Crossfit Isn't Training, It's a Sport

I spent yesterday afternoon giggling and nodding in agreement as I reread my Myers-Briggs personality result.  What's the Myers-Briggs personality test?  It's a self-report questionnaire designed to indicate how people perceive the world and make decisions.  Or as I like to call it, the "get out of my head!" test.

My life motto?  Speak soft and carry a big deadlift.

My life motto?  Speak soft and carry a big deadlift.

While I've known my result for a while - an INTJ - I like to read the description every few years as it's a humbling and affirming tool.  For example, INTJ's tend to challenge traditional ways of thinking and have very high self-confidence (would it be too ironic to say that I agree?).  On the flip side, INTJ's can also be seen as arrogant and judgmental.

Why is that important?  Because you may believe I'm all four qualities after reading my thoughts below on Crossfit.

I've quieted on the Crossfit bashing recently because 1) it's boring and 2) it's easy to criticize but hard to evaluate. So why the change in tone with this post?  Because I realized that the traditional paradigm regarding Crossfit needs to change.  We can't call Crossfit traditional "training." Instead, it's a sport.  And it's a critical difference that makes Crossfit injury prone and unsuitable for the general population.

First, what makes Crossfit a sport and not a training program?  It begins with the theory behind general exercise and training.  With training, you can build a program and select exercises based on your goals.  Want to lose weight? We can build a training program around that.  Want to increase your vertical jump? We can build a program around that too.  

But in Crossfit programs, exercise is the goal.  It may be veiled as "preparing you for anything" but the heart of Crossfit workouts are finishing your activity - either against someone else or against the clock - as quickly and as heavy as you can. Doesn't that sound like a sport?

There's also the aspect of specificity.  If someone does Crossfit they usually get very good at doing Crossfit.  Does it transfer to other activities?  Usually not. That's why you never see any professional athletes perform Crossfit - unless they are professional Crossfitters.

So if Crossfit is a sport, why's it unsuitable for the general population?  After all, many people play in recreational basketball leagues and they seem to be doing OK.  My answer is that the nature of Crossfit increases the inherent risk without increasing the reward.

It's one thing to shoot a basketball by yourself.  You get practice but you don't get the exercise like you would when there's someone to play with.  When you add a few people to the game, you increase the potential benefit (getting better at basketball and more exercise) while slightly increasing the risk of injury.  The same could be said for Crossfit - you work harder in a group than you do alone.  The difference, however, is that instead of shooting a basketball or jumping harder for a rebound, you're competing with others in advanced lifts with heavy weights.  

For example, an Olympic lifter may perform 2-3 repetitions over the span of 5 minutes.  In Crossfit, it's common to see Olympic lifts being performed in sets of 10-20 as quickly as possible and repeating it for several rounds.  When you try to beat someone or something, the focus is turned away from technique and safety.  Thankfully, our bodies adapt to fulfill these needs in the short term and we can complete the workout.  But it comes at the expense of what we're doing over the long term. 

We know people hurt every year in recreational athletics - basketball, softball, flag football - and we don't bat an eye if someone gets hurt playing one of those sports.  So why are we surprised if someone is injured during "the sport of fitness?"  After all, the goal of exercise shouldn't be exercise - it should be preparing you for life.