8 Common Misconceptions About CrossFit

As you can probably guess, we get a lot of questions about CrossFit. A lot of what we’re asked makes it clear that there’s a lot of confusion out there about who we are, what we do, and how we do it. So to try and help out, here’s our 8 Common Misconceptions About CrossFit and the truth behind each.

Misconception: CrossFit is Dangerous

Truth: Critics often state that the risk of injury in CrossFit is too high, making the methodology dangerous. The reality is that any time you engage in physical training – whether it be weight lifting, running, martial arts, biking, or CrossFit – you are opening yourself to the potential for injury. This comes not from the individual training routine, in most cases, but from the fact that you are pushing your own limits. Any time you attempt to stretch and improve what you’re capable of accomplishing physically, it is possible you will injury yourself in the process. This is as true for CrossFit as it is for any “sport activity”. One of the major differences between CrossFit and other group classes is that we use more weights, more varied movements, and strive for a high intensity incorporating these things in different ways. The methodology is different, and people fear what they don’t understand (and in many cases, aren’t good at). CrossFit itself is not inherently more dangerous than any other training routine; it’s how each person comports themselves during the training that can be dangerous. This takes is conveniently to…

Misconception: CrossFit only cares about speed, and ignores form.

Truth: When I went through the CrossFit certification process, the one thing I was told over and over AND OVER again was to never sacrifice form for speed or weight. This makes perfect sense to me, and as a coach I am constantly (literally every class) evaluating my athletes to make sure they are maintaining good form during our workouts. If they break form, we scale the weight so that form is restored. If they can’t restore form, we call it a day – even if the WOD isn’t done! Are there CrossFit coaches out there who DO sacrifice form to get a better time or more reps or heavier weights? Of course! We call them “bad trainers” and they exist in EVERY sport or training methodology that has ever existed in the history of lifting heavy things and running long distances. CrossFit, as a methodology, recognizes the importance and form and harps on it constantly, especially in their certification workshops. If your trainer is telling you to pay more attention to reps/speed/weight than to your form, it’s because they’re a bad trainer, not because they CrossFit.

Misconception: Women will get big from lifting weights

Truth: This isn’t CrossFit specific, but since we put barbells and heavy weights in the hands of our female members just as much as we do our males members, it’s worth mentioning. Ladies, you WILL NOT get as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger if you lift weights unless you are also taking a steroid cocktail. Most likely you won’t even get as big as the competitive CrossFit women (who do have some pretty impressive biceps going on, we admit). You know why? Hormones and body design. Your bodies aren’t designed to inherently build that kind of bulky muscle mass. Women can get big and they can develop to the point they look mannish. But these aren’t likely at all and the average woman will never hit those points unless they consistently, consciously work to do so. The competitive CrossFit women are a mix of the genetically gifted who train hard as well as those are aren’t so gifted who train very hard. They intended to become what they became.

Misconception: Only crazy people do CrossFit. It’s a cult.

Truth: CrossFit puts a large emphasis on community. Yes, this includes talking about: what we do, why we do it, how much we love it, what our goals are, and trying to convince our friends to come with us. It’s the same as being a video game nerd or having any other hobby that you are Passionate about. Many of us are simply incredibly passionate about what we do, and we want to share that passion with as many people as possible. That doesn’t make CrossFit a cult, though I’ll be the first to admit we can be annoying if you’re not interested. But you know what? Anyone who talks about something they really, really like to someone who doesn’t care, is going to be annoying to that person. We’re fitness nerds; get over it! We strive to make ourselves dedicated to bettering our health and fitness, which increases self confidence, and increased self confidence makes us more likely to talk about what is making us feel so awesome. We care about ourselves, we care about our fellow CrossFitters, and we care about YOU. We joke about “drinking the Kool Aid”, which refers to a cult mentality, because non-CrossFitters make fun of us and we don’t care! 🙂

Misconception: CrossFit is random and unplanned!

Truth: Man, my inner lazy person wishes he could just slap some crap on the board, say GO!, and then do whatever. It would make my job so much easier if CrossFit really was random and unplanned, because it would mean I wouldn’t have to work. But that is so far from the truth it makes my eyes bulge out of the sockets trying not to have an annoyance aneurism. I – like all of the good trainers I’ve ever met –  spend hours every week planning specific daily workouts for the next few weeks. I have a macro-plan for all of 2014 already laid out, like an outline from month-to-month and week-to-week. Yes, we constantly vary our workouts, but that isn’t random; it’s planned. With every WOD I have to consider a dozen facets to make sure I’m training my athletes hard AND smart. Just a few of the things I have to consider:

  • What is our strength goal for the month?
  • What skills haven’t we worked on recently?
  • What skills are lacking in the most athletes?
  • Day to day, what muscle groups are we targeting?
  • Are we focusing too much on some core movements that could be worked with new skills?

Misconception: CrossFit coaches don’t know what they’re doing.

Truth: Many coaches from many sports don’t know what they’re doing, how to train properly, or how to best serve their clients. This isn’t CrossFit specific. We mentioned above that there are bad CrossFit coaches. Of course there are! There are people in every discipline – not just CrossFit and not just fitness – who suck at their jobs. Is the CrossFit Level 1 certification enough to open an affiliate right away? No, no it isn’t. It needs to be tempered with experience coaching. And you know what? That’s what they told us at the certification seminar! The unfortunate truth is that people have opened new boxes without having the proper experience and expertise under their belts, because they ignored the proper path to opening a new box. They cut corners and it shows. This is an issue that you can see in many fields, from people who don’t want to put in the work to get the reward. As a consumer, it’s your job to look at service/product providers objectively based on their individual qualifications and product quality. Most often, CrossFit boxes staffed with bad trainers get a bad reputation and close. CrossFit isn’t a franchise, so HQ isn’t going to bail them out. It’s truly survival of fittest in our business, and those who can’t cut it, don’t. Just be smart, ask questions, and do your homework. Just like with everything else you buy.

Misconception: CrossFit is a fad.

Truth: Greg Glassman started the CrossFit website in 2001 with his wife to share his views on fitness training. It was slow to start, but they kept producing good content and built a community around the methodology. After many years of building his brand, CrossFit started to become very popular, affiliation was requested by community members, and CrossFit became a viable company. In 2007 the United States Marine Corps started adopting CrossFit methods for some of their soldiers, and as of 2014 there are over 8,700 CrossFit affiliate gyms around the world, on every continent except Antartica (Look for my new box, “CrossFit Zero Kelvin” to be opening in 2020 in the U.S. slice! Ok, maybe not. Good name though, right?). Compare that to Gold’s Gym, founded in 1965, which has less than 700 locations world-wide and has franchise support. CrossFit has grown from popularity and the truth of training efficacy, not by throwing money at it. After 14 years of solid growth, it shows no signs of stopping. If CrossFit is a fad, so is The Simpson’s.

Misconception: CrossFit is bad for your [insert any body part here].

Truth: Here’s the skinny on injury: if you train with bad form, you’ll likely get hurt. If you train past the intensity that is challenging, but doable, for your fitness and skill level, you’ll likely get hurt. If you over-train the same muscles day in and day out, you’ll likely get hurt. These all have something in common: they’re the Hall Marks of poor programming, which can occur in any methodology. If you’re an aspiring Olympic lifter and do something dumb, you get hurt. If you want to run marathons and do something dumb, you get hurt. If you’re a CrossFitter and do something dumb, you get hurt. The key here isn’t that CrossFit is bad for you, it’s that dumb training is bad for you. So, much like the points made above, make sure you’re not training dumb and not being encouraged to train dumb. In all things, knowing your limits and respecting them is what allows you to progress. A good trainer knows this and will help you scale, intensify, and make gains accordingly.

Do you have some burning question you’d like to see answered? Send an email to chris@crossfitcatonsville.com!