I love reading the comments people leave when The Box magazine posts my articles like this one with seemingly obvious offerings. If you’re a troll, you’ll hate this article because I think it’s interesting to look at the obvious in different ways sometimes. Clearly, one could look at CrossFit’s definition and break down its essential parts and decipher what it’s offering us all. Yet I don’t think we look at it this way.
I think CrossFit lovers give credit where credit is due toward CrossFit, but often only in a general way. They may, for example, observe the success of CrossFit in someone’s life as the sum of its parts. “CrossFit did it!”
CrossFit haters are often so charged by the notion of dismissing CrossFit that they will never credit CrossFit. Where credit will go, however, is to CrossFit’s essential parts, which is where I think we can learn from this outsider-looking-in perspective.
The definition of CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity. And because of this, CrossFit has given the fitness industry three specific gifts, in addition to other intangible ones.
The first gift, like the definition tells us, is an element of variance. The variance in CrossFit isn’t completely novel, but the mass compliance and practice of its variance probably hasn’t been mimicked like this in any other fitness program on the scale that we see in CrossFit. After all, variance is a key concept in fitness from “muscle confusion”–focused personal trainers and meatheads to the deliberate variance of powerlifters subscribing to the conjugate method practice. CrossFit may have pushed variance harder than it has been pushed on a large scale, and it worked!
The second gift CrossFit gave the fitness industry was the reminder of the potency of big-time, tried-and-true movements. Most folks entering CrossFit for the first time reap the benefits of an increase in movement quality over globo-gym machines to free-standing, compound movements. This concept put a premium on coaching and pulled attention away from the plug-and-play allure of machines and the coachless gym model.
Finally — you guessed it — CrossFit taught the masses how to work hard. With a background in NCAA and professional baseball, I observed the idea of completing a workout for time in a room full of your peers as an incredible way to mimic the motivation that is built in, in some ways, to the assumption that comes with competitive sports. NBA athletes, for example, train hard because they are trying to earn a paycheck and win. If CrossFit gets John and Jane Doe to work hard because they want to represent on the whiteboard, so be it. Mission accomplished.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are incredible intangible qualities not listed here that make CrossFit, the sum of its parts, a powerful fitness tool for people. However, I do think that deducing this down to key parts can give some credit to three basic ideas that CrossFit communicated as well or better than any system before it.