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CrossFit – Myths and Misconceptions

Mitch Potterf Mitch Potterf CrossFit – Myths and Misconceptions
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It’s a new year, resolutions are being made and on top of the heap are health and fitness promises. Most gyms will be frantically busy for the next few months until things slow down and all the determination is replaced with excuses.

Chief among the fitness to-do lists is Crossfit. Crossfit is one of the fastest growing fitness programs to hit the industry in a long time and it is not without its myths and misconceptions. So before you make a decision on the subject check these out, then go try it for yourself (because thinking for yourself is good).

Mitch Potterf

Myth – You need to be “in” shape or athletic to do CrossFit.

Reality – Crossfit is constantly varied functional movement at intensity. Let’s break this down kindergarten style.

Constantly Varied = Always different. Sounds interesting, maybe if working out is always a little different and fun you will do it more and get “in” shape.

Functional Movement = Basic human movements that make you better at life. Running, jumping, lifting, climbing, squatting, pushing and pulling are all things that a fully functional human machine should be able to do. Humans who do them more often generally look like it and enjoy their lives more; they are also harder for Zombies to catch.

Intensity = trying your best. There are a lot of good exercise nerd definitions of intensity but they all really boil down to just doing your best. That doesn’t always mean redlining the engine, it just defines the work. There is a time and place for different intensity levels but the most important thing is that you know how hard you are supposed to go. Good Crossfit gyms provide comprehensive programming, coaching and community support to ensure results at all levels.

So… if always doing something fun so you can move like a competent human, and doing your best with cool people sounds like a good idea to you; get off your ass and try CrossFit. If you’re still worried that you aren’t ready just know that the only way to get ready for CrossFit is by doing CrossFit.

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Myth – I have seen it in TV, I can’t do that.

You’re right, you are not a professional athlete. I watched the Olympics and I cannot run that fast, so I will never run, not even if zombies are chasing me, I’m just not a runner, I give up, what can I do? In CrossFit we realize that statistically speaking most people are average (you’re still a unique and special snow flake, don’t worry) so we create a base work out and scale around people’s differences. At first, it is very normal to scale all your workouts because you aren’t strong enough, flexible enough, conditioned enough… the list goes on and on but the point is anyone with the desire to do it can and we’ll help you.

This is one of the coolest things about it, not just that we can scale a work out and have elite athletes and just-off-the-couchers in the same room but that everyone, for one hour of their day, gets to be engaged in an activity with other people that really want it. Think about it, how many other times in a gym or your daily life can you say everyone here is really motivated to get better, everyone here really wants it.

Myth – You have to eat Paleo.

Just shut up. I’m going to guess that about 80% of CrossFitters DO NOT eat Paleo. We do, however, have a high percentage of people who are concerned with eating healthy and for some that means they eat a lot of vegetables, lean meat and little processed food. But anyone can do CrossFit and make a lot of improvements while eating whatever they want — but they will probably end up eating a lot healthier because they are involved in a group that does, but it’s their choice. That being said; you should eat more vegetables and lean meat, just don’t make it a requisite to doing exercise.

Myth – It’s too serious.

Kinda true, we take fitness pretty seriously, we want everyone to do things safely and to the best of their abilities. But any group wearing neon knee socks, beards, board shorts, spandex short shorts and talking about snatch (it’s an exercise, what did you think I meant?) doesn’t really take itself too seriously. I am very proud to say that many a great friendship has started and developed in our gym and many like it. I doubt you can find any CrossFitter that would say other wise. But I guess you can always exercise in front of the TV with your cat — that sounds totally awesome and I’m sure you have all the friends you need already.

Myth- It’s a cult.

Yes, it is and we are coming for your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/children and pets. If you join us, you stand a better chance. You have been warned, the choice is yours, act or perish.

Myth – It’s so expensive.

As is the case with most things, you get what you pay for. A good CrossFit gym should offer professional coaching, comprehensive programming and a supportive environment. All of these things have value beyond the usual monthly rate of going to a gym with a lot of useless machines and no plan or qualified staff to help you. But hey, they have a great alarm that sounds when anyone works out too hard (it’s not about judgement, it’s about safety) and you already know what to do, so have at it, you are clearly reading this because you are an overwhelming success when it come to fitness.

Myth – I already do it at my gym/with my trainer.

Yeah, um… maybe but probably not. CrossFit is potent stuff. In the right hands, awesome stuff happens. In the wrong hands, YouTube videos happen. The truth is, there are a lot of good trainers and coaches out there, but there are way more that suck. Whether you are in a Crossfit gym or not. If you have one of the good ones they are probably already having you do a lot of different functional movements to the best of your abilities and you’re getting results. If they are really good at it, a lot of others are joining them. If on the other hand they are parading you from machine to machine with a clip board and 3 sets of 10, they probably suck. You shouldn’t pay for them with either your time or money, so go back to your TV and cat or go to someone that will be training people six months from now.

Myth – My trainer/therapist/doctor/mom says it’s random, I will get hurt.

First it’s varied, not random. Random leads to, well… who knows? It’d not random, but carefully planned variety and progression that leads to the planned goal. Few of CrossFit’s detractors have actually done anything more than a few CrossFit work outs, so they don’t really have anything to base their opinions on.

The truth is, you can get hurt doing just about anything. I have seen as many injuries in bodybuilding, power lifting, running, boot-camping and getting on and off the elliptical as I have in CrossFit. They all happen when some one does too much of a good thing and/or doesn’t pay attention to basic advice like progression, rest and safety first. Accidents happen in every type of program — CrossFit just gets a lot of sensational press because its very popular. Do you know how many exercisers get hurt every year following the Professor X program from BSU? Nope, neither do I, because zero people are doing it and it’s not awesome and nobody cares.

Fitness programs are a lot like food: you can read all the reviews you want, but you really have to taste it to know if you like it. Action yields results. If you like something, you will do it more often. So if CrossFit sounds like something you might like, get off the internet and try it. If not, find something else and take some action. Or, get another cat.

Mitch is the owner of Fit Club the CrossFit Affiliate of Downtown Columbus. For more information, visit www.ohiofitclub.com.

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  • Good read Mitch! Even if I’m not a CrossFit person, I always find your perspective engaging and sorta invigorating.

  • quasimojo

    I understand that the author has memberships to sell, but the relatively high rate of injury among CrossFit participants is pretty well documented and IMHO irresponsible to simply dismiss.

    The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training

    CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret

  • Cyanide_headache

    It would be a far more useful article if someone with a financial stake in Crossfit was not the one trying to dispell myths about it and a more enjoyable read if it wasn’t condescending. To address and dispell myths and to bring a better understanding to something, one should probably avoid phrases like ‘shut up’ and such; it tends to alienate a reader.
    Overall, I found the tone of the article off-putting and if I were not already quite familair with Crossfit and the benefits of the system, this would not have led me to explore it further.

  • I’ve been interested in exploring crossfit training, but need to find someplace closer to the Hilliard/Dublin area.

  • I suggest choosing your CrossFit box (aka gym) wisely. A location’s acceptance and emphasis on CrossFit for fitness versus CrossFit as a SPORT can make or break your experience and affect the chances of injury.

    Since leaving CrossFit a year ago, I joined MiT (Marathoners in Training) and love it. I do CrossFit style WODs 2x a week with colleagues at my office and run the other four days. Best of all, I haven’t been plagued with overuse injuries.

    That being said, CrossFit is a lot of fun, I met some great people through the experience and I would be willing to try it again now that I have better understand it.

  • lainiebelle13

    I have met the most amazing and inspiring people since starting Crossfit at Fit Club. Great read! :)

    And to my knowledge, Mitch does actually like cats…another myth busted.

  • Echevarria15

    I joined Ohio Fit Club about two years ago. I can say that it has a great group of people that will support you and push you to be better every time you step into the gym no matter your age or ability level! The workouts are tough (that’s what you want, right?), but can be scaled/modified for anyone to give it a try! Great article :)

  • LeighRunner

    Fit Club has some outstanding coaches! I used to be solely a runner, who could barely pick up a barbell when I started crossfit. I love that the coaches offer and help me find appropriate scaling options to accommodate my growing abilities (after all, I am a unique and special snowflake).They are fantastic at teaching, monitoring, and correcting your form everyday you are there. They really emphasize quality and technique. Not only are they knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but the people are super friendly and encouraging. Every time I step into the gym, I know I’m in a safe and encouraging environment to try new things and get stronger in all sense of the word!

  • A-Z

    Mitch is right – thinking for yourself IS good. And when I stopped reading about it and started doing it, I learned a lot of truth’s about Crossfit, myself, and the great people at Fit Club!

  • rgcolumbus

    I honestly wish I had found Fit Club sooner. In my almost three years of CrossFit, I’ve gained strength, increased my work capacity and improved general fitness immeasurably. I’ve never had a CrossFit injury nor have I seen anyone injure themselves in a workout. Just as in any sport, if you find quality coaching and listen to your body, you’ll see real results and probably have a great time doing it. But at a gym like Fit Club, you’ll do those things alongside some pretty awesome people who help motivate and cheer on one another. I’ve never seen that level of support in any other type of gym, and I’ve tried just about everything. But to really understand it, you have to try it for yourself. See you there!

  • Nigello

    Not to be cliche and take the “middle road” here but CrossFit has some clear positives and negatives. I joined a CrossFit club for about 6 months in 2012. What I liked about it was the intensity and variation. No matter how good of shape you’re in, the workouts and strength conditioning routines will challenge you, which is why (former) athletes, in particular, like it. Having said that, I did find that there were many days in a row where the same muscle groups were being heavily overworked. I never had an injury myself, but I know of a friend there who did seriously injure his shoulder. The other thing to keep in mind if you’re considering starting CrossFit is that it will NOT give you a beach body. There isn’t nearly enough emphasis on upper body muscle training to achieve the ideal torso, arms, or shoulders that you could achieve with traditional body building techniques and proper diet. Don’t be fooled by some of the guys and girls in the class who look “muscular”, “built”, or “toned” (as those terms are commonly understood), once you learn a little bit more about their fitness history, you realize they came to CrossFit with a lot of muscle definition already and/or were former athletes (or just have great genes). So, in general, understand what your fitness goals are and then decide whether CrossFit is right for you.

  • kgirts24

    To say that CrossFit “causes” injuries is false. As with any sport, you only get out of it what you put into it. If you take the time to learn the RIGHT way to do the movements and don’t get lazy or try to push yourself far past your limits, you will not get hurt. Accidents happen in life, that does not mean that if you try CrossFit you will get injured. I have had four knee surgeries in my past as a result of athletics and I can honestly say my pain and weaknesses have only decreased since I began CrossFit. The coaches at Fit Club have been great in working with me on my technique and modifying when necessary. I have concentrated on my form and slowly worked my way up in different weights and movements and I have seen a huge improvement in myself since I began this sport. Honestly, I have hurt myself more running outside and walking around my apartment than I have being involved in CrossFit. Well put Mitch, great article!

  • xnexus

    Quasimojo, you state that Crossfit leads to injury, then you quote a scientific study that directly contradicts you.

    “No incidences of rhabdomyolysis were reported. Injury rates with CrossFit training are similar to that reported in the literature for sports such as Olympic weight-lifting, power-lifting and gymnastics and lower than competitive contact sports such as rugby union and rugby league. ”

    Seriously, did you even read this? Or were you just hoping no one else was going to look?

  • crossphant

    xnesus, I believe the point that quasimojo was succinctly making was that injury rates overall were 73.5% in the sampling group. It is a significant injury rate given the population.

    I have worked out with crossfit for going on 8 years and the only injury I sustained was after joining a crossfit gym (pulled back muscles as a result of poor hamstring warm up). Often times the gym atmosphere breeds competition and it is that component that I have seen lead to countless injuries. Our head trainers have had multiple injuries since I have been at the gym one requiring surgical intervention.

    The workouts are not anything new, they have been in military and fitness regimens for decades. The new component is the crossfit “attitude” that is clearly displayed in the authors tone. I would suspect that this attitude is responsible for many of the needless injuries and it is definitely responsible for the negative connotation to crossfit by those that dismiss crossfit out of hand.

    Enjoy the workouts….Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

  • quasimojo

    xnesus, I felt that the article and study I linked to provided a lot more facts on the issue, for people to make their own determinations, than the original salesperson’s pitch. And I would have been happy to leave it at that.

    By what logic do you think the quote you excerpted contradicts me? CrossFit has a similar injury rate to OLYMPIC POWER-LIFTING AND GYMNASTICS. It has a lower injury rate than COMPETITIVE CONTACT SPORTS LIKE RUGBY. 73% of those surveyed sustained an injury from CrossFit participation and 7% required surgical intervention.

    When I said that CrossFit had a “relatively high injury rate”, I thought it was obvious that I meant relative to other general personal training/conditioning programs, NOT RELATIVE TO COMPETITIVE RUGBY.

    Here’s another article, referencing a different study, that puts the relative injury rates into context:


    Let me quote the relevant take-away for you:

    “The most troubling part of this Crossfit study was the 16% injury rate. Which is extremely high. It doesn’t come to a surprise as I personally have seen this side of Crossfit and have worked with many ex-Crossfitters that have had injuries that have left them crippled for months. Now, with my experience working with over 400 clients, I would have to say the percentage of my clients that were injured and unable to continue is strikingly low relatively( less than 1%). Also, keep in mind, 16% couldn’t bear to finish the study, but how many were dredging through inflammation? How many have minor injuries, and kept going? While 16% dropped out, I’m sure more had negative responses to the over training, and poor form, but continued the study.

    Where does 16% injury rate match up when compared to other sports/recreations?

    Tennis .14% Injury Rate(within a one year period)
    Golf .18% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Ice Hockey .57% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Softball 1.11% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Baseball 1.31% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Skateboarding 1.86% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Cycling 1.29% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Basketball 1.85% Injury Rate (within a one year period)
    Football 4.85% Injury Rate (within a one year period)”

  • James

    quasimojo, I guess it would be a little embarrassing if the study citing the 16% injury rate turned out to have faked that number.

    Oh wait, they probably did.

    “The most troubling part of this Crossfit study was the 16% injury rate. ”


    Yes, this is the crossfit governing organization. But it seems kind of funny that a blind study is able to identify the members of the study to explain the reason the didn’t finish the study. So either they asked somebody’s opinion outside of the study or they made the data up. I’d guess the latter happened in order to spice up the findings.

  • joshag

    When I move to Florence KY hopefully later this year, I will try Crossfit in Erlanger KY. It sounds interesting. I am 78 years old with heart disease and I lift weights and run at a local gym after a nearly two year layoff due to a lengthy illness of my late wife. It is hard to get back into it again. I used to run 3-4 miles a day and also lift weights for 1 hour. Before getting back into it, I was just sitting at home with pain in my left elbow and feet. I had to do something. Now the pain is gone as long as I skip days using a variety of exercises. It is my understanding the Erlanger Crossfit works with elderly persons with heart disease by setting up a program for their level of fitness. My problem is two years ago I was lifting weights without proper training, and I probably injured myself from overuse of weights, pullups, dips and planks everyday. There needs to be a day or more between doing these exercise, to recover, especially for an older person. I believe Fitworks can help me back to a higher level of exercise.

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