In case you haven’t heard, the CrossFit Games are currently taking place from now through July 28th in Southern California, and the world is tuning in to watch this incredibly popular and growing sport.
And if you’ve never watched them before, I’d highly recommend tuning into the Games, which feature a test of some of the world’s fittest athletes over a week of incredibly rigorous athletic events competing for the title of Fittest on Earth.
The competition workouts involve everything from burpees to rope climbs to snatches to dog sled pushes (yes, really). And the strength, endurance, and pure grit these athletes have is seriously mind-blowing.
But before you get too inspired by the sport while watching the athletes compete on TV and decide to dedicate your life to it, you should know the good—and the bad—of CrossFit.
CrossFit can be awesome
There are a lot of really rad things about CrossFit, which involves a lot of sprinting, gymnastics, plyometrics and Olympic lifting (and is not all that different from 12 Minute Athlete workouts). For one, the sport isn’t sexist at all, and welcomes both men and women as equals, which is fairly unusual, and incredibly cool.
It also has an awesome community, with people supporting each other no matter what their experience level. It’s made people who never thought they were athletic at all into badass athletes.
What’s more, CrossFit is multi-directional and focused on functional fitness, so you can function better in real life. And there’s no question that it’ll make you strong, fast, and lean (as long as you eat right).
But despite all of the cool parts about CrossFit, there are some not-so-cool parts about as well, and reasons why it shouldn’t be advertised as the perfect, one-size-fits-all form of exercise.
I wrote about my own decision to stop doing CrossFit on a regular basis (I still go every once in a while with family for fun or to test my fitness level among other athletes since I normally work out alone) and why it wasn’t right for me.
And here’s why CrossFit may not be right for you either:
It’s too expensive.
CrossFit gyms can run upwards of $200 a month for an unlimited membership, and many don’t even have the option for less (such as a punch card or limited access membership).
For students or anyone on a budget, $200 a month just for a gym membership just isn’t realistic.
And if you’re a big traveler, that hefty price tag may not even get you access to other gyms. I’ve had to pay as much as $25 (!) to go to a single CrossFit class at a gym that wasn’t my home gym (I have had one particularly cool gym in Vancouver, WA let me train for free since I was already paying monthly dues at another CrossFit box, but they’re probably my favorite CrossFit gym ever and an exception to the rule).
For a sport that’s otherwise pretty welcoming, its high costs automatically rule out a lot of people that can’t even think about affording it.
It takes too much time.
Though most CrossFit workouts tend to last only about 10 to 20 minutes (the really brutal ones are 40 minutes or more), the whole class takes about an hour including the skill learning and warm up.
Plus, most gyms recommend you get there 10 to 15 minutes early to stretch and warm your muscles up, and highly suggest you stay after to foam roll and stretch post workout. All in all, the entire workout ends up taking about an hour and a half, and that doesn’t even include the time it takes to get there.
It can f&$@ up your shoulders.
You have no idea how many people I’ve talked to that end up with shoulder injuries from doing CrossFit.
Whether it’s a torn rotator cuff, a separated shoulder, a frozen shoulder, or some other painful condition, the Olympic lifting and shoulder-intensive workouts tend to lead to shoulder injuries even in the most experienced CrossFitters.
Now, this isn’t necessarily CrossFit’s fault—it’s most often due to bad form, overuse, or previous shoulder issues. If you want to keep your shoulders healthy for life, I’d highly recommend mobility expert Kelly Starlett’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard.
But still, doing CrossFit regularly increases your chances of getting a shoulder injury by, well, a lot.
And it’s well known in the CrossFit community, too: there’s an entire section of a CrossFit site dedicated to the most common CrossFit shoulder injuries. Check it out if your shoulder is hurting.
If you’re a woman, it can leave you looking a bit… unfeminine.
Yeah, yeah I know… looks aren’t everything. Being strong and fit is awesome. And there are certainly some sexy CrossFit women out there, I’ll be the first to admit it.
But for most of us? The constant heavy lifting in CrossFit tends to build wide, bulky shoulders and a square, curve-less midriff in those of us already with an athletic build (speaking from personal experience here).
And because of the natural female tendency to hold on to a little extra body fat, it can cause the appearance of having extra bulk (rather than looking extra lean) unless you’re really careful about what you eat and try to stick to sub 15% body fat levels (which isn’t easy or natural for most women, including me).
It’s really cliquey.
There’s something about the self-torturing, vomit-inducing nature of the workouts and the community they create that make CrossFit appear almost cult-like to those on the outside. As a result, many of its participants get fairly judgmental and even a bit rude about the fact that you don’t do CrossFit as well.
In fact, if you ever happen to meet a CrossFitter and tell them you don’t actually do CrossFit or dream about getting a PR (personal record) in your sleep, watch their face as they immediately classify you as a total wimp.
Even now, when I meet an avid CrossFitter I have a hard time admitting that I also don’t do CrossFit five days a week. And this is despite the fact that I know I’m (or at least try/pretend to be) a badass—I do HIIT workouts six days a week, and am stronger and fitter now than when I did CrossFit regularly (could be the increased energy and lack of injuries I have now).
I’m competitive, what can I say?
CrossFit isn’t for everybody
Whether or not you’re avidly watching the CrossFit Games this week, you have to admit that the athletes participating are insanely fit and incredibly inspiring. And it’s obvious they’ve found their niche.
But just because they’ve found a sport that makes them feel at home doesn’t mean CrossFit is right for you, or me, and that either of us are less of a badass because we’re not total CrossFit junkies.
We just have more time. And money. And our shoulders aren’t broken, that’s all.
Now go get ’em, tiger.
Image credit: CrossFit Kandahar