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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘wod’

Fitness or Sport? A Proper Place For High Intensity Training

The CrossFit Games Regionals were on ESPN yesterday afternoon. What? Wait. No? No, I guess you’re right. It wasn’t ESPN, was it. As it turns out the Games have shifted over to CBS Sports. Totally missed that memo. Of course, I only surf to the Games site once or twice a week anymore so I can be forgiven. Thankfully I was marooned at home with nothing left on either my Honey-Do list or my own Wish List, and ESPNU was all kinds of messed up so I couldn’t watch the D1 Lacrosse quarterfinals. Surfboring around cable I stumbled on the Regionals and received my annual reminder about what CrossFit is and who is supposed to do it.

In short the CrossFit Games as exhibited in this year’s Regionals is to CrossFit as the Indy 500 is to your daily commute: almost everyone needs to do the latter, but almost no one can, or should, do the former.

You could certainly say that I am treading on thin ice by proclaiming that you and I have no business doing anything but gawking at Regionals athletes doing full-on Regionals WODs here on .com. Fine. Here is why I feel this way; the incessant urge to emulate Games-level athletes and to turn every CrossFit WOD into a training session for competition risks the undoing of what makes CrossFit (and other high-intensity offshoots) a potential solution (or integral part of an irreducible Rx, to coin a phrase) in solving the population health problem in Western societies. It really could be as easy as eating fewer processed carbohydrates, being stronger, and training at relatively high intensity for periods of time in the 8-20:00 range. Stronger and leaner with greater aerobic capacity is all pretty much any of us needs.

Everyone who has ever owned a Box or coached a CrossFit class has seen the danger of extending the “you vs. you” competition outward into the “Sport of Fitness (TM)”. Clients who leave a gym because the trainer refuses to teach them how to do a CTB butterfly PU when they can barely do a single dead hang PU. Fledgling CrossFitters who insist on rebounding box jumps instead of stepping down because their times suffer when they do. “Linda” or “Diane” done As Rx’d with rounded lower backs, chins held high because, you know, you gotta Rx the Open WODs if you want to go to the Games. It’s really hard to exaggerate how disheartening it is to listen to a client say they are leaving a gym because they don’t feel like you are the best fit for them. Then you look at their data and discover that they are down 15% BW fat, have doubled their 1RM Deadlift, can now do “Fran” Rx’d in half the time they first did it with an empty bar and a green band, all injury-free.

Form, then consistency, then and only then intensity. This is what you need for fitness. The siren song of competition is strong, especially during our Games season. Shout out to those trainers, both within the CrossFit business universe and out, who continue to hue to this orthodoxy. Functional movements, irreducible exercises performed properly at a level of intensity that is high for an individual, coupled with a diet that is designed to fuel performance in the gym and in life is what we 99.9%’ers need. Distilling this prescription into a measurable and repeatable program is the essential genius of CrossFit. That some of us get to do it as part of a community is that much better; friendships formed through shared experiences, especially shared strife (and what is “Fran” if not shared strife), are also an integral part of being healthy.

After my (ca. 2006) WOD I sat down with some left-over steak and a handful of nuts to see how Dani Horan was doing in the East. A little sore and energized, the only thing that was missing was another CrossFitter there to join me in watching the spectacle.

Forgiveness for the Tiresome

“We forgive those we find tiresome, but not those who find us tiresome.” –Duc de la Rochefoucauld

The capacity for forgiveness is nearly bottomless in humans. One need only think of the indignities piled upon children by indifferent or self-absorbed parents (Mommy Dearest, etc.) that are barely remembered by adults who love and cherish those same parents. Best friends regularly forgive transgressions directed toward one another, often to a point of irrational amnesia. “Tiresome” could be a synonym for “difficult”, the fatigue implied being that which follows the effort necessary to be in the company of such an individual. We tend to be tolerant of all types of behaviors that could be so described in all types of folks for all types of reasons, don’t you think?

Ah, but if someone else let’s on that it is YOU who is the tiresome one at hand, that is quite a different kettle of fish, eh? To be found tiresome by someone else, especially someone else whose company you’d like to keep, is to be found undesirable. Not just wanting in some respect, lacking in some regard, but somehow not worth the effort. Something about your very essence is literally too difficult to deal with to even try.

There is a tiny little silver lining here, of course. Sometimes each of us may, indeed, be tiresome. This silver lining comes with a tiny caveat: if we have become tiresome through the development of some newer activity or belief, one who now finds us newly tiresome may actually be doing us the favor of alerting us to the effect of our new self. However hurtful the revelation might be we are afforded the opportunity to reassess the importance of our latest evolutionary change.

“Must we really talk about your post-WOD vegan recovery shake? Again?”

Unforgivable? Perhaps. It probably depends on who it is that has found you tiresome in your evolved state. We all, in some way and at some level, want to be liked by those who we find likable. What Rochefoucauld finds unforgivable is that some part of our very essence is tiresome to another. This likely occurs quite often, but another quite human trait shields us from the indignity: humans tend to shy away from cruelty at close quarters. They may not necessarily be kind, but at their core most people are not cruel. We understand that to say out loud that you find another person “tiresome” is to choose to wound that person. However tiresome we might find a particular behavior (e.g. dissecting your “Fran” performance with a non-CrossFitter), it is quite different to find and declare an entire person to be “tiresome”.

In my long and eventful life I believe I have been wronged on occasion. For the most part I have forgiven, or at least made an effort to forgive even those who have found the whole of my being to be tiresome. At that I have been mostly successful, though I confess I never forget. For any times I may have slipped and declared someone else tiresome I ask your forgiveness.

I understand if it is not forthcoming.



“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. –Philip K. Dick

A fact-based reality should be the easiest one in which to live. Presented with data your only challenges should be to either explain it, seek to change the underlying causes of it, or make your peace and live with it. Now to be sure I am one who has opined that one’s perception of the facts becomes your own slice of reality, but PKD’s quote above is the ultimate response to one for whom the data becomes inconvenient.

Comparative data that shines light on differences between relatively identifiable groups seems to be particularly uncomfortable for large swaths of Americans at the moment. Well, not only at the moment I guess. Daniel Patrick Moynahan is still persona non grata to some people for pointing out facts about groups of Americans in the 70’s and 80’s I think it was. The CrossFit world is presently in the midst of an exercise designed to gather larges amounts of data about a subset of the planet’s population. Adding additional data such as diet and nutrition would undoubtedly yield a reality that some version of high-intensity interval training, becoming physically stronger through lifting heavy objects, and limiting the consumption of processed carbohydrates creates a healthier human.

Reality check for the pizza and beer on the couch set.

In the end I think my philosophy is becoming that I want to see the data. For me a data-driven reality may be unpleasant but it is at least one that gives me those 3 options above so that I feel a sense of control over my reaction to the reality, at least. Grade differences among groups at “elite” U.S. law schools? Let’s see them and figure out why they exist. Daughters in a particular group tend to remain at the same or higher socio-economic level as their parents but their brothers slide backward? Shine a light on that data so that a root-cause analysis can be done and change attempted.

Daniel Patrick Moynahan:  a person is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. The reality is that I am not as fit as I thought I was. I scaled CrossFit Open workout 18.5 and still only got 100 reps. It’s up to me to decide how I feel about that, and what I will do about it, but it won’t change the reality of 100 reps.


The Other Side of the Stethoscope: A Surgeon Undergoes Surgery

You know you have a problem when T’ai chi hurts. Quite a come down for a guy who’s been doing CrossFit for 10+ years to be so uncomfortable that this ancient Chinese exercise causes enough discomfort that I have to sit down. Oh, it’s nothing exotic or even interesting. I have a companion sports hernia to the one that was fixed 16 years ago (note for CrossFit haters: 6 years prior to discovering CrossFit) to go with a couple of inguinal hernias. A quick little visit to Dr. Google reminds me that weakness in the pelvic floor is an inherited trait. I have a very vivid memory of my Dad joining us for a golf boondoggle wearing a monstrous, medieval apparatus called a truss to hold his hernia in while he played. Again, not CrossFit-related, but definitely messing with my CrossFit Rx for health.

It’s really weird being a patient. On the other side of the stethoscope as it were. I’m not under any illusions that my experience is a run-of-the-mill patient experience. After all, I’m a mid-career specialist who is going to have surgery at the hospital where I’ve operated for 25+ years, one that is run by my own internist and good friend. My surgeon was chosen after talking with the surgical assistants who see everyone operate. They told me who THEY would let operate on themselves and their families. My pre-op testing was arranged around my schedule in a way that was most convenient for me, the patient, and not the hospital, surgeon, or system. I picked my surgical date to coincide with a planned 4-day weekend.

Like I said, not your typical experience heading into surgery.

Nonetheless, this whole patient thing is strange. As a surgeon I am accustomed to being in control of any aspect of the surgical process I care to be involved in. Whether to do surgery and what kind of surgery to do are decisions in my hands. My herniacopia surgery? Not so much. I know that my surgeon is planning laparoscopic surgery, and that both inguinal hernias will be fixed for sure. There’s no way to know the extent of their effect on my most pressing symptoms (see what I did there?), but now that I know they are present I am hyper aware of what they are doing to me in addition to my presenting symptoms. Here’s the rub: I am convinced that it is the Spygelian or sports hernia that’s messing with me, but since it is not obvious on my pre-op CT scan my surgeon is not promising that it will be fixed. There are few things more distressing to a surgeon than not being in control of surgery, and despite all of the wonderful advantages I enjoy because of who I am, what I do, and where it’s happening, this side of the stethoscope is distressing.

What’s the big deal, then? He doesn’t see a hernia he feels is worthy of attention and only does the 2 basic, standard issue inguinal hernias. Less surgery is better than more, right? Sure. Of course it is. Unless it’s not, and that’s the big deal. I had discomfort and weakness as a 40 year old due to a Spygelian hernia on the left side. That hernia was diagnosed by a classic old-school general surgeon without any fancy imaging tests. Just an eerily well-placed index finger and a loudly yelped “YES” when he asked me “does it hurt right here?”, and off to the OR. Why he didn’t fix both sides then I’ll never know, because it was only a matter of time until the right shoe dropped.

Although CrossFit did not cause any of these problems it was definitely CrossFit that let me know I had a problem. Not only that, but it is precisely my performance, both degree and detail, that has convinced me that the Spygelian hernia is enough of an issue to fix. We measure everything in CrossFit. Time, weight, reps. We compare our results with previous efforts as a way of evaluating our fitness, and to some degree to monitor the quality of our workout programming. Gradually, over the course of 12 months or so, I have lost the ability to brace and maintain my mid-line with my abdominal muscles. In a classic cascade of calamity my secondary pelvic support muscles–gluteus medeus, piriformis, obturator, and that rat-bastard the extensor fascia lata–took over and eventually began to fail. At first it was just a little discomfort, followed by a little weakness, ending up in constant cramping and pain in all of them. At this time last year I pulled a lifetime PR in the deadlift; this weekend I could barely do reps at bodyweight.

The first place I felt pain was in that tiny little area that old-school doc poked so many years ago.

Meh. Tough spot, for me or any other patient. I’m not bringing unrefereed information from the internet to the game. I had this same thing 16 years ago, and I have objective data from my CrossFit gym that supports my contention. How best to present this to my surgeon? In this regard I am little different than anyone else with pre-op questions. At our initial visit together I laid out my symptoms and my history. During our post-CT phone call I reiterated my concern about not fixing the Spygelian hernia, however small it might be on direct visualization. Not gonna lie, the thought of having the surgery and continuing to have the same issues when I exercise makes me nauseous.

What’ll I do? Well, I guess this is the place where I really am just like everyone else when it comes to being on this side of the stethoscope. I will just have to have confidence in the surgeon I chose that he will do everything that needs to be done to solve my problem. After all, just like anyone else, I’ll be asleep while it’s going on. Kinda tough to have any input right then, ya know? It will be weeks before I will be able to really test out my results, and those weeks will likely be filled with all sorts of exotic physical therapy exercises geared toward strengthening my abs and accessory muscles, and getting my gluteus maximus to start firing again. Turns out my pain in the ass has actually been a pain in the ass…your glutes turn off in response to losing the ability to brace with your abs.

I am SO ready for this to be fixed, and I’m thinking I feel pretty good about how it’s all going to turn out. If not, well, I’m sure I’ll at least be able to enjoy pain free T’ai chi. My surgeon will undoubtedly take my concerns to heart when he is doing my surgery. After all, we will still share the same side of the stethoscope after the surgery is done.

You Can’t Do Everything

The image is as clear in my mind as if it happened last weekend. There I am sitting at the kitchen table, the catalogue of courses and extracurricular offerings at the college I was about to attend open before me, my Dad reading a magazine nearby. Having long ago decided on a pre-med curriculum my classes were for all intents pre-chosen.

What amazed was all of the non-academic offerings. There was literally everything you could think of. I checked off water polo, the outing club, and some other exotic activity I can’t remember now. Oh yeah…did I mention that I was a recruited football player and that I would start my college career a week early when I reported for camp?

Dad looked up from whatever it was he was reading and chuckled. “You can’t do everything. You’ll have to choose.” Pretty simple, but awfully powerful. Once upstream choices are made the universe of downstream possibilities is changed, so part of Dad’s advice was to prioritize which choices you make when. In my excitement at the discovery of all the options available at my tiny little college I’d forgotten about higher priority choices I’d already made: be pre-med and play football. My world like yours and everyone else’s would be bound 24/7/365. Goodbye water polo. So long Outing Club. I’d be lucky to find time for a beer.

It’s like that in CrossFit, too. CrossFit is fun. Getting better at stuff is fun. Stronger, faster, leaner…all fun. There are all kinds of cool things to get good at, too. I mean, the snatch? Right? What’s cooler than a silky smooth snatch?! You know the answer to that one: a really BIG silky smooth snatch! Heck, one-armed KB snatches aren’t even the coolest thing you can do with a KB. Don’t even get me started about C&J, Turkish Get-ups, Pose running, all that awesome mobility stuff Kel talks about, and come on, there’s something called Virtual Shoveling. All of the CrossFit FB pages, Youtube channels and Instagram stuff is exactly like that catalogue on my kitchen table so many years ago.

In my mind I see my Dad nodding, see the wry smile on his face. You can’t do it all. You’ll have to choose. Everyone has to make choices. Listen to Rich Froning on Julie Foucher’s inaugural podcast talking about choices this year. Heck, go back a couple of years and read what Julie wrote on her blog about CrossFit and school. There are important choices you’ll have to make upstream from your CrossFit choices, and those upstream decisions will alter the menu for your CrossFit choices.

Need a job? Hopefully you have one then. Best not only show up to work but also be at your best when you do. You might need to consider some of your CrossFit choices in light of how they might affect you on the job. Got a family? Hopefully your family life is happy, makes you happy. Best show up and be your best there, too. Sure, being a better version of you through the work you do in the Box might make you better at home, unless getting fitter means not being at home.

In the gym it’s more of the same. The snatch is really cool and all, but is it deserving of the amount of attention and time we devote to it at the expense of say a better, safer kipping pull-up? You’ve decided to do CrossFit and there are simply some things that you have to do well before you move get a big snatch. Become CrossFit fit, for example.

Once you’ve made other, bigger choices (job, family, etc.) how much CrossFit you can do might be less than the amount that would allow you to expand much beyond core CrossFit. The WOD. Maybe a little supplemental strength work. Skill work that makes you better at common movements. Mobility in an effort to injury-proof yourself (so you can be your best at work and at home). If you live in SoCal I understand how irresistible the whole virtual shoveling thing is, but maybe a better back squat might be in order first.

CrossFit is no different than my old-fashioned college catalogue; it’s different only in degree for athletes seeking fitness and those seeking fame and fortune. In a universe bounded 24/7/365 you can’t do everything.

You’ll have to choose.


Posted by bingo at July 19, 2015 12:06 PM

Why “Fran” Still Matters

“Fran” came up as the WOD on CrossFit.com a couple of weeks ago. Then it came up at my son Randy’s Affiliate, CrossFit Bingo. For the umpteenth time since 1/1/06 I saddled up and did “Fran”.

I got crushed.

It’s funny…well, it’s always funny when someone ELSE gets crushed by “Fran”…but I was just talking with my friend Jeff about programming in general, and programming for old Guys like us in particular. We’re kinda wonky nerds when it comes to CrossFit programming, and we talk about this stuff all the time. Jeff said he no longer does “Fran” at all, so frustrated is he that he will never even approach his lifetime PR that he finds no value in doing “Fran” as Rx’d. Instead he does all kinds of variations on the theme as a pure training exercise, seeking the value of the work and not necessarily the comparison to a previous set point. I get that, at least to a point.

In that response lies the answer to a plethora of questions about CrossFit programming, and indeed CrossFit training itself. A benchmark workout by its definition is meant to provide a marker against which one might measure oneself. This is one form of the competitive nature of CrossFit, my beloved “you vs. you”. It is also a source of continued attack from outside the CrossFit community, that all CrossFit programming and training is necessarily performed in “attack mode”. Every WOD is only a successful endeavor if you go to that “dark place” in which PR’s are found. This is a gross over-simplification of not only CrossFit but high intensity exercise in general because it implicitly ignores the fact that the definition is “relatively high intensity”. There are some days in the gym when intensity is relatively not very high at all. Sometimes even on purpose.

While I fully understand Jeff’s sentiment (I will never get within two zip codes of my “Fran” PR), and I do find myself looking for “Fran Proxies” for most of my training, I still do “Fran” in both “as Rx’d” and scaled forms. Getting crushed by “Fran” the other day was just as important as a measurement as were each iteration on my way to that PR so long ago. IMO there is a definite value to knowing and understanding where your fitness stands at any moment (mine is challenged by the time issues of not enough time to train, and too much life stress affecting the quality of my non-training time), and “Fran” is as good a metric as any. I had little to give that day, but I still got back value from my training–I went to the gym and moved both my body and a bit of extra weight instead of just heading home from the OR.

We all lose a little bit of our objectivity when it comes to “Fran”, though. It’s the original WOD, after all; every CrossFitter in the world not only knows exactly what you are talking about when you say “Fran” but they can tell you pretty much every time they’ve ever had with her. There’s still much we have to learn from “Fran”, both about ourselves and about high intensity training in general.

“Fran” is pure CrossFit, a couplet that combines gymnastics and barbells in a time domain that allows us to work almost completely within the glycolytic energy pathway. Each time we are about to transition to the oxidative pathway we change exercises. Doing “Fran” is a worthwhile training exercise done as part of a fitness program that emphasizes variance as well as intensity. Even if your fitness has crested, if you are on the back side of the mountain in some way like my friend Jeff and I are, returning to a well-known benchmark to provide a measurement of your moment is still instructive. Knowing where you are at any given time gives you an important compass point that allows you to objectively evaluate why you are there and how you will get where you wish to be. Doing “Fran” as your WOD is step one on your way.

Viewed as either a pure training exercise or a near existential benchmark, “Fran” still matters after all these years.


Reflections of an Aging Athlete

Old. Yup. “The Heir” turns 26 today. “Lovely Daughter” is 24 and my doppelgänger “Lil’bingo” is 22. My body is screaming from yesterday’s CrossFit WOD–I ran a mile. I’m answering emails and questions from CrossFit friends about CF in the “Master’s” category. I am closer to 55 than 54, closer in age to my cataract patients than my school-age patients. My Dad had a quadruple bypass at 54. Old.

How do you do this “old thing” anyway? It seems I don’t have an owner’s manual for myself, just like I didn’t have an owner’s manual for the kids. What am I to expect now? What is it that lies just ahead, and what then beyond that? Is this muscle soreness a freak thing, the anomaly, or is it a harbinger of things to come? How about fitness gains? I’m now 9 years into my CrossFit journey. How much longer can I expect to achieve PR’s? As I contemplate these questions how far forward should I allow my gaze to roam?

There are no answers to those questions, of course. Any answers only lead to the next set of the same. To look too far beyond a couple of tomorrows is as dangerous as it is to look back beyond a couple of yesterdays. Looking behind even a little bit risks the indulgence of regret, what has always seemed to me to be a sure recipe for sadness. I have written elsewhere that to go even further back, beyond Creation or the Primordial Soup or the Big Bang is an invitation to madness.

To look too far into the future is to invite desire, to risk the creation of wants that grow into something that feels like need. If or when these fail to materialize a different type of sadness arises, this one born of resentment. If one projects these too far into the future, to retirement, to rest, to redemption and beyond, the risk of madness can arise once again.

I surely do not know the answer to the question of how to age well. There is no map for the journey that lies ahead, no cosmic GPS. I have only the strategies that have served me thus far, and the hope that they will serve me yet. I have faith, and that faith allows me to resist the temptation to look either too far behind or too far ahead. Faith is the vaccine against madness.

And I am happy. I realized it once again in a phone call with a dear friend, met through Crossfit, and once again when I said goodnight to my darling Beth last night. I am happy because I have very little desire and even less regret; I want what I have and this inoculates me against both resentment and regret.

Yes, indeed, I am older, but I have at least one more today. That’s just what I wanted.


CrossFit is Even MORE Dangerous Than You Thought!

Three CrossFit injuries in less than 3:00 last night at the Box. Incredible, huh? It’s truly unbelievable when you really dig down into the details: CrossFit is even more dangerous than anyone thought, even that trainer girl who took one whole CrossFit class. Wait until you hear the details.

I was just kinda hanging around after the WOD getting ready to coach the next class when Walt cried out and crumbled to the ground. “My leg! I got this pain and now I can’t stand up!” This was pretty ominous. A clear sign that CrossFit is too dangerous to even think about. Walt had just completed the WOD and now he had so much pain in his leg that he couldn’t stand up. Whoa, if that can happen from a WOD called “Death by Pull-ups” where the only exercise you do is pull-ups, if you can have leg pain in a CrossFit Box from pull-ups, I mean, that’s pretty dangerous. Not only that, but when the pain went away in 10 or 12 seconds Walt joined in the running sessions. CrossFit makes you crazy, too!

Once I calmed down–it seemed like a fluke, leg pain after doing pull-ups–the next group started coming in the door and meandering over to the white board to check out the WOD. “Death by Pull-ups”, the minute repeater. Do one PU in the first minute, 2 in the second, and so on until you can’t finish the required number in the minute. All of a sudden, another scream. “AHHHHHHH…I ripped!” One of the members got a rip on her hand just from reading the WOD on the white board. Now THAT’S dangerous. She didn’t even have to do the WOD, didn’t do a single pull-up, and she got a rip on her palm. Right about that time I’m starting to think maybe all those CrossFit haters who say CrossFit is dangerous are on to something.

A couple of minutes later and a small group of us was chatting about CrossFit. CrossFitters tend to do that. All of a sudden–BAM!!–I can’t talk. Oh man, the pain. That’s right. You got it. I threw my jaw out just talking about CrossFit. How crazy is that?! Not only did I not do a WOD, I wasn’t even looking at the white board in preparation for the WOD. Just talking about CrossFit and I got hurt! That’s just out-of-this-world incredible. I mean, can you even imagine?

So there you have it. Here, right here on the internet, is proof that CrossFit is even more dangerous than any of those other “CrossFit is Dangerous” posts says it is. In just 3:00 time we proved that CrossFit can hurt parts of your body you didn’t even use in the WOD. You can be injured and out of commission just thinking about the WOD. And to top it all off, you can’t even be safe talking about CrossFit. It’s true. It’s gotta be, right? Here it is posted on the internet, just like all the other posts. If you are getting your information from totally legit sources like this one, well, maybe you SHOULDN’T do CrossFit. When I told Walt I was writing this and his response was “no way I’m reading that.” Turns out the last time he read a post about CrossFit he sprained his left medial rectus muscle!

Honest! I’m an eye doctor, and you just read this on the internet.

Disruption vs. Disrupting

In any competitive arena, be it sports or business, a ‘zero-sum’ environment demands a level playing field for all contestants. Rigging the game makes one segment of the players winners from the get-go, and all others simply dupes who are there to feed the riggers. Rigging the game is different in my opinion from figuring out a better way to play, or just simply being better. It’s like knowing the next 5 cards that will be turned in poker, or being the only player to have a map of every obstacle on the course before you start.

A true disruption is a deviation from the status quo, one from which no one turns back. The micro-computer on the desktop spelled the doom of the hegemony of the mainframe. Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity may prove to do the same to what we think of as traditional fitness. The business model of decentralized ownership of fitness training facilities is certainly disruptive to the established fitness business model, as is the “least rents” business model of CrossFit, Inc. to the franchise model which thus far still dominates.

The connection between the concept of disruption and game-rigging is this: when the game-riggers represent the status quo, the disruption is more often loud and messy as the establishment clings to their position with ever smaller handholds. Think high-speed stock trading, where the incumbent industry powers can see your bids before your sellers’, getting in and out of a trade before you and profiting because they could see your offer but you couldn’t see theirs. This is hardly true disruption, it’s just a better version of something called “front running”. The game is rigged, like having one of those table cameras in the poker shows and seeing your cards. It’s pretty hard to feel OK about their profits in that game, pretty hard to see where they are adding any value to the system.

It’s a little like that in the fitness world right now, isn’t it? The feisty newcomer has what looks to be a truly disruptive model, both from a system standpoint and a business model standpoint. The established powers are fighting back in many ways, some of them loud and messy. Bad science and straw man arguments beget a flood of bad PR, while at the same time businesses that see the true disruptive nature of the methodology are not content to simply adopt it but try to usurp the brand. The established powers beseech government to regulate the disruption back to the status quo, the last option for the in-power and they are stripped by disruption.

How will either of these examples end? What will become of the disrupters in the financial world who have discovered the rigged game and propose to re-boot the system without the rigging or the riggers? Will they be regulated out of existence, still-born because of crony politics? What will we see in the battle for the hearts, minds, and membership fees between CrossFit and the ACSM/GloboGym axis? Will we see frivolous regulation layered onto the faux scientific attacks?

In the end a true disruption eventually wins out, while something that looks on the surface like a disruption but is actually just rigging the game is ultimately defeated. You either acknowledge the disruption and adapt (IBM builds desktop computers), or you acknowledge that the disrupters will own the space they created and seek another way to profit from the new environment (IBM sells its desktop/laptop divisions and becomes a consulting company). The people who try to rig the game, perhaps by attempting to coerce existing customers to adhere to the status quo, or who deny the reality of the rigged game, only succeed if they invoke the aid of government. Hence the entreaties from entrenched interests in both finance and fitness for regulation of the disruptive entities.

Who will win? Who should win? Who do you wish to win? I hate a rigged game not matter where it is, who’s playing, or why I’m in the game. Well-meaning disruption has led to many (most?) of the fantastic advances in developed societies. I type on a laptop connected to all of you in ways unimaginable by the person feeding the Facsimile Machine in my Dad’s office in 1978. I will check in later on with a computer that fits in the palm of my hand and contains more computing power than the Mainframe that filled a room in that same office in 1980. I’ll do so from the gym where I will continue to advance my fitness and health by performing constantly varied functional movements at relatively high intensity, a gym that is providing a living for its owner, my son. What do you think?

Rigging the game is the last bastion for those left behind by true disruption.


The CrossFit Games Effect and the Traveling CrossFitter

Do you travel at all? For work or for fun? If so, do you drop in on local CrossFit Affiliates for a WOD? Some folks do this just for fun on their home turf, bop around and visit local Boxes for variety, community, whatever. What has your experience been like? Did you feel welcome, regardless of your experience or your expertise?

The answers to this question will likely drive the conversation about our community’s next iteration. You know, CrossFit.com to Affiliate to international phenomenon, or something like that. What I hear is mostly something along the lines of “everyone was really friendly and I was welcomed by the owners”, and the collective experience of Clan bingo has been just that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything other than that from any CrossFitter who can reasonably be described as “average” or more advanced.

There is a somewhat newer experience we hear of though, one that has become a bit more common as the Games have grown, and it usually comes from the less experienced or less talented CrossFitters. There are some Boxes that are focused on coaching only those folks for whom the Main Page CrossFit.com WOD’s as Rx’d are considered the CrossFit “starter kit”. Kinda like “unless you can do 95% of .com WOD’s as Rx’d we don’t have room for you” stuff. Pretty harsh, especially if you are an average CrossFitter (like me) and you are not aware of this before arriving at the garage door and getting ambushed.

By and large the CrossFit Games are a unifying force for our community of CrossFitters. One need only look at the FB pages of CrossFitters attending the Regionals these last few weeks, littered as they are with posts and pictures of their experiences. The universal thread is the thrill of meeting like-minded individuals en masse, the ease of talking with people who don’t need a translator to interpret the lingo. The advent of competition at an international level seems to have had a different effect on occasion in some quarters.

We have had a culture of inclusiveness, “CrossFit is for everyone”. The work being done by the mad scientists behind the curtain at HQ is very much geared toward measuring and enhancing the effect of CrossFit on the middle of the Bell Curve and below, attempting to answer the questions surrounding fitness as a measure and producer of health for the masses, not just the elite performers. This “CrossFit is for everyone” ethic typically extends to the classes at most Affiliates in which the Newbie just out of his on-ramp class does a scaled WOD on the platform next to last year’s Regional Team competitor. Boxes have traditionally been open and welcoming (for a drop-in fee, which is cool) to all traveling CrossFitters looking for a dose of the CrossFit Rx in the company of the like-minded.

I’m not saying that this has changed so much as maybe just saying I’ve heard a canary or two around the mines as it were. A chirp here, a squeak there. Nothing really, as long as the stories of average CrossFitters who felt unwelcome remain rare enough to be considered a kind of “urban legend”. It’s important to remember that the Games-worthy athlete is the exception, even in gyms that consider themselves the birthing grounds of such rare and wonderful creatures.

The true power of CrossFit and the true measure of CrossFit’s worth is STILL the fact that CrossFit really IS for everyone. It’s not the “man bites dog” phenomenon of a victor at the Regionals coaching and cheering for the stragglers, it’s the fact that the faster and stronger do that at every CrossFit class at every Affiliate every day. Allison Belger talks about the shared struggle as the foundation for our community and this is partly true; what builds the community is the support that radiates from the fittest to the still unfit, the message that you really can share this sruggle with us. The community is functional in much the same way that our movements are functional, from core (members and owners) to extremity (visitors, newcomers).

While we are all blessed (or cursed) with different abilities and potentials we shouldn’t forget that we were all once new to this wonderful CrossFit thing, too. The beauty of it all is that we are still more alike than we are different despite the fact that there are now so many more of us. Wanna know my “Fran” time or 1RM Deadlift before I jump into your 5:30 class as a visitor? Sure. No problem. Just use it to figure out how I’m gonna fit in, not wether I’m gonna be allowed.

Because ya never know, if you do I might be sitting right next to you at the Regionals cheering for that woman in your Box who kicked my a$$ in the WOD and then stood right next to me and cheered me on to the finish.