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.
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].
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):The day I quit I lifted twice as much, mostly through improved technique and improved shoulder flexibility.3. 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.
4. 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.5. 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.
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…and on a Gold’s Gym membership for Mary and I, which totals $65 per month.2. 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.4. 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.
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.
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?