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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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CrossFit in the Crosshairs: A Physician and Athlete Comments

It’s really incredible what’s been said about our CrossFit on the information highways this week. The amount of opinion masquerading as fact-based advice is off the charts. Anyone’s who’s been around CrossFit for more than 2 years will realize that it’s just that part of the cycle, that time when CrossFit has reached another Tipping Point size-wise and has therefore come to the attention of another outwardly spiraling circle of “experts.” Trust me, it’s Groundhog Day in the gym, so to speak.

This is a wonderful opportunity to take a moment to reflect upon what CrossFit actually is, what it is not, and for whom CrossFit is appropriate. Let’s start with the last and work forward. CrossFit is appropriate for almost everyone. The group for whom it may not be really the best option is actually counter-intuitive: elite single sport athletes in highly skilled endeavors. Waaaiiiit at minute here, you might be saying. The highest-skilled elite athletes may NOT be the best CrossFit candidates, but the great unwashed masses of the obese, unfit, ¬†and unhealthy ARE?! You bet, Bucky. That’s exactly what I’m saying. The .01% probably need to spend 100% of their time on their specialty, SPP or Specialty Physical Preparedness; CrossFit is GPP, General Physical Preparedness.

CrossFit is for the other 99.9%.

Why? How can that be? Well, that runs into what CrossFit is not, namely a dangerous, hyper-intense program that has a high injury rate, something too over-the-top for “regular” folks. Uh, uh. The real “dirty little secret” of CrossFit (if I may crib a rather recently famous phrase) is that scaling the stimulus and subbing in favor of more approachable movements is decidedly the norm in almost every setting where CrossFit is done. Technique. Then consistency. Then, and only then, intensity. Says so everywhere. Are there small pockets of CrossFit or CrossFitters who jump the gun and go straight to intensity? Sure. But that is hardly an indictment of the program, especially since the program and the company incessantly beat the drum: technique, then consistency, and only then intensity. The injury rate in CrossFit, if anyone cared to ask, is actually quite low, especially when you compare it with, say, running, where something ridiculous like 90% of runners suffer a running-related injury every year.

Which brings me to what it is that CrossFit can actually be said to be: the solution to the adverse effects of overabundance. A viable answer to the problems created by an unhealthy population. While the CrossFit Games have been an incredibly effective PR vehicle for the CrossFit Affiliates (which is also true, paradoxically, of all this silliness on the web right now!), they have confused a vocal segment of the opinionators about CrossFit and CrossFitters. Peek through the door of any CF Box and guess at who’s inside. Here’s a tip: it ain’t Jason and Miranda! It is, however, everyone else. What do you think they will be caught doing? Again, likely not what Jason and Miranda are doing that day! They will rather be doing approximately an hour’s worth of work, some of it skill-based, some of it directed toward some hole in their fitness, and almost certainly culminating in something that we would all recognize as a WOD. Look very closely, though, because if you do you will also see that there will be many subtle variations of that particular WOD going on, maybe as many subtle scalings as there are CrossFitters in the gym.

CrossFit is a highly customizable system built on the core principles elucidated in the Classic CrossFit Journal Issue no.2, “What is Fitness”, for which there is a link on the left side of the Main Page of CrossFit.com. A prescription for not only fitness but also health that includes a universally scalable program of exercise (with scaling options also offered under the “Start Here” tab on CrossFit.com) in combination with an easily followed guideline for nutrition, all geared to produce incremental and sustainable gains in 10 very specific physical domains. Following this “prescription” results in health, and when we combine this individual health with the wonders of the communities that have grown out of gatherings of CrossFitters we end up with something that could be called Wellness.

None of this is new. Nothing I’ve said here is unique or original. It does bear repeating, though, because you might be relatively new, and this latest round of “CrossFit is dangerous” or “CrossFit is only for people like Jason and Miranda” might actually be your first rodeo. It’s OK. Relax. It’s still technique, then consistency, and only then intensity. It’s still eat to support performance in the gym but not production of fat. Still learn and play new games. It’s still CrossFit.

CrossFit is still the answer.