Love to Hate: Why CrossFit is Both a Hugely Popular & Frequently Criticized Sport

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You may wonder, with all these different workouts and fitness programs out there…why is CrossFit so popular?

HIIT is good training, Boot camp is a great workout. Orange Theory has been gaining ground lately. Yoga is awesome. Running has always been popular.

So why CrossFit? What’s the big deal? WHY is CrossFit SO Popular?

And why does CrossFit receive so much hate too?

Stay tuned, I am going to explore those two questions a bit more.

What Makes CrossFit So Popular?

group of athletes in CrossFit gym

The CrossFit Tribe: CrossFit Creates an “In Group”, a Sense of Belonging for the Athlete

Connection.

A sense of belonging.

Your own team.

It’s a little hard to describe, but belonging to a CrossFit Box is more than just joining a gym. It sounds cheesy, but it’s sort of like joining a family.

Unlike a busy commercial gym where everybody does their own thing by themselves, for the most part, CrossFit is different.

CrossFit is performed in groups, in a small gym called a box, and after you work out a few times, you get to know the people there. Fellow members support and encourage each other.

I tell you the truth.

It is exactly this aspect of CrossFit that finally helped me stick with a fitness program and meet my goals.

I tried many things.

I tried running. Got as far as a 10k, which I was proud to finish, but I did not stick with running.

I joined a commercial gym. I went a few times a week. But my heart was never in it. Honestly, I was BORED!

I got a bike, I even rode it every day. But I was not getting the results I wanted, I was just spinning my wheels, so to speak.

One day I decided to try CrossFit. What I discovered shocked even myself.

I discovered that my biggest motivation to exercise had less to do with results, or the actual exercise itself.

I found out I was SOCIALLY motivated to exercise.

I liked seeing my friend’s every day at the gym. I felt like I was part of a team. That group was and is my group. That is why I went and continue to go.

Today I have been consistently training for 3, going on 4 years, and have great results, physically.

But what I value even more are the friendships I have made, the encouragement and accountability they give, the Christmas parties and nights out, the private messenger group where we share jokes, news, and encouragement, etc.

women climbing a rope in a CrossFit gym

CrossFit is Driven by Personal Data and Stats

I read an article by Writer and Pro athlete Trevor Huffman the other day. He made an excellent point I had not thought of.

Mr. Huffman asserts that one reason for CrossFit popularity is because it is driven by data that relates to the individual athlete.

Everyone loves meaningful data that is about themselves. Even better if we also know the stats of the people around us too, because another thing humans love to do is compare ourselves to others.

The CrossFit Athlete has potentially thousands, if not tens of thousands of people he may compare himself to.

He can also compare himself to his own past performance and see how far he has come, or if he is slipping.

Data is the hook, and it’s a strong one.

Personal Growth and Health Improvement Support Group

When you join CrossFit you join a group of people with strong health, fitness and personal growth goals.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.Jim Rohn

By that logic, if you begin spending time at the Box, with friends from your class, learning from the coaches, then by this reasoning, you will become more like them.

You will become more fitness minded, health aware and more focused on personal growth. It’s only natural.

I have heard folks who are fanatical about CrossFit tell stories about how they used to sit around and party, drink, eat junk food and watch TV all weekend with the same group of friends they have had since high school.

One day they join a CrossFit Box and their world gets turned upside down for the better.

They may have had goals to lose weight, get in shape and make positive changes. But because they kept doing the same things with the same friends who had no desire to change, they stayed stuck too!

Throwing Shade: Why do People Criticize or Hate on CrossFit?

group of people exercising together in CrossFit gym

Too Cultish or Cliquish

I hear this a lot too. CrossFit it to cliquish or cult like. Like high school, some say.

Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder, in an interview with Maxim Magazine had this to say about CrossFit:

I always say CrossFit is a religion run by a biker gang. And what if we are leading a cult and we don’t even know it? That’s the worst fu*king kind of cult. I don’t recruit. If you want out, I want you to fu*king leave.Greg Glassman

I don’t know what to say really.

It is like a cult?

I don’t know about that. But unlike the Kool-Aid drinkers of the People’s Temple, if you want to leave the CrossFit “cult” you are free to do so.

For some people, group aspect of CrossFit is exactly what they need to stay honest and challenge themselves. The very aspect some people hate on, are just the thing about CrossFit that make it work so well for others.

couple doing set of box jumps in crossfit gym

People Say it Causes Injuries or is Dangerous

I hear this a lot, mostly from internet forums as I am researching for my writing. Some people say CrossFit is dangerous.

Well…

It is!

But, to be fair the injury rate is 3.1 per 1000 hours of training, which is on par with weightlifting, powerlifting and gymnastics, and is less dangerous than…rugby.

In a 2005 NYT interview, founder Greg Glassman had this to say about CrossFit Safety.

It can kill you“, he said. “I’ve always been completely honest about that.”

So, there you go.

Personally, I have landed shin first on the corner of a plyo box (OUCH!), twisted my ankle, and strained my shoulder as a result of my training.

CrossFit may be dangerous, but life has risks too.

I could trip and fall, or step into a hole while walking, or be chased by a rabid dog as a ride my bike or jog down the street.

The dangers of being sedentary or out of shape are also very real risks. Heart attack, diabetes, obesity and more.

Life is inherently risky. Make your own choice about the risks you want to take.

If you feel safer on a treadmill or recumbent bike, I have a few I can recommend.

Why is CrossFit so popular? That wraps up what I think.

Love it or hate it, CrossFit is probably here to stay.

If you like the idea of CrossFit but are not enticed by the group aspect, there is always the option to set up a CrossFit gym in your own garage.

I even have a list here of CrossFit workouts you can do from home, including 7 CrossFit workouts you can do using NO equipment.

Like what you see here?

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Katie

Katie

Katie is a busy wife and mother of four. She is a freelance writer and frequent contributor on Garage Gym Power. She guards her gym time jealously, and would rather miss a PTA meeting or get takeout for dinner than miss a workout.