This post is in response to a blog post that's gone viral written by Erin Simmons, an ex-track athlete from Florida State who is currently an aspiring fitness model. You can read her piece here.
I will just hit the "wave tops" of the inconsistencies and fallacies in her post.
First of all, from what I can tell, the ONLY credentials (and if I'm wrong, please correct me) that she has is that she ran track at a high level for Florida State University. Her blog is not backed by any formal education in fitness, no degree, no certifications: just a few shitty experiences at a bad box with inattentive coaches and a buddy who didn't know anything about training properly.
I would like start off by saying, before you present an argument, that it's probably a good idea to acknowledge the other side. Which I will do right here. You have some very valid points. It is true, the problem with the fitness industry as a whole, that you can become a "credentialed professional" in a weekend. That is not exclusive to CrossFit. Yes, there are some fitness enthusiasts and people who have been working out for a long time but have no idea, or lack any formal training in how to adequately program or properly coach certain movements or workouts. To that point, outside of CrossFit, how many times have you walked into GloboGym and bared witness to abundance of idiots counting reps while texting, putting middle-aged or ill-equipped clients on stability balls and attempting to squat, or even risking excessive muscle damage through the improper use of eccentric exercise?
If you want to look at research, and the health hazards of fitness, you'll notice that ill-trained marathon runners are at much GREATER RISK of rhabdomyolisis, an oh-so-popular scapegoat for people with negative opinions of CrossFit, which is more often than not a result of high-volume eccentric muscular contractions. Yet, I don't see the Boston Marathon being cancelled any time soon. More importantly, your blog seems to be based on a couple terrible experiences, while the articles you cite don't acknowledge proper implementation of periodization and variability in programming. Instead of going after practitioners individually and holding them accountable for their programming, according to your sources, we're all fly by night "weekend certs" that operate under the mantra, "Harder is better than smarter."
You say in your article that you never did deadlifts as a track and field athlete. That makes perfect sense, as the rate of force production in a heavy deadlift is too slow, which could indeed impede your ability to rapidly accelerate out of the blocks and down the track. But that's a matter of opinion that could be argued either way from one coach to the next.
This brings me to my next point, you don't seem to understand the PRINCIPLE OF SPECIFICITY. The reason that professional athletes (Olympians, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, etc.) do not subscribe to CrossFit, and why strength and conditioning professionals don't necessarily prescribe its methodology to their athletes, aside from the negative stigma of CrossFit in the NSCA or other professional fitness organizations (ACSM, NASM, etc.), is that it is not specific enough to stimulate the appropriate adaptations to improved performance in a given sport. An NFL defensive back does not need muscle ups in their training. Nor would I prescribe heavy deadlifts to an Olympic swimmer. Not because they are dangerous, but simply because, they do not NEED these movements to improve in their given domain. Still, plenty of professional athletes, Knowshon Moreno and Dana Stubblefield, to name a couple, use CrossFit to AUGMENT THEIR TRAINING PROGRAMS, as one of CrossFit's cornerstones is its lack of specificity, "preparing one for the unknown."
Next, you propose that CrossFit does not translate to body control. How do explain the gymnastics component (pull ups, muscle ups, toes to bar, handstand push ups, handstand walks, etc.), and the development of proprioception through the manipulation of external objects (barbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, etc.)? To include the movement of one's body itself, all of these things require the development of body awareness and the improvement of motor control to become proficient in the execution of these movements.
For someone who has performed at such a high level and trained under so many prominent strength and conditioning professionals, it truly surprises me that you even allowed yourself to fall subject to such questionable training practices as you've so eloquently alluded to in your narrative.
When looking for a CrossFit Box to train at, as I told a friend in Florida today who is interested in trying CrossFit, there are a few things people should look for. Did you ask yourself the following questions?
- Is it run by credentialed, and more so, experienced coaches and trainers. Furthermore, are they able to explain the rationale for the programming in place?
- Invest in your experience, and look at the programming history (if posted), then go in and simply observe a class. Are the coaches attentive? Are the classes too big for a single coach? Are the workouts properly scaled for members' respective fitness levels and experience?
So while I can appreciate your argument, I won't jump on your bandwagon. As someone who competed at a high level for a long time, and continues to compete presently, there are acceptable risks associated with whatever flavor of fitness or sport you choose to become a part of. The golden rule being, IF IT HURTS, DON'T DO IT! Your ill-fated experiences, in my opinion, are more a consequence of lack of attention to detail, sub par programming, and terrible coaching than they are a byproduct of CrossFit itself.
For those who don't claim to be such well established athletes or lack any real athletic experience past little league baseball, professionals like myself and my staff are on a mission to provide the best quality training out there. Do us all a favor and don't condemn an entire community just because of a couple bad personal experiences.
Lastly, I am not trying to reel you back into CrossFit. That's not the purpose of this message. If it's not for you, it's not for you and that's perfectly fine. I just want to increase your awareness. There are a lot of us that own or train at CrossFit gyms, who are credentialed, who have dedicated our lives through formal education, internships, mentorship programs, and the exploration of other genres of fitness to accumulate a wealth of knowledge and experience that makes us the most effective trainers, coaches and programmers available. I've got a Bachelors and a Masters in Exercise and Wellness, as well as becoming a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the NSCA. I taught group fitness, personally trained, developed and implemented strength and condition protocol for athletic programs, and built effective training systems for bodybuilders, figure and bikini competitors. Not to mention I've programmed for MMA fighters and Regional CrossFit competitors alike, but most importantly, the members of my box day in and day out. The vast majority of which have achieved overwhelmingly positive results.
I appreciate your time and consideration and wish you nothing but the best.
Mycal Anders, MS, CSCS