Why I Stopped Doing CrossFit

why I stopped doing crossfit

I love CrossFit. Like, love it.

I think it’s one of the coolest, most challenging workouts around today. I love its focus on functional fitness. I love the variety. I love the community aspect of it.

In fact, I did CrossFit for nearly a year before I decided to give it up. When I was living in Brooklyn, I went to the most amazing CrossFit gym, CrossFit Virtuosity, and had the time of my life.

The people were cool. There were both men and women, and no one expected me to work less hard because I was a chick. And the coach (as they’re called in CrossFit) was inspiring and just, well, awesome.

But when I moved to San Francisco, I decided to give it up. Here’s why:

Soreness

If you’re not familiar with the workouts, CrossFit combines movements such as sprinting, jumping, rowing, bodyweight exercises, and climbing rope to make some short, intense, ass-kicking workouts, not altogether that different than the ones we do here on 12 Minute Athlete.

The main difference between my workouts and the Crossfit workouts is the Olympic style weightlifting they do in their workouts—including lots of heavy squats, shoulder presses, jerks, snatches, deadlifts and cleans.

I loved the high intensity work. I didn’t love the heavy weightlifting.

You could certainly say it’s because I’m a girl that I didn’t like it, but I’ve talked to others who have had the same reaction: I just got too damn sore from it. So sore I didnt have the energy or desire to do all the other active things I wanted to do. So sore that sometimes I could barely move for days afterwards.

Obviously, I could have pushed a little less hard and given myself a break more often… but that’s not how I do things.

And yes, I could have taken some extreme recovery measures… ice baths, weekly massages, etc. but in the end, it just wasn’t worth it to me. I don’t mind being sore, but I didn’t want to be so sore that I couldn’t do any other workouts or activities the rest of the week.

Diet

CrossFit gyms follow the Paleo diet, which if you’ve never heard of it includes mainly meat, nuts and veggies—any form of grains are frowned upon, and more extreme Paleo followers won’t even touch dairy, some fruit, and alcohol.

As a vegetarian (I’ve been one since I was six years old), this leaves me with pretty much nothing to eat. I can’t survive on nuts and veggies only!

(It has been done however—see Susan Lacke’s vegetarian paleo experiment on No Meat Athlete to learn more.)

Some CrossFit gyms are more lax about diet than others, but the ones I’ve been to have all been pretty extreme Paleo. And for good reason: all that meat no doubt helps with recovery and performance, but I just wasn’t willing to change my diet completely for the sport.

I felt it put me at a disadvantage—and also like I had to hide my diet from my fellow CrossFitters.

Time

Although most CrossFit workouts are fairly short—ranging from 5 to 20 minutes on average—an entire CrossFit class lasts for more like an hour. That combined with getting to class early to stretch and warm up and staying after to foam roll meant the time commitment was more like an hour and a half a day, four to six times a week (or however many times I could handle it).

That’s a lot of time to devote to just exercise. Doing CrossFit on a regular basis meant I rarely had time to do the other active things I love – hiking, various sports, and exploring the Bay area outdoors with my dog.

Also, as a side note, I noticed doing CrossFit would cut into my work time since I’d get so spent during the workouts (I couldn’t help but push myself as hard as possible every single time) I’d have trouble re-focusing for an hour or two after a morning or afternoon class.

Body composition

All right, guys, this is where I’m going to lose you, so feel free to skip this section. Because while CrossFit builds (in my opinion) a pretty awesome male physique, as a female CrossFitter, I began to quickly hate the way my body started to look.

I have nothing against muscular physiques—I love a strong body more than anything and I feel best when I’m as lean and strong as possible. But I naturally have fairly broad shoulders, and not surprisingly, CrossFit made them even broader.

They got so broad I had trouble fitting into normal shirts… And I definitely lost some of myfeminine appearance.

In fact, when you look at the CrossFit women such as the ones in the CrossFit games, you’ll notice that this is a pretty standard consequence of the sport.

Obviously, appearance isn’t the only thing that matters—but after realizing I was constantly sore, always nursing an injury, and didn’t like how I looked because of it, I decided my days of regular CrossFit were over.

(This was also around the same time I began creating 12 Minute Athlete workouts, which I now do six days a week, and feel better and stronger than ever.)

I love the community but…

This isn’t to say I’ll never do Crossfit again.

In fact, nearly every time I go home to visit my family in the Portland, Oregon area, I go to a CrossFit class or two with my dad or brother—and I’m happy to say that I still beat most of the guys.

It’s always fun, and challenging and extremely grueling, and the community is always fantastic.

But every time, I’m always happy to return to my 12 Minute Athlete workouts that leave me stronger, more focused, and injury-free—with plenty of time and energy to do other fun things.

Because to me, that’s what exercise is all about.

 


41 Responses to Why I Stopped Doing CrossFit

  1. TND May 21, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Thanks for this. I’m a month shy of completing my first year and think I may want to quit also. I love the community and find it super fun, but I just don’t like the way it’s developing my body. It’s not a feminine physique in my opinion. My goal when starting was to lose a dress size and 10lbs, but a year later I am 10lbs heavier and roughly the same size. I do feel firmer and stronger, but by no means leaner. I’ve never been a dieter and I feel like if I’m spending close to 9 hours a week on exercise between crossfit, yoga and jogging I should pretty much be able to eat what I want in modest portions… However I feel like I need to diet more than ever before. I feel puffy and bloated, and the only way to alleviate that is to restrict carbs from what I understand. Also just my personal makeup- I’m someone who’s butt & thigh is not exactly in proportion with my waist measurement making it tough to get any of my pants to last a year without ripping. Squatting 150lbs is not helping me in that department.

    • MarkkoCat June 26, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      Thank you so much for posting your experience! We have a lot in common, it seems. I joined CrossFit in November 2013 to drop 10 pounds of body fat. I’m 5’9″ and weighed around 165 when I joined, a solid size 8. After 8 months of CrossFit, I can’t squeeze into 10s. I weigh 176-7. I’ve gained 2 inches on my thighs, 1.5 on my biceps, 1 on my calves. My waist measurement has stayed the same, and by BF% is roughly the same or maybe a little lower (depending on the method: BEI pegs me at 25, bodpod at 24). I noticed about two months ago that every part of my body was bloated, especially my thighs, knees, and hands. The cellulite on the fronts of my legs was OUT OF CONTROL, far worse than it ever was when I worked out at the globo gym. I wasn’t eating crazy amounts of food, either. The sense at our box was that you feed the body when it’s hungry. I didn’t go full paleo, but I did limit carbs to one serving and then usually a sweet potato. This very same diet in the past has led to weight loss, but I just kept getting bigger.

      I think the most irritating thing right now is that my quads are so developed that not a single thing fits. Since I’m already bottom heavy (40 inch hips, 36 chest), this is not a flattering look on me. I quit CF when I mentioned now much I hated that my thighs have gotten bigger and was called out for buying into the mainstream skinny ideal. Um, I’m not skinny. I just want my pants to fit. And I get so very sick of people telling me it’s because I eat too much, because women can’t get bulky. I did.

      • Liz June 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

        Hello!

        I stumbled upon your comment when I was hoping to find SOMEONE who was experiencing the same issues I am. I have the exact same issue you are having. NOTHING fits, I feel so bloated etc. I love you last sentence, because it is so true.

        I am thinking of dropping from 3x per week to only 2x and start running and cardio on the other days, and see if it makes me feel/look any better. It is so frustrating!

      • leigh July 16, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

        wow, this is really interesting. I too am very bloated – my hands have been swollen for 12 months now and I can’t get on any rings, some of which used to fly off when my hands were cool. I don’t subscribe to the paleo/low carb diet anymore but I did for a good 10 months – which i thought was the reason for all my water retention and inflammation. I’m wondering now if it is the actual weight training… have you noticed a decrease in the bloat since cutting back?

    • Raquel July 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      Thank you for posting this. I also tried CrossFit. There were a few things I noticed. First, most of the women were bulky and did not have feminine, enviable physiques. Not saying that the whole point of exercise is to look good, but if we are all honest with ourselves, we all want to look fit and sexy! The girls had massive, muscular thighs, big arms… And since we women carry fat no matter what we do, it was almost like they just put muscle under their fat, and they just ended up looking bulky. You will hear instructor after instructor reassuring you that we won’t get bulky as a woman. I have found that to be true. And those who do not get bulky definitely don’t seem to actually lose any fat or become smaller. Another thing I noticed was that there was too much damn rest in the class. The class did take an hour, but we were probably only actually physically active for about 15 to 20 minutes of that time. We would have intervals of one minute of work, then a minute of rest, then a minute of comparing our records with one another, then a minute of instruction for the next exercise. It just seemed like an awful lot of standing around. If I’m going to work out, I want to work out. I don’t want to just sit around and wait while my heart rate gets back down to baseline. Just looking at all the rest and the format of the whole workout, it’s no wonder CrossFit isn’t really a great way to lean out. Although I enjoyed CrossFit, I am starting to think that is a little overrated. If you’re looking for something fun that will make you strong, go for it. But if you are a woman who wants to be thin and lean and have decent cardiovascular fitness, it’s not the best thing in the world.

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  3. Amy Robles March 21, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    You for got to add: TOO EXPENSIVE. I paid about $200/month! I did crossfit for 3.5 years and was getting really good at it. I lost body fat but gained huge shoulders & back. I couldn’t fit into my shirts! Because I would get intense during WODS, I often got sore and had about 4 injuries requiring treatment. There were months I couldn’t even bend over to put my socks on or tie my shoes. In the end I just decided to quit this expensive torture and give me body a chance to look feminine again and feel normal again. Crossfit is not for everyone, and that’s okay. As long as your workout give you the results you want/need, then it’s all good!

  4. Erica March 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I am 2 weeks shy of completing 1 committed year of CrossFit, and I hate my body more than ever! Like you, I have broad shoulders and a broad back. Now? I look like a sumo wrestler or football player. I decided to take a hiatus from CrossFit and get back into running which I’ve always enjoyed and kept me looking and feeling lean (leaner than what CF has).

  5. Valerie @ fitval March 1, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Great post! I have been interested in trying crossfit because I would like to build some muscle but I have heard a lot of negative things about how the lack of focus on form and extreme workouts can cause serious injury. Thanks for posting your view— it kind of gave me a like at both sides of cross fit.

  6. Junior January 31, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    Lol all credibility was lost once I read “I decided to give it up. Here’s why: Soreness”

    • Vic February 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      No, I see her point.

      If your workouts have you feeling constantly sore or too tired to do anything else with your day then it’s time to try another workout regimen because the whole point of working out is to improve your lifestyle & feeling constantly sore or too tired to do anything else is the opposite of that.

  7. Carrie Martin January 24, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    I’m glad I read your blog. I too tried Crossfit for 3 months. I’m 55 years old, but beat many of the young members when running was involved. I would get so sore after every class, and I have always worked out. I also lost a lot of definition in my back and shoulders. I actually thought it was my age, but now I see that other woman feel the same. ( I am in great shape, especially for my age.) I can spot a Crossfit guy on any given day, but the average crossfit gal never seems to really get a nice shape. I don’t mean thin. I hate that. I just mean a nice healthy and evenly balanced shoulder, hip, and thigh ratio. Thanks again for the blog.

  8. Shari January 9, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    I am so confused!!! I started Crossfit and Paleo eating about 6 months ago and love the results. The box I am a member of even used my before and after pictures to promote their facility…. But I scale down all of the weights for each WOD, I never Rx, not once… Now I am being told everyday that I need to add more weight to the bar and it is getting old fast!!!! I do not want to look like some of the other women at my box who are getting bigger looking and some have muscles men would envy by lifting heavier weights. I look like a woman and would like to stay that way and enjoy the CF community and workouts but I don’t want to be told every day to go heavier!!! And why scold me now after posting my pictures when I got these results by not Rxing??? Why didn’t you post the other women’s pictures if I am not doing it properly? Then I hear “Don’t you want to get stronger?” Well, a couple of weeks ago we had to hold our handstand for as long as possible and I beat everyone in my group, both men and women. These folks have been doing CF for over a year…. Ok I am beginning to ramble… Sorry. But I am ready to quit and I don’t know if I am over reacting…

    • Julia January 30, 2014 at 5:44 am #

      Thanks for your post! It sounds like you really enjoy crossfit and like the changes in your body, so do what feels good to you. Just because ” they” are encouraging to use heavier weights doesn’t mean you have to do it. It is your body, your decision, your life ;-). I also do crossfit, 1 1/2 years now, but only twice a week. I also do yoga and bootcamps and some aerial stuff. One very nice cf coach once tried to encourage me to clean 100 lbs and , yes, I have the strength,, but didn’t feel comfortable to go from 88 to 100. There is a very competitive culture in cf and many people get injured! It’s very important to listen to your body and intuition! Don’t quit, just do your own pace! Have fun and enjoy!

    • Kamiele April 3, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

      Great comment. I totally get this at my box. “You’re stronger!!!! Add more weight!!!” I suffer from sciatica and radiculopathy, so my lower back is tender ALL THE TIME. Shari, my advice is do not give IN or UP on CF. Know your limits and what your goals are. I, too, want to continue to look and feel feminine in my clothes. People can look at me and tell I “workout” but no one asks me if I’m on Roids!!!! I’m not interested on Rx’ing either. And if it really starts to get to you, remind your coach that you pay them…not the other way around!!!!

  9. Manuel Minino December 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I just found this blog post when I googled about how CrossFit women look like men. I am concerned about the popularity of CrossFit in my country (Dominican Republic), and some female friends of mine, mostly models, undergoing the risk of turn their model bodies into MEN bodies!!!!… I love how you just cut to the chase on this subject, and show the pros an cons. By the way I LOVE YOUR BLOG!! and your 12 min workouts / dont waste your life in a gym philosohy!!! :D keep up the GREAT work!!

  10. Jennifer December 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    As a former track athlete I what it means to train hard but these Crossfit women take training to a whole new level. They are awesome! Every time I see a competition on tv and the strength that these women have, I’m just blown away. I am sure that they too experienced the kind of soreness you mentioned, but they stuck with it. Everyone has to know their limits and what workouts are best for them. Crossfit isn’t for everyone but the important thing is actually working out and being consistent.

    Jen
    HowToGetRidOfFatThighs.com

  11. Maria September 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Krista, I am a girl and had all the same issues with CrossFit as you did. I was always sore after workouts, especially the ones that involved heavy lifting. I never had desire to excel at Oly lifting for time, so I joined a Barbell Club to focus on my form. I got fairly good at snatching and cleaning the bar, but noticed how my body started changing: my quads and my glutes got bigger. I have always been a naturally slim and trim woman, so bulking up was not an option (although the CF myth tells us that women don’t bulk up. We do, but some of us embrace it. It is a personal choice, and I admire women who look CrossFIT.) So I quit Oly lifting and went back to doing CF WODs (avoiding the ones that called for high rep Oly lifts – recipe for injury.)

    What triggered my decision to quit was the pain in my arms after performing a WOD that included 100 pull-ups and 150 push-ups. I was trying to keep up with men who knocked out 20 pull-ups in one set while I was kipping 1/2 the time and using the band 1/2 the time. I could not lift my arms above parallel a week thereafter. Putting on a shirt became tricky.

    And then someone I knew got a mild case of rhabdo from muscle strain (he is fine now.) And I realized how easy it is to go overboard doing exercises while the whole gym urges you on and demands “just another rep.” Personal responsibility no longer factors in, and pain signals are drowned out by the collective pressure to perform. You ignore your own body because the authority, the coach, is right there, watching the WOD.
    In CF you are supposed to receive personal attention, but it is not to be confused with personal training. When i was WODing alongside 20 other members, 1 coach was “directing” the class and did not pay attention to us individually. CF IMHO is not worth it for $200 a month when the same WODs are given to 170 lbs men and 110 lbs women. The concept of scaling does not apply to body weight exercises, and even scaled Oly lifting movements performed with bad form are dangerous in more ways than injury potential.

  12. Oscar September 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Encontré tu pagina y me encanto mucho, he levantado pesas por 10 años y no consigo quemar mi grasa abdominal, ahora estoy haciendo crossfit y me gusta mucho y siento muchísimo mas resultados que el levantamiento de pesas, sin embargo con tus vídeos, me es posible ver la forma correcta en la que se deben de hacer los ejercicios, tomar rutinas y ponerlas en practica. Te mando saludos desde la ciudad de México. This is time to practice your Spanish.

  13. Jholei July 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    I love the honesty and making it clear these are your perspective regarding Crossfit. I left Crossfit as well. My first box had a coach who believed he was god’s gift to women. When I realized I could easily look up a variety of workouts on line and not having to pay $150. a month to watch a coach while he was sexting, the decision to exercise at home became easy. Searching for more workout led me to your blog. With enough motivation, I too, believe a great workout does not have to be lengthy and ‘heavy.’

  14. Grant June 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Your comments are entirely accurate Krista..CrossFit is a mix of good moves and bad moves….

  15. Corrie April 17, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Reasons why I love this post:
    1. Your honesty.
    2. Your perspective.
    3. Your honesty. :)

    Especially your honest assessment about how boxed out the female physique becomes. Is this shallow? Eh. I don’t think so. Curves are a good thing, and I like mine.

    Keep on keepin’ on!!

    • Krista Stryker April 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Thanks Corrie, I’m so glad you enjoyed it and could relate :)

  16. Deb Bundy April 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Have just found your blog and i like it very much. I have recently started crossfit and i like it very much. However, the soreness is starting to get to me, we have worked our shoulders every day for 5 days and am starting to move like an old woman. This hiit souns very interesting. Thank you.

    • Krista Stryker April 15, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Glad to hear it Deb!

  17. Kena April 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Great, where does that leave me in the family? A bake-off? :)

    • Krista Stryker April 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      Haha. You’d definitely win that one :)

  18. Todd April 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Hmm 12 minute sister. Calling your bro out on the Internet ( smiles ). You are pretty good at that crossfit stuff. When are you going to do a Cyclocross race with me!

    Or maybe a dunk contest?

    • Krista Stryker April 12, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      Haha. Hi bro :)

      Maybe my first Cyclocross race should be with you on a unicycle, I feel like it would be more fair that way :)

      And a dunk contest… I will do that! And I will lose.

  19. Mark Martel April 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Good perspective.

    Lots of great stuff to be gained from the Crossfit philosophy and principles.

    But I also agree that for many people, it is possible to seek out and get too much of a good thing – work volume at high levels of intensity – with insufficient recovery time (or work capacity).

    The time element and focus on power is such a great thing. But the environment of pride and competitiveness and even well intentioned encouragement from other athletes can easily lead to bad decisions – extra reps with poor form that can cause injury.

    Every affiliate is unique but from my outside in view Crossfit gyms on the whole should increase recovery time, and focus more on athlete safety and longevity.

    • Krista Stryker April 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Well said, Mark. I completely agree that there’s a lot of great stuff to learn from the Crossfit philosophy, but that more focus could be given to recovery and longevity. And, like you said, all of the CrossFit affiliates are different – some do this better than others.

  20. Susan Dyson April 11, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Oops! wrong email address on previous post…

  21. Susan Dyson April 11, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Hi Krista

    We reached the same conclusion over here in the UK so we launched something more appropriate for women – http://www.hiitgirl.com. Response so far has been so good that we’re about to open our first London studio.

    Love your 12 minute athlete concept!

    Kind regards

    Susan Dyson
    Founder | Hiitgirl

    • Krista Stryker April 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Very cool Susan!

  22. Cristina April 11, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Uou. You are completely right. I’m also one of girls who get broader with heavy weight lifting (even if the rest of the world says that “women don’t bulk up with heavy weight and blabla…). I kind of like the Crossfit philosophy, but I think I’ll keep my running and my 15 minute-daily bodyweight exercises…

    http//:ocaldeiraoeacolherdepau.blogspot.com

    • Krista Stryker April 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      That’s awesome Cristina. Obviously, I feel the same way :)

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