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Anthony says: 5 reasons I joined CrossFit — and 5 reasons I quit

Since my post on why I quit CrossFit is a reader favorite, I asked Anthony — who has a lot more to say on the topic — to write a guest post on why he recently quit, too. Happy reading!
From Anthony [with bracketed editorial inserts from Mary]:

Yes, it’s true: I quit Crossfit. Something that would seem sacrilegious to the rest of my front-squating, paleo-eating, run-hating brethren [!!!!] has recently become a reality for me. And I must say my life (and abs) hasn’t fallen apart just yet.
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After a solid 18 months of ring dips, power cleans, thrusters and many other functional movements, I can’t say I’m an official expert (RX in Crossfit speak). But I can say that I gave the programming, philosophy, and culture of CrossFit a good enough try to give me some authority to write this post.

So here it is — the good, the bad, and the ugly from my 18-month career as a Crossfitter:

5 reasons to join Crossfit

1. You’ve reached a plateau in the gym. Many of you will know what I’m talking about here. You have either hit a physical or mental wall at your local fitness club so busting out another bicep curl either seems impossible or monotonous. I faced the same lack of inspiration in the summer of 2012 and with a small push from my wife [Mary:then girlfriend! Wedding recaps here!], I decided to give DC’s Crossfit Praxis a go.  After a few short months, I was learning new movements and pushing my fitness to new limits. I gave my overworked muscles a rest (the ones that you naturally lean to in the gym) and painfully found new muscles I never knew existed. I must admit that when I walked into the place I could barely do 3 pull ups — now, I can pump out 15 or more in a row [Mary:stud].potomac_crossfit_arlington_00045

2. You’re inflexible and have horrible technique. You may need someone else to tell you this, but if you’ve been doing strength training for a long time, and you’ve been doing it wrong, rigor mortis has probably already set into a number of your muscle groups. A key component of Crossfit is flexibility. This is achieved directly through dedicating a good portion of every workout to stretching and acheived indirectly through each strength movement requiring full ranges of motion. Additionally, having a trainer-to-trainee ratio of around 1:20 means you’ll be focusing a lot on perfecting technique before adding weight. Doing power cleans seemed impossible when I first started (@ 75 pounds):potomac_crossfit_arlington_00047The day I quit I lifted twice as much, mostly through improved technique and improved shoulder flexibility.potomac_crossfit_arlington_000463. You find it difficult to stay motivated. Motivation to work out solo might be difficult to muster up. If you like working out with others and need a group to hold you accountable — but your local gym’s body pump class isn’t doing it — then Crossfit might be a good idea. Another great thing about Crossfit is that you don’t have to think about anything but showing up. Each day features a different workout and you’re told exactly what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t (see point 2).  Crossfit is a happy medium between underwhelming group fitness classes and expensive personal training sessions. There is also some friendly (and unfriendly) competition which can help with motivation too.
anthony_mary_crossfit_praxis_dc_04644. You’re in desperate need of cross training. This wasn’t as big of a deal for me as it is for many, but if you are looking to diversify your current training regime, then Crossfit might be for you. Few other workouts will give you such a wide variety of movements and tempos. It can very easily complement your core sport, so if you consider yourself “a runner” [Mary:like my excellent wife] or a “footballer” or any other quasi-athlete then you’ll do yourself a favor by mixing things up. There is a lot of recent science behind the benefit of strength training to many cardio-heavy sports. After I picked up Crossfit, I certainly noticed fewer injuries and improved performance in my two other sports: running and rugby.IMG_58125. You’re looking for a lifestyle change. Crossfit isn’t just about working out — it’s a whole philosophy (which is why sometimes people say it has a cult-like status). Each box [Mary: gym-goers, this means “gym”] will either formally or informally give a range of “healthy living” and nutrition advice. Sometimes this is well-intentioned, and other times it comes across… well, as a used car salesman pitch. You may start to think you’re crazy because you like eating the odd carbohydrate [Mary:in which case I am truly mad]. However if your lifestyle needs a kick in the pants, there is no better way to do so than by hanging around others who are trying to clean up their act too.potomac_crossfit_arlington_00044

5 reasons to quit Crossfit:

1. You are sick of spending loads of money: This is the number one reason I quit. With the $200+ a month draining my bank account plus the gym gear I was buying to keep up with the Jones, I decided the above five benefits weren’t worth the costs of Crossfit. The math Crossfit sells you on is the cost per session — if you’re going 5-6 times a week. This doesn’t hold true for many of us who like to do other sports or those of us who often travel for work. So after you have perfected your technique, gotten stronger ,and re-found your workout inspiration, the return on investment for three classes a week starts declining dramatically. You have to have money (and/or a very dedicated fitness schedule) to do Crossfit. There’s nothing wrong with this — but in my experience I felt a sense of elitism at Crossfit, perpetuated by the Lululemon and Reebok-adorned trainers. Make sure the math works for you and your lifestyle.

There are certainly worse ways to spend your money, but for me, many better ways too — like on lots of wine…4-_DSC0694and on a Gold’s Gym membership for Mary and I, which totals $65 per month.2-photo2. You can’t choose your trainers. One of the biggest influences you’ll have in your Crossfit career is your trainer. Each gym will have a number of them, but if you like to go at a certain time (morning or evening), you’ll likely be stuck with the same instructor at each class. My experience at Crossfit Praxis was fairly negative and better at my newest box, Crossfit Potomac. At both boxes, though, I found myself encountering some fairly ego-driven and unprofessional behavior from trainers. What can you do about it apart from switching sessions? Nothing much. What is particularly annoying is that I’ve witnessed many of the male trainers flirt with the women in the class which i) distracts the instructors from doing their job and ii) distracts and delays the class more generally. This is obviously a box-by-box issue, so maybe I just had strange double bad luck. [Mary: some strange Australian guy was flirting with me back when I did CrossFit, too…].

3. You don’t want to drink the Crossfit Kool-Aid [Mary: is Kool-Aid paleo?]. Do you enjoy eating toast with your eggs? Do you like having a beer on a Friday evening? Do you like jogging or running? Then in the eyes of a diehard Crossfitter, you are slowly killing yourself. A trainer once told me that “running five miles is like drinking a six-pack of beer.” I’m not sure what science was behind this comparison [Mary: I prefer to drink a six-pack, and then run five miles for full benefits], but you can be sure that you’ll hear statements like this and many more at a Crossfit gym [Mary: Crossfitters, this means “box”]. Don’t get me wrong, I do see the benefits of eating healthy, reducing sugar intake, and not running yourself to death. However I fail to see that unless you are on a zero-carb diet and doing Crossfit six days a week, then you may as well give up and go and check yourself into a mental hospital. I like to live a balanced lifestyle where I enjoy my food, wine, and workouts so this meat-focused, door-in-the-face approach made me uncomfortable — and also gave us both stomach aches.paleo_meatballs4. You’re not looking for a new identity. One of the reasons why Crossfit is so popular is that after you’ve been going for a while, it starts to become part of your identity. For us “casual Crossfitters,” the hardcore-ness of the true Crossfitters can rub us the wrong way. When you have to change your shoes, and sometimes clothes, in between strength and conditioning sessions (apparently those two things need different attire), then I’d say you identify pretty strongly with this sport. If you don’t take yourself that seriously and don’t want to define yourself firstly as a Crossfitter, then the sport may not be for you.

5. You don’t see results. I was shocked one day when I found out that one of the women in my class had been doing Crossfit for four years. Firstly, I thought about the roughly $10,000 she would have spent since joining. Secondly, I realized that during my time with her in class (about six months), I hadn’t noticed her improve significantly. Even though Crossfit is designed to push your fitness limits, if you don’t work hard at it, don’t go regularly enough, and/or simply are not genetically inclined to benefit from heavy lifting, you might not see results. [Mary: of course, this depends on how you define “results,” which is a complicated and personal term] Although I definitely saw strength gains from doing Crossfit, I also saw my muscle size decrease. On the other hand, I’ve seen many people add “bulk” instead of “tone” to their physique which is perfectly fine if you want to squat 300 pounds… but maybe not if you want to fit into your favorite pair of jeans. Crossfit, like any workout regime, may be best suited to certain body types and metabolisms.

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Overall I would suggest my Crossfit experience was a net positive. Although for now, I’m hanging up my Crossfit shoes and heading back to the gym — where I have newfound motivation and a host of new exercises that I’ve added to my repertoire.CAM00049

I also save a bunch of money now and get to work out whenever I want with whomever I want [Mary: like me!!!!]. I hope the above helps you make an informed decision about joining or quitting Crossfit. [Mary: and I hope you play nice in the comments section :)]

  • Have you ever done Crossfit? Like it or not?
  • What’s the biggest fitness investment you’ve made?
  • Any other reasons for/against Crossfit you’d like to add?

 

 

 

29 thoughts on “Anthony says: 5 reasons I joined CrossFit — and 5 reasons I quit

  1. FABULOUS post. I have wanted to hear an “insiders” view of CrossFit, particularly from someone who hasn’t OD’ed on the Kool-Aid. Love the blog!

  2. Great post guys! Congrats on your oodles of savings too : ) I have been on the fence with trying it out but frankly I can’t justify the money at all. Also the trainers at our Golds are AWESOME. Anytime I have a question on form or something like that I will just bound over to their offices and one of them is always happy to help out. Luckily we also have a cross functional room so you have free range to do all sorts of crossfit activities!

    All in all I love having a gym and the freedom to run outside, inside, throw around weights, join a class, or whatever I want.

  3. Great post! I’m not a cross-fitter, but it provided some insight for me and basically…my life is fine without it. I think doing something like yoga or core barre would compliment my running more than CF. Thanks Anthony (and Mary)! :)

  4. Very informative, I knew nothing about cross-fit until now. In my younger days we used to just run and pump weights for no cost at all and felt pretty fit without being ‘cross’ about spending large amounts of money. Well written, but if you were in Sicily your car might be torched or maybe at least ‘scratched’ for saying certain negative comments so lucky you just take the subway. Enjoy your gym now after having learnt a lot about ‘cross fitting’ and having made an informed decision.

    Dad

  5. I love reading peoples’ perspectives on CrossFit although when I read something negative, I mostly think — they’re going to the wrong box. There are only 4 coaches at our box, and I’m more than happy to be in any of their classes because they all have different tips that can help me out. Most of the time when there are no classes, it’s open gym so you can squeeze in a workout if you missed one during the week. I think it’s worth money since it only costs us around $50-60 more per month than to go to either of the gyms we went to previously in Denver (with no training at all). Also our box is very inclusive — just as many people in Nikes and Brooks as in Nanos. They post on our Facebook Page congratulating people on recent marathons & races too. :) I think if people aren’t getting results, it’s definitely due to their eating, not CrossFit. Kevin eats a lot of cookies; therefore, he hasn’t had a TON of visible results. He would eat a lot of cookies no matter what sport he was in to. Haha. That’s his lifestyle choice & genes, I guess. For me, weightlifting on my own was boring (and I totally wasn’t doing some of it right!!!) and CrossFit has really made me braver and more willing to try new things in general.

  6. Great post. What you have hightlighted is the need for Periodization in your training. I find most people get stale mentally and physically with training mode at some point. By default they change sports, personal trainers, classes or stop all together for awhile until they are fat enough to get back to the gym. Change is a good thing. One problem with crossfit is that when you roll strength, power and endurance into they same workout you get the same basic stimulus. Increasing the chance of injury and staleness the longer you keep doing it.I recommend doing crossfit in 3week cycle mix with 3week blocks of different exercise modes..

  7. Hey Mary,

    I’m training again and felt I needed some inspiration so looked back into my bookmarked blogs and here I am shockingly reading Anthony quit cross fit, I did too (not on purpose just moved too much recently) but I get his point. I loveee your little inserts you guys are super cool and inspirational. Say hi to Anthony for me and hope your HM in Mexico was beyond amazing!

  8. I’m currently part of the crossfit cult, and I have been for several years. I’m not a card carrying member and I almost make this confession begrudgingly. I am a fitness/weightlifting/bodybuilding addict and I have been for many years before I ever started crossfit. I came into crossfit with a few pre existing injuries. Mainly bad knees. Doing crossfit help correct poor form and technique with my squats and it also improved my knee function quite a bit. I learned to go full depth and engage the proper muscles. I also learned how to properly snatch and clean and jerk. With that said, I pretty much agree with your analysis of crossfit. My overall experience has been net positive, but I could save a lot of money by going to a regular gym. I mainly keep with it for the accountability and the community. I still work out on my own, but I get in 3 sessions a week at a crossfit gym for a $100. Not too bad. I went from deadlifting 275 to 425 and only squatting 135 properly with full depth to squatting 355 with full depth. I only weight 165 lbs at 5’9. I certainly do have my complaints about cf though. My complaints are that kipping sucks. It really sucks. It’s horrible on your shoulders (especially butterfly) unless you have great mobility. They push kipping so much it’s tiresome. Kipping dips/pullups/toes to bar. CF needs to save kipping for athletes with incredible mobility looking to compete, and at the very most, only use it sparingly in workouts. I have seen so many rotator cuff tears/impingement from people trying to learn the butterfly pullup and slam into their tendons. Even top gymnastic coaches mock the whole cf kipping concept. The other thing is high rep olympic lifts are dangerous..especially at heavy weight when you don’t have good form. I have watched many youtube videos of people doing wods such as grace and isabel. And unless you’re rich froning or some other elite athlete, very few cf’ers have good form on reps 20-30 for these workouts. Scaling is not pushed enough in your typical cf gym. Just because you CAN clean and jerk or snatch 135 30 times does not mean you SHOULD do it. I still do crossfit at a crossfit gym…but i kip sparingly and often times I will skip a wod that involves high rep, heavy olympic lifting, or I scale considerably. just my .02

  9. This is so helpful and a great read! I just quit CF and am so worried about what’s next for me with my fitness. But these injuries just aren’t worth it. And it is so expensive for something I don’t take as seriously as the other crossfitters at the box. Thanks!!!

  10. Good read. Ive been crossfiting a little over a year and have decided to quit because in all honesty I did not like the results. I like a trim, fit, slender and toned look. Crossfit made me sonewhat bulky. Maybe within the culture masculine features on a woman are considered attractive, bur to the rest of the world, its not. I never fell into the cult like trap. Never purchased a headband, high knee socks, or one pair of nanos. I always thought conforming to the fashion was just as bad as dressing like a hipster. I tried it out for a year, commited myself to the experience for the sake of exploration. It was a fun journey, but ultimately not for me. Im more of a yoga/run/dance person. :-)

  11. I drank from the Kool-Aid. It was great. For over a year I drank it 5 days a week. I changed my shoes, I changed my clothes, and now I have an amazing repertoire of movements I was not able to do before. Now I do my own CrossFit from home. NO ONE knows your body as well as you do, and that’s why I quit. There are gyms that understand this concept and some that don’t. Mine didn’t. I’ve forfeited over 6 months in advance dues that I paid simply because I felt I needed to prove to myself that I can do this now from home. I’m doing it!

  12. Thank you for the post! I recently decided to switch boxes because the one I’d been going to was too far to drive. In making the decision to switch, however, it opened up the possibility of trying something new. I have loved Crossfit in the year I’ve been going; that said, I don’t know that it’s the right workout for me. I struggle to eat enough food, I’m bloated and puffy for days after the workout, I often feel frustrated and stressed, and I’ve started not to like the way my body is changing. I know it’s sacrilege to say this last bit, but I don’t want big lats and arms, I don’t want to have to chuck my entire wardrobe because I changed up my workout. I have always been more or less happy with my body, and was looking for a way to tone and be active, not necessarily to overhaul everything I’d been doing and gain girth. Overall, I have loved it, and have definitely benefited from my time at my box. As with many things, however, it’s time to move on. Thank you again for your insight sometimes we just need a little reinforcement and validation to make it ok to move on 😉

  13. Thanks so much! I’ve recently been struggling with all of the same issues after being in CF for 2 years. I’ve finally decided that hey, if I absolutely hate a “regular” gym, I’ll just go back to Crossfit!!

  14. Hiya – I’m currently on the fence. Just 9 months in and I’ve discovered that I’m much stronger than I thought! However, I started with a relatively small gym. In this time, the gym has grown in members without growing in coaches. That’s fine as they are coping. The downfall and reason for my reassessing – restrictions. It feels like the programming are always for the newbies (growing gym = LOADS of newbs) and are quite repetitive now. The more prominant reason, however, is the lack of Open Gym hours. I’d kill myself in the WODs, but I’m at a place now where I still don’t have a pullup – before, I’d have Open Gym times to come in and do those things – I spent almost 2 weeks of entering the gym everyday and trying handstands on my own time and voila – got it. Had I stuck to WODs only, I’m sure my handstand would be where my pull-up is – non-existent. Thirdly, with a growing gym and lack of enough coaches, the community has changed and the support isn’t there. I haven’t been to the gym in 3 weeks and no one has reached out.

    All in all, I’m thinking of rejoining a gym where I can work on my own as I no longer think the current gym can align with my current goals – which is a pity!

    Great write up, btw :)

    • thanks for reading and sharing your story! yes, anthony and i also struggled with not having open gym hours to do our own things. occasionally we would show up for a WOD class and just do our own workout, and the coaches didn’t mind. perhaps you could try asking them if you could just come in during class and do pull-ups only? :) either way, good luck with your decision! do what works best for you!

  15. I just joined and what I hate the most is the male instructors flirt. It is so disrespectful. This is the second gym I am trying out since I started and then moved and restarted again.

  16. Great article. There are benefits to staying or going. Your blog helped me feel better about just heading back to the local YMCA and my own garage to workout on my own. Love Mary and her enterjections! I don’t plan on competing and found my plateau and my threshold to workout with overly competitive people (at my box). But I feel it was amazing for people needing to find their inner strength. Hopefully they know running 5 miles and having a six pack later is better than the kool-aid.

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