The Latest Bit of Madness From the CrossFit Crowd

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I really have many issues with CrossFit training, having tried it, practiced it, and then decided it was not a good fit for me and the philosophy I have developed in recent years around conditioning and fitness. I don’t intend to diss crossfitters personally, for so many of them are libertarian and /or paleo-primal, and many crossfitters are also my friends and acquaintances.

I combine a lot of crossfit-style fitness work, combined with powerlifting type workouts, fun strongman routines (functional, creative fitness), boxing/MMA, and creative indoor (in the gym) fitness routines. This is in combination with many functional, outdoor sports and activities. High intensity for low amounts of time has been my mantra for the last few years, especially concerning the strength training. Additionally, working in a lot of simple movement at a more primal (play) pace is a big part of keeping myself from consistently engaging high-intensity madness.

Having “been there, done that” on chronic (endurance) cardio training and chronic weightlifting, I can speak from experience. But after 23 months of struggling through four major joint injuries, a sixth orthopedic surgery, and my delaying a seventh and probably inevitable surgery, my experiences (and flashbacks to my mistakes) have shaped new and more creative routines. My joint injuries were caused by two separate sports-related, blunt force traumas (one was a cycling collision caused by another negligent individual) and two older injuries that have left me with badly torn hamstrings dominated by painful and stiff scar tissue, and ensuing lower extremity mechanical problems due to compensation factors. While dealing with the fallout, I began to see life, and the path to ultimate conditioning, through a very different lens.

The joke is, if you want to get a glimpse into the crossfit world and the results of their training, go onto any of their website forums and look at the “injury” threads. They run a zillion pages long, with the same old, predictable injuries. I’ll save a more complete assessment of crossfit and its many faults for a full article, but one article caught my eye recently, and it was a piece NPR ran last week, “Is CrossFit Training Good For Kids?” From the NPR article:

For thousands of people across the country, going to a regular gym just doesn’t cut it. Instead, they prefer CrossFit routines: like swinging kettlebells, flipping tires, and doing squats and dead lifts until they drop. Now kids as young as 4 are taking part.

…The owner, Justin Bacon, explains there are three classes for different age groups, one for 4- to 6-year-olds, another for 7- to 12-year-olds and another for teenagers.

Now, I dislike the hysterical reactions that many “experts” have to kids lifting weights and doing “adult” fitness. The hysteria is often based on inane safety obsessions and/or the dumbing down of the (young) human condition. In fact, it is great when kids can explore fitness and strength work. But the question that many very fit people who do not choose crossfit often ask is, Why do regular people want to mimic military, Navy Seal-like training? And then, they do this in group sessions, against a clock, and in competition with all others in the group? Then the real question is, why do they want their kids to do the same? The photo of the children lifting heavy bars is actually quite freakish.

Kids need not engage “hard” training, and why should they do crossfit in order to make their parents happy? They will only succumb to the feeling of “all work and no play,” and they will almost always use inappropriate form and therefore get an early start on joint, tendon, and muscle pain and/or destruction. They should, however, engage functional, primal training through play and assorted activities. Kids need to do jumping, running, biking, spontaneous sprinting, rolling down hills, water activities, and even Mark Sisson primal/functional-type activities or MovNat-style interaction with things in one’s environment. Putting these young kids through structured, results-oriented strength training – reps and sets and specified exercises – in a group environment is absurd. What are people thinking?

Here’s Mark Sisson on the importance of “chill time” or play, which is about movement and experimentation, along with the lack of structure.

“The Lost Art of Play” by Mark Sisson from Ancestry on Vimeo.

7:08 pm on October 3, 2012