the spaz of fitness has arrived

Expanding CrossFit

In Training, WOD on December 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I’ve been following a few conversations by CrossFit gym owners who’ve recently noticed a rate of attrition in boxes that offer purely CrossFit-type programming. The topic also came up in the most recent Paleo Solution podcast. Though I don’t always agree with Robb and Greg’s opinions, I do enjoy them and they’re well-educated in their respective fields. Anyway, the phenomenon that concerns some CrossFit gym owners is that they notice– while CrossFit is wonderful at being flashy and attracting hordes of new members– a lot of more experienced, more capable athletes drop off the box’s regular program after a while. Unfortunately, this kind of makes sense to me… We know that I was (/still am) a metcon addict for my entire first year of CrossFit. I probably  definitely still grow irritable and unfit for human contact if I go too long without a good WOD. But… intense WODs for six days a week gets not only exhausting, it starts to feel aimless. This explains why a lot of boxes now program in blocks (as ours has begun) in order to give more of an overarching structure for return clients. CrossFit athletes pay upwards of $100-$150 per month for their memberships. Reason would suggest that these aren’t the casual weekend warriors looking for a good, randomized sweat once a week. They’re paying for the guidance and direction of a well-thought-out program that will progress them towards their physical/health-oriented goals.

I think that’s also the reason why larger boxes such as CrossFit East Valley offer a wider array of classes than just the standard daily metcon. I didn’t get a chance to elaborate much on this in my last post, but I was very impressed by the amount of separate, focused courses they had– running, rowing, olympic lifting and power lifting, etc. There’s been talk at our own gym about offering a few more focused classes, and I’m really excited about this. The Oly class that I attended at CFEV was two-hours long, but it had an entirely different feel than the usual CrossFit class. There was structure– the athletes had a set of lifts and technique drills they needed to perform (think something closer to catalyst athletics’ programming) with snatch pulls, then full snatches, clean pulls, then cleans. Afterwards, there was a strength component with back squats, and finally a power/supplementary component with box jumps. Because lifting necessitates a much less… frantic pace than traditional CrossFit, the athletes took appropriate rest periods, they chatted without losing too much concentration, they had coaches critique their form rather than rushing from rep to rep. The class warmed-up together and did their box jumps together, and still communicated between working sets, so it didn’t lose any of that community-feel we so highly value in CrossFit, but it also allowed them more focused skill work as an alternative to the conventional WOD.

It’s for this reason that I also value gyms that provide open gym hours– not haphazard open gym hours where people come in and screw around with the equipment, but hours during which coaches are available for questions and during which athletes may work on their weaknesses or on developing their particular interests. It’s a lot to ask of a gym to open its doors and provide space, equipment, and attention for people who may or may not show up… but provided that there’s a demand for it, and that athletes take advantage of it, it does wonders for the development of the CrossFitter. Everyone’s needs are individualized in more ways than the 5-day-a-week generic class setting can typically address, and the availability of open gym hours acknowledges that and allows those who care about self-improvement to work in their own time.

I know we’re spoiled by the amount of open gym hours we have a LionHeart, but I’m still disappointed by the amount of CrossFit gyms that have no open gym hours. I was pleasantly surprised to find that EVCF not only had open gym, but allowed wayward drop-ins such as the wandering Jo to stop by. So I paid by second visit to EVCF and worked on my cleans (all technique I’m afraid… even 90lbs felt absurdly heavy after not touching bumper plates for a week) and did a quick WOD with kettlebell swings and burpees– mostly just taking advantage of equipment I can’t access at LA fitness.

Anyway, I think one of the best things that  CrossFit has to offer is that it’s made fitness accessible and fun. Its format has turned something that used to be isolating into something communal and (if you want) competitive. I’m reminded of this every time I walk into LA fitness, beside the resigned patrons with their heads down, trudging their way to the treadmill where they’ll plod away for 60 minutes as if this were their daily penance. If you think about it, CrossFit introduces so many people to new ways of achieving fitness… even at our own gym– Zebrapants was a lifelong athlete before he ever trained with us, but he’d never heard of a clean before starting CrossFit and just yesterday he posted a video of a 255lb clean-to-thruster (yes what a showoff…) With my summers, I used to trudge alongside the LA Fitness zombies for preacher-curl day and long-slow-treadmill day. Now I’m the weirdo absconding with the bench press bar so I can do a clean-and-jerk/burpee ladder in the empty racquetball court. With this in mind, I’d like to think more about what CrossFit– and CrossFit gyms, trainers, affiliate owners, etc– can offer people beyond the daily metcon (which will of course remain central to the CrossFit universe). I just think that, if we introduce individuals to things like olympic lifting or powerlifting, why can we not also introduce people to better quality work in those areas? Why not Olympic lifting sessions that hone technique and form, or committed powerlifting programs for people who want to focus on strength gains? Or an endurance class for people who CrossFit to supplement their marathon goals? Of course, these expansions necessitate gyms with the funding and staff capable of supporting such ideals… but I’d be excited to see CrossFit bring its spirit, its enthusiasm, its mutual encouragement and support, and its adventurousness to modes of exercise beyond the traditional metcon.

Just food for thought.

Hope you’re all enjoying the holidays!

P.S. Just for fun, here are some shots of EVCF:

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