An examination of CrossFit as a Sport or as a Fitness methodology
by Steve Johnson
An individual's first exposure to CrossFit varies significantly as some may see it on ESPN while others hear about it from a friend and visit a local CrossFit gym. Good or bad, that gym is then their introduction to CrossFit. What complicates the process further is that not all gyms prescribe to the same philosophies of CrossFit programming. Some have a more competitive focus while others are more inclined to general fitness. While those are over generalizations, it sufficiently summarizes the landscape of someone's exposure to CrossFit for the purposes of this article.
A while back the legendary Chris Spealler wrote an article titled "Training CrossFit vs. CrossFit as a Sport". Chris, one of the most experienced CrossFit Games athletes and a member of the CrossFit Seminar Staff (the group that teach new CrossFit instructors worldwide), was the perfect person to clear the air on this topic for the CrossFit community. You can simply search for this article online and it won't be hard to find. However, allow me to share another perspective on this topic as it pertains to our community at Acuo CrossFit.
If you look at the CrossFit community as a whole, the elite CrossFit games athletes make up less than 1% of the population. Adding in those that compete at CrossFit Regionals increases that number but it is still only a fraction of the total. That means the remainder of the community will fall into one of two remaining categories (assuming we use similar categories as in Chris Spealler's article); GPP and Recreational Sport.
This is where the vast majority of the CrossFit community is found and it is the foundation of the CrossFit methodology. GPP, or General Physical Preparedness, readies you for the unknown and the unknowable in the most incredible way. In my experience, no other approach to fitness allows a person to attain such high levels of "increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains". This is why CrossFit is the preferred choice by military, emergency personnel, recreational athletes, stay-at-home parents and so many others.
Our programming is directly intended for this group. These people use CrossFit as a means to an end because CrossFit enables them to live life outside of the gym to the absolute fullest. This approach requires minimal sacrifice and one will see results year after year with consistency and general wisdom with nutrition.
The community aspect and general nature behind CrossFit tends to produce a healthy level of competition within individual gyms. As is clear with the rise of local throwdowns, which can be found every weekend from the Spring through the Fall, this competitive environment has led to an evolution in CrossFit to a recreational sport level. Travel back in time to 2007, this is what inspired the very first CrossFit Games.
The needs of a recreational athlete will vary in degree slightly from one pursuing GPP. More time may need to be spent learning particular movements like the snatch, clean and jerk and various gymnastics skills. Similarly, raw strength needs to be developed. As you might suspect, the sacrifice of time is greater with this group. An individual is still able to compete recreationally if they simply adhere to the GPP programming. However, some may seek to not just compete, but progress and improve in competition. As the degree of competition rises, so does the level of commitment and sacrifice.
Today's elite CrossFitters make CrossFit their full-time job. This doesn't necessarily mean they train 8 hours per day (though some do), however, the commitment to their goals has the same or greater demands. Outside of just training, their nutrition, mobility, recovery, and much more become their priority in life. The sacrifice of time is greatest with this group.
The line between safety, fun and effectiveness also gets blurred at this level. Someone may perceive Rich Froning's life as glamorous, and while he may love it, he'll be the first to say that the amount of work and sacrifice required is at a level that few people can handle or maintain.
The bottom line is that there is no substitute for hard work. CrossFitters are brilliant examples of this and the varied programming and strong sense of community make all that work enjoyable and sustainable. As Chris Spealler says, and it's part of the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer curriculum, people's needs vary by degree, not kind. It's important to understand your goals and what's required to get there. Are you willing to sacrifice your time in and out of the gym to pursue loftier goals? Whatever your goal is, we're here to support, guide you and, as needed, paint a realistic picture of what's required for you.