CrossFit is founded on the beliefs of Greg Glassman. He states, “CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in… cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy,” [emphasis added]. Any sport that does this will create a truly balanced, fit individual; especially since most sports create athletes that specialize in only a few of these strengths. But, the inherent problem with CrossFit isn’t their fitness model; it’s program implementation which desperately lacks quality control and assurance for its affiliate gyms and its coaches.
Disclaimer: Before starting any exercise program, please consult with your healthcare provider.
In this blog, I hope to bring awareness to these issues, so whether you decide this sport aligns with your fitness needs or not, you are mindful of its limitations. This entry will also give you an idea of what to look for in any fitness program, so you choose one that provides quality and education along with skilled training.
CrossFit operates by affiliate gyms, which are run independently of CrossFit headquarters. Where many companies require their affiliates to follow a common standard of professional procedures, CrossFit Inc. gives their affiliates sole responsibility for the programming, organization and operation of their own gym. The local CrossFit is only obligated to have a link to the official CrossFit Journal on their approved CrossFit Web site, insurance policies that cover CrossFit Inc. as well as the local gym, and to entirely defend CrossFit Inc. The company simply gives guidance to its affiliates, which is completely optional. The local gym maintains complete control of their program. There is no tie of communication or process to ensure CrossFit methodology is upheld, which can be quite troubling when you realize the only requirement to open and operate a local CrossFit gym is to be a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. This might sound alright, until you realize there are only two requirements to become a Level 1 Trainer: take a two day CrossFit Inc. course, and pass a test on it. This course offers basic introduction to the fundamentals of CrossFit and a cursory overview of movement mechanics, but there is only so much you can cover—and remember—in a two day course. The opportunity here is great for any enthusiastic entrepreneur, but the opportunity for hazardous instruction is also great for any enthusiastic client. These circumstances bring to light the weak qualifications required to open a CrossFit facility, let alone the lack of assurance headquarters has these gyms are following the methods and quality the company claims to offer.
Anyone can certify as a CrossFit coach. That’s not to say these are the exclusive credentials for all CrossFit trainers, but to only point out the absence of education required to instruct a group of people in very complex, high intensity exercises. This scenario tends to remind me of a TV announcer’s caution that what the audience is about to see can be dangerous, and, acknowledging that the viewer may not be aware of the true mechanics behind the act, warns, “Don’t do this at home.” Yet, they do—in homes, garages, basements, backyards, local parks, or any type of space the new trainer deems usable, with any type of equipment they have— whether it’s something rigged or a professional piece of tested equipment. There is no fixed way of opening a CrossFit gym. Once someone gets certified and buys the license, they have the ability operate however they see fit.
Also, when teaching exercises that demand power, technique, and intensity, the coach needs to be well-experienced and well-qualified in doing so. Educated fitness professionals spend years gaining knowledge and experience, learning everything from the structure of the body (anatomy), how it functions (physiology) and how it moves (kinesiology), not to mention the many hours of continuing education needed to stay knowledgeable and credentialed. Many trainers hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a specific discipline of exercise science. This may sound like a lot, but it provides fitness professionals the ability to tailor fitness to your specific needs instead of trying to make you fit into their general methods. My concern with CrossFit is giving such a responsibility to trainers who may have no more experience than a couple days of workshops. You should decide what qualifications are important for you and make sure to seek that out in the person you hire to transform your health and fitness.
Here are a few questions to ask when you look into any fitness program:
- If this facility is independently run from the major corporation, what can I expect at this location?
Ex: Exercise programming, values, services…
- Who are the trainers and what are their qualifications and experiences in?
Ex: Education, fitness philosophy, experience in training, group specialty or individual specialty…
- What kind of instruction am I going to get? What kind do I really need?
Ex: One-on-one or mostly group
About the Author
An exercise physiologist and health professional for the last eight years, Mira Rasmussen, BS, ACSM, is passionate about personalizing the path to wellness and being a guide through that life-changing process. She has worked with all populations and has utilized her psycho-physiological skills in eating disorder recovery, addiction, corporate wellness, personal training, and nutrition. Mira has worked side by side renowned dietitians, doctors and psycho-therapists using physical fitness as a vital tool for clients to reach and sustain a well-balanced life.