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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My opinion of CrossFit

I don't talk much about CrossFit.


I think most of us grew up with the virtue that if you don't have anything good to say then you shouldn't say anything at all. I live my life that way. I stay positive all the time and I avoid topics that become "he said she said" or a battle of who has the loudest voice.

Things have changed. I value my clients and friends to much to just stay quiet on such an explosive topic.

Today I voice my opinion on "CrossFit."

Before I dive in let me tell you a little about my background. I am not just some opinionated hack who wants to stir the pot; I don't do that. Like I said before I tend to stay out of the fray; so to speak.

I have an undergraduate degree in Sport Management and a Master's Degree in Physical Education. I have coached the sport of track and field and cross country at the collegiate Division II and III levels. I also coached high school track for 5 years in the state of New Hampshire where I was the coach for the throwing and jumping events.

I have been a Certified Personal Trainer since 1999. I have owned a personal training studio (in New Hampshire), been a YMCA Wellness Director (Golden Triangle in Tavares) and have owned Your Best Fitness Coach since January 2010. Currently I am an instructor as ASM Fitness in Eustis.

I have also been an endurance athlete at the highest level since the 1980's. I was a 4:16 miler as a Division I runner at the University of Massachusetts and have competed in triathlons all over the world. I have finished in the top 15 in the WORLD in my age group 3 separate times in the sport of triathlon. I am an Ironman finisher and was the runner up at the National Duathalon Championships in the "Double Du". (Combination of the times from off road and on road duathlon National Championships)

I tell you this not a bragging but simple to tell you that I am not some average Joe off the street that has some sort of ax to grind.

Now, if you are looking for me to either jump on the bandwagon of "CrossFit sucks" or "defend the brand" I am sorry but I will do neither. I have my own thoughts and you are about to hear them.

I love a lot about CrossFit. I really do. Just yesterday I did a workout called "The Murph". It pushed me and it pushed my clients. We had fun and really pushed the limits to get some great results.

The Murph was actually how I found CrossFit about 6 years ago. I was working at the Y back then and a local firefighter named Matt was working out and he told me he was "CrossFitting". Of course I asked what that was and he directed me to the website where they posted a WOD (workout of the day) everyday.

Awesome. I check it out and the WOD for the day was The Murph: 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, 1 mile run.

I did the workout and was sore for 5 days.

Was that a sign?

The next week I tried another workout called "Linda". I couldn't get through that workout and the next one I tried had swings and I hurt my back doing them wrong. Another sign?

For the next few years I did a few CrossFit workouts here and there. They were challenging and fun. For the most part though I found them difficult to do at the YMCA and at the church where I started teaching classes when I left the Y in 2010.

Meanwhile, as you likely know, CrossFit has exploded. It has exploded on TV with the CrossFit games. Gyms are popping up everywhere and everyone seems to want to do CrossFit.

Isn't this a good thing? Isn't this what we want? Don't we want people off the couch and getting into a workout culture and getting fit?

Yes we do and that is one of the great things that CrossFit has done. They have made working out and fitness in general kind of cool. They have made high intensity training part of the mainstream. This is how people get results! Thanks to CrossFit the "sport" of fitness is here.

I think that is cool.

But is CrossFit for everybody? No, sadly it is not.

Is the concept for everybody? Yes, it certainly is.

So what is wrong with CrossFit?

The real impetus for me writing this piece today is an article that is spreading like wildfire on Social Media. Here is a link to the article:

The basic problem with CrossFit is that they focus too much on weight. My feeling on fitness is that you need to focus your goals on how YOU change and not how much weight you can do. I feel the best measure of fitness is what you can do with your body without resistance. When you start focusing on exercises with a lot of weight then your goal starts to be to move more weight.

Right or wrong that is my opinion.

As a personal trainer for 15 years here are some opinions that I have.

1. You should never do snatches. The movement is too technical for people to grasp and it serves little purpose in terms of function. So why do it? Save that one for the Olympics.

2. You should never dead lift more than your body weight. Again, why do that?

3. You should never clean more than about 2/3's to 1/2 your body weight. Cleans are a great exercise to learn because you need to do it to get the bar to your shoulder to do presses or thrusters. Doing much more than 1/2 your body weight equals a law of diminishing results in my book.

Why do I mention these exercises? Much of the CrossFit program is built around these 3 exercises. To do CrossFit you will violate all of these rules and in my opinion the risk versus the potential return is to great.

This is primarily the reason that I don't do CrossFit nor do I recommend CrossFit.

If you read the above article she goes into the reason for not doing "high weight high rep" Olympic lifts and she is pretty on point. The tone is a little to elitist for me but she does make valid points about the purpose of Olympic lifts.

There is one thing that she talks about that I believe is off base. She talks about trainers not being certified and the supervision at CrossFit gyms not being what it should be. Honestly I think that is a bunch of CRAP.

I know lot's of people that go to CrossFit and some CrossFit coaches. They know what they are doing and I would NEVER try to bring the whole brand down like that.

According to the author of the article you pretty much need like a PhD to be a fitness coach. That's ridiculous. Who really has the money to get instruction like that? If you have millions to spend to get Olympic level coaching then go at it. Most of us do not.

So the questions remains. CrossFit? Good or bad? Safe or not safe?

You will hear people shouting from the rooftops of both sides. Everybody has an opinion.

Here is the way I look at it: there is some extreme stuff out there.

An Ironman? People claim that you can get hurt doing CrossFit. How about training 20-30 hours per week for an event that will take 8-9 hours for the ELITE. That's ridiculous.

How about a marathon? The human body isn't meant to run 26.2 miles. I'm sorry. It just isn't.

If you think about it endurance sports are crazy. Who isn't going to get hurt training that much?

When you do CrossFit, or any kind of working out for that matter, you will get hurt while working out. You will twist your ankle, you will hurt you knee, you will pull your back.... TRUTH.

Does it beat the alternative?

If you sit on your ass all day you surely won't hurt your elbow doing a muscle up. Your surely won't hurt your back doing dead lifts if you sit on the couch watching TV all day. But, if you workout you will shed body fat and increase your endorphin levels thus live better with less illness and disease.

If you want to do CrossFit then have at it. I am not going to blast the brand just because I don't agree 100% with the methods. Is it safe? For the most part, if you do things the right way it is safe. In my eyes it is better to do CrossFit then to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes day and do the silly circuit at the Y.

I am not a CrossFit instructor and I do not go to a CrossFit gym.

I do train upwards of 50 people per week and I train my wife and myself. If we don't do "CrossFit" well, what do we do?

Basically, we program our workouts very similar to what CrossFit does. The difference?

No heavy dead lifts. No snatches. No heavy cleans. No heavy squats. No heavy anything.

What do we do instead of the lifts? We do many of the functional exercises that CrossFit does plus we run / walk / row. If you want to learn more about our program shoot me a quick email and I will explain more; that is not the intent of the article today.

In today's Social Media crazed world anybody with an account and an opinion can be an expert. Anybody can shout from the roof tops how wrong something else is. Be very leery of those people. Be very leery of the people that do nothing but bring others down without presenting a real alternative.

Be leery of the Facebook seagulls. You know, the ones that show up, squawk loudly, shit all over the place then leave. They don't really care about you they just want to make noise and make a mess.

I don't want to be that person but I do feel that with my credibility with this topic I owe it to my followers to state my opinion.

If you want to do an Ironman or train for the Olympic Bobsled Team, or do a marathon, or climb Mount Everest, or do a 5k or do CrossFit...who am I to stop who? Who am I to say, "Don't do that, you might get hurt?"

I am not.

Understand the risks and go for it.

I do not do CrossFit because I has a basic difference on opinion with the programming. No more and no less.

Haters will hate. Seagulls with squawk, shit and leave. True professional offer an opinion, thought processes and alternatives. I hope that I have treated with topic with the respect it deserves and I hope that you got value from today's post.

If you found this article compelling and informative I would appreciate it if you shared it on social media. Thank you!

To your success!

Rick Copley, Your Best Fitness Coach 
"Empowering YOU to be a champion

p.s. Are you an athlete or want to become an athlete? This could be a good resource for you: 

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