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BoxLife Magazine

11 Misconceptions About CrossFit

By William Imbo

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August 28, 2015

1-CrossFit is dangerous
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about CrossFit is that by doing it, you’re likely to get injured. People assume that every CrossFit affiliate (gym) operates in the exact same manner, so if someone were to get injured as a result of bad programming or bad coaching (respective to one specific CrossFit gym), people will think that doing CrossFit at every and any CrossFit gym is dangerous. As is explained in more detail below, every affiliate operates independently from one another—which means that on occasion someone may come across an affiliate that has bad coaching and bad programming. But the vast majority of CrossFit coaches and affiliates are in high standing, and they do their utmost to ensure that their athletes can safely get a good workout in each of their classes. More often than not, injuries that do occur in CrossFit come about through an athlete’s failure to check their ego (attempting to do too much when scaling is the better option). And it’s important to remember that CrossFit is a training methodology and a sport, so it is not without its share of risk. But so is walking down the stairs in the morning, crossing the street or playing pickup basketball. The truth is that injury rates within CrossFit are comparable or less to sports such as gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting and other fitness programs—far less than many perceive it to be.

2-You need to have an athletic background in order to do CrossFit
Nope. While many people who played sports in high school or college are naturally drawn to the challenge that CrossFit provides, you don’t have to have an athletic background as a prerequisite to be able to do it. Every affiliate has members that come from all walks of life, and that includes those people who had hobbies growing up other than sports. But what connects all CrossFitters is a shared passion for fitness and health—no prerequisites required.

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3-You need to be ‘in shape’ to do CrossFit
Just as you don’t need to have athletic experience to do CrossFit, don’t assume that you need a certain level of fitness to join an affiliate either. One of the great things about CrossFit is that every workout is infinitely scalable to the abilities of the athlete. If you can’t do strict pull-ups, then use a band to make it easier (though still challenging). Don’t feel comfortable handling certain weight in a workout? Drop the pounds to a more suitable level. Through CrossFit’s scalability—and almost endless library of movements and options—athletes of all backgrounds (old, young, overweight, underweight, adaptie) are able to participate in CrossFit and achieve their goals. Just check out this video of an adaptive athlete showcase at a CrossFit-style competition held in Miami this year.

 4-CrossFit isn’t for the elderly
Another fallacy. Sure, the athletes in their 20’s and early 30’s might be the ones ‘in their prime’, but every affiliate will have senior members working out along side their younger counterparts, totally kicking ass. Thanks to the scalability of CrossFit programming, specific needs of older athletes (range of motion, mobility, joint and health issues) can be taken into consideration and workouts modified sufficiently so that they are able to exercise safely but at a high intensity (relative to them). As CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman states to current and prospective CrossFit coaches, “Be impressed with intensity, not volume.” And if you want some extra proof that the oldies can excel in this sport, consider that the CrossFit Games is one of the few sporting competitions in the world that has age divisions for Teens (14-15, 16-16) and Masters (40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60+) in addition to the divisions for the Individual Men, Women and Teams.

 5-CrossFitters are only into CrossFit
Yes, people who do CrossFit are pretty passionate about it, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to try other things if it can help them to achieve their goals. For instance, many CrossFitters see the value in doing Yoga regularly as a means to increase their mobility, soothe sore joints and muscles and get away from the high-intensity nature of a CrossFit gym. Many CrossFitters will swim, run, bike, hike and play all kinds of sports as a part of their active recovery, for the specific skills they can develop through doing them (agility, coordination, balance, etc.) and for simple enjoyment. Even the highest-level CrossFit athletes will step into powerlifting gyms to build their strength and power, or seek out the services of running coaches to improve their form. The point is that CrossFit coaches will encourage you to try different activities if it means helping you to achieve your goals. For some people CrossFit is all they want to do, but it’s not the only option out there—and we won’t deny that.

 6-If you start doing CrossFit, the lifestyle will consume you OR it will control your life.
You adapt CrossFit to your lifestyle—you dictate how much you want to be involved with it, relative to your goals. Some people dive in head first with an unlimited six-month membership, attend class five days a week, switch to the Paleo diet and buy every piece of CrossFit-related gear they can get their hands on. Others are content to work out twice a week, tweak their diets just slightly and work out in the attire that they’re comfortable in. People have different objectives when it comes to CrossFit. Some want to compete, while others may simply be looking for a program that keeps them active and introduces them to new people. Regardless of your goals, you can adapt CrossFit around your lifestyle in order to meet them.

 7-All CrossFit gyms are the same
This is a common misconception that needs to be clarified. First of all, CrossFit Headquarters does not run its gyms in a franchise system (as an LA Fitness would, for example). In fact, each CrossFit affiliate is independently owned and operated. Aside from having to pay an annual licensing fee to CrossFit HQ, the owners of an affiliate are free to program, market and operate as they see fit. This gives owners and coaches a lot of freedom, but also means that no two CrossFit gyms are the same. Depending on the coaching, equipment, space, programming, membership fees and general ‘vibe’ of the classes, you can experience the whole spectrum of CrossFit gyms in this ever-growing affiliate community. It’s up to you to find the one that best matches your goals and lifestyle.

 8-CrossFit the training program and CrossFit the sport are the same
Let us be clear: What you see at the CrossFit Games and what you see/do at a regular CrossFit gym are two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS. The CrossFit Games is the sporting variant of CrossFit that was developed to pit the fittest athletes against one another in competition. It involves a three-stage qualifying process, culminating with the Games that are held every year at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. Now, the athletes who make it there represent the 1% (in fact less than 1%) of all CrossFitters worldwide. They are the elite, and you won’t find them in most CrossFit gyms. Furthermore, the workouts they do at the Games are unique to that competition—you can’t even do the majority of them at your average CrossFit box! For example, some of the events at the 2015 Games included a paddle board and ocean swim event, a peg board climb paired with a row and calorie bike, and an event that required athletes to transport a series of sandbags from one side of a Tennis stadium to the other. The Games competitors completed multiple events back-to-back with limited rest. The CrossFit Games are a show, pure and simple. It’s at complete odds with what you’ll find in a CrossFit gym. Where the regular CrossFitter is concerned with technique and steadily improving, the Games athlete is out to compete and win a competition. There are more differences than there are similarities between CrossFit the training program and CrossFit the sport.

9-As a woman, if I do CrossFit, I’ll get bulky
Once again, many women watch the female Games athletes who compete on TV and assume that if they do CrossFit, they’ll end up looking ‘like them’ (I personally don’t see anything wrong with wanting to look like an elite-caliber athlete, but hey, everyone is different!). But as Games athlete and CrossFit coach Lindsey Valenzuela explains, women have to train and eat with the specific intention of putting on mass in order to do so. “Some women come in and say, ‘You look bulky.’ I don’t think I look bulky, but I say, alright…Are you training like I do? Probably not. I train for hours and hours every day for this sport. I think it’s a silly fear—and many women actually end up discovering that, no, they aren’t going to look like a Games athlete. And if anything, what are you looking at? Is it a realistic image of your body type? Is it a realistic image of a woman on a magazine? Probably not.”

10-You don’t do proper/real pull-ups in CrossFit.
Yes, we do. Strict pull-ups are an excellent bodyweight exercise for building strength and muscular endurance, and are regularly programmed into CrossFit workouts for those specific reasons. Now, many people who watch videos of CrossFit online ridicule two variants of the pull-up that are commonly performed by athletes, known as the ‘kipping’ and ‘butterfly’ pull-up. These variants of the pull-up utilize hip extension to generate upwards momentum and help the athlete cycle through a series of pull-ups far quicker than they can when doing them strict. Many people look at the kipping and butterfly pull-up as an abomination, but the truth is that they are used by CrossFitters for a completely different purpose than strict pull-ups. While strict pull-ups are used to build strength and muscular endurance, kipping and butterfly pull-ups are employed for pace and metabolic conditioning. CrossFit workouts often require athletes to move as quickly as possible to beat the clock and get the best time/score that they can. As such, the best way to move quickly and post a good score is by utilizing a pull-up technique that allows you to do just that—hence the use of kipping and butterfly pull-ups.

11-CrossFit is a fad
Some people believe that CrossFit is simply another fitness fad that will start to go out of style once people move on to something new—similar to what happened to P90X or Jazzercise. Well, the numbers tell a different story. Since the first CrossFit gym opened in 2002, the affiliate community has grown exponentially—there are now more than 11,000 gyms worldwide, and new ones are opening every day. On top of that, since when has a fitness fad developed its own sporting competition with big-time sponsors and media coverage? The CrossFit Games are sponsored by Reebok and broadcast by ESPN, and are instrumental in exposing CrossFit to new people all over the world, who then step into CrossFit gyms to give it a go, which in turn results in the constant growth of the sport and program. Numerous businesses have sprung up as a result of CrossFit’s success—including BoxLife—and there are local CrossFit-style competitions held every weekend around the country. That doesn’t sound like a fad to me.

Photo courtesy of Aryan Barto, Behemoth CrossFit/2015 CrossFit Open Submission

William Imbo

About William Imbo

William Imbo is an Associate Editor at BoxLife magazine, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and holds an MPS in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University. He is an avid CrossFitter and loves film, music and travel, thanks to having grown up across Europe. A fan of the New Orleans Saints and Newcastle United, Will's favorite CrossFit girl is Helen-least favorite being Isabel. View all posts by William Imbo →

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