CrossFit has a bad rep with “industry critics.”
The reasons for this are many:
- Increased risk of injury
- Lack of individualization
- Emphasis on competition
- Questionable programming
- A cult-like culture
The first four are all variations of a theme:
Variations Of A Theme
Classes are run in a group setting, meaning everyone does the same program. At face value, that infers a lack of individualization. CrossFit workouts are also known for their intensity and variety of high-impact movements. Critics also argue that “competition” and an emphasis on speed while pushing physical limits increases the risk of injury. The intentionally varied programming is also frowned upon—with some arguing this neglects foundational strength and skill development.
But most people criticizing CrossFit have never done it, or worse still, only ever attended a single class.
Because CrossFit in isolation is brutally challenging.
Especially if you’re unlucky enough to attend a class with a sub-par coach or unwelcoming clique.
But if you find a good gym, CrossFit can provide a compelling community experience and a structured, supportive environment to continuously improve every aspect of your physical fitness.
I learned much about myself while doing CrossFit with Invictus Boston a few years back. I also learned a thing or three about programming, workout structure and the importance of good coaching.
Every instructor was knowledgeable, personable and capable of managing and motivating a large class of athletes.
And much to contrary belief, most CrossFit gyms have multiple “streams” teaching each of the fundamental disciplines:
- Strength (rooted in Olympic lifting)
- Gymnastics (bodyweight, floor and bar work)
- Mobility (stretching, flexibility, posture)
Good Classes Are Well Structured
In fact, each one-hour class I attended followed the exact same format:
- Thorough warm-up, including task-specific mobility.
- Technique work with instruction.
- Strength work (periodized, leading to 1RM or 3RM maximums at end-of-cycle).
- Finisher/WoD: Usually a “for time”, AMRAP or TABATA style workout lasting ~15 minutes.
- Cool down and stretch.
Moreover, aside from the Olympic lifts, EVERY drill, exercise or movement could (and was) scaled to meet the individual’s needs. So while there was only ONE workout for everyone in the class—it was always modified to provide a progressive challenge for each athlete.
In more than a year of training at Invictus—aside from a few blisters—I never once got injured.
But I did get lean. Strong. And incredibly FIT.
Here’s What You Need To Know
So what’s the lesson here? Is there a point to my rambling?
First, don’t get sucked into dogma.
It’s fashionable to bash anything popular, especially something like CrossFit, where the community can appear cult-like from the outside and often have much to say about their chosen sport.
If you’re genuinely interested, research and find a reputable gym or “box,” as they are known in CrossFit circles.
Second, you’ve got to be prepared to try it for a few MONTHS—not just one or two classes.
Because the structured cadence of most CrossFit programming means jumping into the middle of a cycle can be a humbling and somewhat unnerving experience.
In closing, I’ve long maintained that the best program or exercise for an individual is the ONE THEY’LL DO.
And a LOT of people love CrossFit, a sport that’s seen an increase in affiliated gyms from 5,000 to over 15,000 in recent years—including in rural areas where many communities now thrive.
Especially the ladies
In 2020, there were 330,000 participants in the CrossFit Open, and 60% of the athletes were female!
Just be prepared for the expense—because CrossFit membership is not cheap. But I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s worth it.
At least for some people—some of the time.