like I was part of some weird post-modern marketing experiment. The people running it had minimal qualifications other than getting brainwashed at another CrossFit gym a few months previously and handing over a few thousand pounds for a franchise.

    Great call on the ‘no-egos’ from On The Fence. I’ve never known another commercial gym compare it’s members so much and so openly, with data from every single workout getting published!

    I don’t even find it particularly motivating? The workouts are reasonably well put together in terms of hitting varied muscle groups etc but are repetitive and tedious beyond belief. I’m surprised they don’t do a bit of chanting at the end and maybe go round with a bucket to collect some more money from the mugs who have paid £70 a month to jump on an MDF box!

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