With the release of this week’s CrossFit Open workout and the resulting flood of advice columns and articles from gyms and coaches around the nation, I’m once again floored by the apparent lack of consistency in CrossFit’s training philosophy versus its reality. Whatever happened to training and preparing for the unknowable? What happened to training hard and consistently in varied movements and modalities to be ready for whatever came up? Since Wednesday I’ve seen one post after another, coaching athletes on form, technique, and strategy for this latest workout. While I understand coaches are just trying to help their athletes and insure a good performance; the day of the event seems a little late to be trying to learn form and technique if you ask me. Shouldn’t this have been something that was refined and tested in the months leading up to the Open?
For me the issue starts with the fact that athletes have nearly a week to perform the workout and if things go as they did the previous week most front runners will wait until the last possible moment. In essence athletes will now be able to moderate output and performance based on what’s needed to beat the leading score if they wait until Sunday; instead of just giving it everything on the day of thew workout and hoping their training and preparation was enough. While I do recognize the strategy involved in this line of thinking I think it’s not very consistent with CrossFit’s stated principles. After all its not preparing for the unknown when you have 4 days to test and tweak and even run a practice round of the workout if you so desire.
Issue number two; after last week’s beat-down this week’s workout is a little light to say the least. I’m not exaggerating when I say 13.2 is a warm-up event for most people’s normal lifting routine. Yes I understand scaling and making things approachable for a larger group of athletes but seriously when put beside such CrossFit staples as Diane, Fran, or Grace 13.2 is a joke and this is probably what is pissing me off about all the strategy posts I’ve been seeing online. This workout is nothing more than a review of basics any first month athlete should be familiar with, if not have already mastered before ever approaching the CrossFit Open.
Maybe I just expect a lot out of my athletes; then again maybe I’m disgusted by what appears to be the growing pussification of CrossFit as it bows down to commercialization and marketing. I’m beginning to understand why so many athletes and serious competitors are turning to outside gyms and training programs to get a serious workout; CrossFit is no longer delivering. You can’t tell me that as a business, it hasn’t started putting the maximum number of customers and accessibility ahead of its core principles. Even suggesting so belies a naivete that’s sad and at the least out of touch with the realities of how the fitness industry works.
By its nature a workout program like CrossFit is targeted at a very narrow audience of hardcore personalities. Unfortunately after a while it has to gradually begin lowering the bar so to speak to maintain its growth and reach new clients and customers. I see this again and again at Boxes around the nation. They all start as close knit hardcore communities of like minded athletes but that soon falls to the wayside as profit and enticing more customers increases the pressure to make the workouts more accessible. Rare and few are the boxes and gyms that maintain a low number of clients and insist on quality first over revenue.
I do not run a CrossFit affiliate, while I am level 1 certified and teach CrossFit workouts I will probably never totally buy into the mythos of what CrossFit is. After 12 years as a coach I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go and a lot of “puritans” sell out once the money came rolling in. To be clear as a vehicle for change and wellness in the average person; I think CrossFit is unmatched today. I think at its core are some very practical and logical training principles that deliver amazing results. Unfortunately as owner Gregg Glassman’s wealth and desire for more wealth have grown over the years I’ve seen a paradigm shift in the soul of CrossFit that reflects this personal development. I honestly think in the beginning he just wanted to present people with an alternative that really worked but as the money came in he realized he’d found his golden goose.
Whatever Gregg may once have been the fact is today he’s a poor example of CrossFit. I could never expect my clients to trust my advice and believe in its capability when I looked like I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years. Just recently I parted company with a coach who was incapable of performing the workouts he was prescribing to our athletes and clients. Many of them were losing trust and respect for him as a coach and were becoming resentful. I mean you really can’t criticize an athlete for lack of intensity when you have none yourself without coming off as a hypocrite. While some loyalists will say Gregg’s physical appearance isn’t the point and doesn’t reflect on his coaching ability or impact they couldn’t be more wrong. Gregg isn’t some newbie fresh off the street looking to lose weight and asking for help. He’s a veteran of this sport and supposedly has been doing it for nearly 20 years or more. Gregg is the face of this growing sport and what that face says; is he doesn’t follow his own advice, at least not anymore. If you don’t practice what you preach the message is that you don’t believe in it yourself. Gregg if you don’t believe in this system you’ve invented and refined enough to live by it; why should any of us?
Credibility is everything in this industry. It’s what separates coaches and trainers from the frauds and clipboard holders just looking to get paid. Some of us genuinely seek to help people while others seek only to profit from obesity and America’s failing health. I think CrossFit followers and athletes all need to have a serious heart to heart with themselves and CF’s corporate owners and managers about what the point of all this has become. I make it my first goal to make a client’s goal accessible by being honest and frank with them about their capabilities. While I frequently recommend new clients attend and participate in our gym’s CrossFit workouts I just as frequently ask them not too. I am also very serious about sending capable athletes to competitions to represent our gym. I would never advise an athlete to Participate in the CrossFit Open or a local event who had not first demonstrated a competency with some very basic movements and weight capabilities.
The Open and CrossFit games should not be a time for remedial lessons CrossFit and coaches. It should be a demonstration of max effort and capability. 13.2 is a joke and an embarrassment. Last week’s workout should have been a sign that this year was to be a serious test of fortitude and skill and up until Wednesday I think most CrossFit athletes felt that way. We felt like CrossFit was bringing its A-game to the table and leaving nothing behind. I was very proud of my effort last week then I saw this week’s workout and felt betrayed. I mean really CrossFit what’s coming next week; bench presses and back squats?