Training CrossFit vs. CrossFit as a Sport

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The more seminars I teach, emails I receive, and people I cross paths with the more I think there is a need for a “heart to heart” with the community. One of my main focuses at a Level 1 aside from presenting the best info possible in ways that everyone can clearly understand and relate to; is to emphasis how important it is for us as a community (especially those that run boxes or train at them) to identify the distinction between training CrossFit and CrossFit as a sport. The time has come that there is a clear difference.

One of the things I love about CrossFit that is communicated in our programming lecture and some of the other reading material that we see is that “Our needs don’t vary by kind, only by degree.” I whole heartedly agree with this statement. Essentially we are saying that everyone from the most deconditioned participant to the most elite athlete have the same needs. All of us will be required to squat, press, deadlift, push, pull, run, jump, etc. in different forms or fashions. The KEY that we need to recognize is that this vary’s tremendously by DEGREE. Particularly between those training CrossFit for what it’s truly designed for, and those that have chosen to seriously pursue CrossFit as their sport at an ELITE level. The difference between these two pursuits is going to be dictated by your goals. When you set goals you should be realistic but confident and depending on what they are it will require more or less sacrifice from yourself and even those around you. I think we can all fall into 3 basic categories.

Training CrossFit:

-This is who the vast majority of my clientele are and I absolutely love it. These are people that use CrossFit for what it is truly designed for and in many ways it’s a means to an end. They don’t just want to be good in the gym but outside those walls as well. They want to be better cyclists, skiers, hikers, parents, grandparents, athletes… you name it. They use CrossFit to increase their base level of GPP (general physical preparedness) and this correlates to better performance in their specific sport or life.

It doesn’t mean they are any less of an “athlete” than any one of us out there, but they have different goals. In my opinion people can train CrossFit like this for a lifetime. We can come in the gym once a day, follow a 3 on 1 off cycle, or a 3 on 1 off 2 on 1 off cycle of training and see results for years to come. With good varied programming we will get strong, increase our endurance, see improved times, etc. Our work capacity across broad times and modal domains will increase which is the goal regardless. Over time we may need to target some of our weaknesses to help “level out” our work capacity but realistically it could take years and years to get there if at all. For some of us that day may never come depending on what our previous athletic/training background may be.

The sacrifice here is minimal. In most cases these people may just be switching training programs and their time commitments and priorities won’t change. Likely we would see these athletes making sacrifices for other goals they may have if any (qualifying for the Boston Marathon, winning a local mtn bike series, working to become a pro surfer). Either way CrossFit is there to develop their base and if any sacrifices are made they would be due to other avenues.

2. CrossFit as a Recreational Sport:

-This is the person that has been introduced to CrossFit and enjoys the competition aspect of it. Maybe they enter a local competition and find themselves more attracted to this side of CrossFit. Team competitions, local throw downs possibly offering “scaled” divisions as well as “rx’d”, and CrossFit is starting to become more of a sport to them. These athletes may pay closer attention to targeting some of their weaknesses in order to “fast track” their fitness. This is a legitimate goal and one that I think a lot of people fall into.

Having specific and realistic goals here are going to be important to helping us define where we are along the line of the competition realm. A good association here is the difference between any recreational and professional sport. You may like to play tennis, golf, compete in a local soccer or softball club, go to swim meets, etc. but it’s a different demand and commitment than those that play those sports professionally.

Sacrifices may start to be required of those that are treating CrossFit more as a sport. Generally it’s going to be more time spent in the gym with either consistency or additional work. It may include some more specific programming outside of the regular class. We may need to pay closer attention to our diets and learn how to treat competitions and train for them as well as how to manage them. Overall it should still be FUN for us though. We can take it seriously but we also haven’t invested “all” of ourselves into an event so we SHOULD be having fun with the journey as well as the competitions along the way.

3. CrossFit as a Sport (Elite Level):

-Some may think it’s a stretch to call it professional but I disagree. Those that are at the top of the field these days generally make it a living to train. The sacrifices here are heavy and things are not always fun. It’s work, hard work and these athletes are willing to put it in regardless of the outcome and they risk the time invested. I know a number of Games athletes and almost ALL of them either train at a gym, own a gym, or simply compete and do nothing else. Their lifestyle allows them to focus primarily on training and this is what it takes to be at an ELITE level. Most of them have lengthy previous experience in athletics or some kind of strength and conditioning program. Having a base level of fitness and having good exposure to strength training is a plus and although not mandatory it is rare to see people competing at a high level without this. It just takes a whole lot of hard work, and that takes time.

This athlete is someone that can basically do every workout on crossfit.com as rx’d, no scaling necessary and posts competitive times/scores with top Regional (top 5 or so) athletes and Games competitors past and present. They may go to some of the more well known competitions and place well. Qualify for Regionals without specific training for the Open and are legitimate contenders for the Games (Top 5-7 in a Region). Truthfully it’s a small percentage of the population of our community. One that makes sacrifices just as any other athlete trying to reach the peak of their sport would. We may find them working through aches and pains, potential injuries, and having to pay close attention on their training programs as well as maintenance outside of the gym as well. Specific programming is often required in the area of the athletes weaknesses and they have to be ever evolving as the demands of these competitors continually increase. Volume will typically increase depending on the age of the athlete and most of them will either have a coach or a group of likeminded individuals at a similar level to train with.

The sacrifices that are made in the present for these athletes may or may not effect their overall well being in the future. Some of those aches and pains may turn into something more and the risk is worth the potential reward for these athletes. The goals they set in the near future can come at a high price.

So where do you fall? First thing is first. Have a real conversation with yourself on what your specific goals are and what you can achieve in a reasonable timeframe. A couple things to keep in mind when you are setting goals:

-Have short, medium, and long term goals. For me this typically falls into 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year blocks.
-Try to choose 3 goals for each time period.
-List 3 reasons WHY you have this goal.
-List 3 WAYS you will help reach this goal.
-Make your goals REALISTIC. This doesn’t mean we don’t push ourselves or challenge our traditional thought of what we think we can do. It does mean that we present ourselves with actions that we can take that will lead us to success. If we don’t reach the exact goal we should be remarkably close. Setting ourselves with goals that are too far out of reach is setting ourselves up for failure. It some cases you may not need to change the end state goal, just the timeline that you place it in.

Once you know what your goals are you can have a simple way to approach your training. Maybe you CrossFit to improve in another sport. I love it. Show up to the box consistently and make sure you have good varied programming throughout the weeks, months, years, etc. Chances are you won’t need to target anything specifically but rather find different cycles of how often you are in the gym during the week depending on your priorities and activity level outside the gym.
If you CrossFit and find yourself enjoying local competitions, want to improve a place in the Open, etc. you may find yourself doing a bit of targeting. Just working to improve your overall fitness, dialing in your diet more, all the things we mentioned above. Remember, be realistic and HAVE FUN!!! This isn’t your job and shouldn’t be treated that way.
You may see the potential that you have to be one of the elite. This may take years to achieve but you are committed. Either way you will have to ramp things up slowly.
Consistency, additional training methods, volume, etc. are all things that we can’t increase overnight. This is a long, slow trajectory to a distant horizon. It takes sacrifices that may or may not pay off in the long run. It’s a very, very small percentage of the CrossFit community and that is only getting smaller.

The goal of this is not to discourage anyone for shooting for their goals. If someone told me I “couldn’t do it” I would shrug them off and keep going. I also set realistic goals for myself and have chosen for the time being to compete in CrossFit. Even this is now a day to day decision for me. At my age and some of the things I have going with recovery and some of the nagging pains I have to take it a day at a time. If I’m feeling good come Regionals I will show up. If I’m broken and can’t compete at the level I want to then I won’t. I’m training, day by day as if I’m going to the Games, it is my sport. This is a very different place than training CrossFit. A part of me envies those that do it. It looks fun, balanced, MUCH less stressful and is something that could be done for a lifetime. I love our community for the support and heart that is poured out on a daily basis from people in boxes every day. Set your goals, make them realistic, and have some FUN throwing down.

I think my friend Pat Sherwood says it perfectly. “The goal is just to get fit, make it the best hour of your day, stay safe, turn up the music, high five some people, and blow off some steam. So remember that. RELAX. HAVE FUN. WORKOUT.

If you’ve chosen to seriously choose CrossFit as a sport at an elite level, buckle up. It’s quite the ride.

Comments

  1. Web says:

    Chris,

    This is very well done. Thanks for doing this for the community.

    Web

  2. Jay says:

    One of the best well written blogs on the reason and motivation for crossfit. To the point on why everyone should feel part of the community, because each individual gets to decide what they want to get out of the endeavor. Well done! Well done!

  3. James says:

    Great Post. Love this:

    “-Have short, medium, and long term goals. For me this typically falls into 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year blocks.
    -Try to choose 3 goals for each time period.
    -List 3 reasons WHY you have this goal.
    -List 3 WAYS you will help reach this goal.
    -Make your goals REALISTIC. This doesn’t mean we don’t push ourselves or challenge our traditional thought of what we think we can do. It does mean that we present ourselves with actions that we can take that will lead us to success. If we don’t reach the exact goal we should be remarkably close. Setting ourselves with goals that are too far out of reach is setting ourselves up for failure. It some cases you may not need to change the end state goal, just the timeline that you place it in.”

    This goes so far beyond crossfit and into life.

  4. Pepp says:

    Thank you for that website, and for the time and energy you put in, it´s very helpful!

  5. Ryan says:

    Great article. It’s so great that you were able to put things in plain English for the different levels of crossfit.

  6. Maceo says:

    Thanks Chris. Great perspective and a conversation I’m pushing for with every Crossfit Athlete I meet. Now I’ll point them here and say, “see Speal says so!” :)

  7. Zach F says:

    Thanks for this, Chris – you put into words my exact feelings. Stealing this for our blog ;-) Hope all is well with you and the fam!

  8. janine says:

    An awesome read from a new follower in New Zealand; informative, engaging and easy to relate to! Thank you for making me think what direction do I want to go! Keep up the great work:)

  9. Kathleen says:

    “-This is who the vast majority of my clientele are and I absolutely love it. These are people that use CrossFit for what it is truly designed for and in many ways it’s a means to an end. They don’t just want to be good in the gym but outside those walls as well. They want to be better cyclists, skiers, hikers, parents, grandparents, athletes… you name it. They use CrossFit to increase their base level of GPP (general physical preparedness) and this correlates to better performance in their specific sport or life. ”
    Thank you for this wonderful article from one of the “grandparents”.
    Kathleen
    CrossFit 208

  10. Great article and one I would be sharing with my readers!

  11. Sandra Zacharopoulos says:

    Your friend Pat has it spot on. I have a gym where we do functional fitness with cross fit in the mix Its an hour of community, fun, hard work and music. Your article says it all.

  12. Gwen says:

    Great perspective. Wondering how this viewpoint is reflected in your box’s wods?

  13. karina says:

    CrossFit Training can be so beneficial in any sport! Thanks for sharing this!

  14. Liz says:

    My “real” sports are mountain bike racing and downhill racing. Since starting crossfit 4 years ago, I’ve noticed how much crossfit beneficially affects my racing. Its difficult to get out to the hills to train when I work 40 hours a week and have motherly commitments. Crossfit has plugged that hole. I can train at my gym and it greatly affects my performance on my bike, mostly during short steep climbs and anything that requires a short intense burst of pedaling. I still need to get out on the bike for the long rides to get endurance. But now, I can walk to my gym and get what used to require a 25 mile drive one way. Its a great thing for a racing mom!

  15. logosironon says:

    logos iron on transfer

    I’ve been seeing May/Mae thrown around a lot for the middle name slot. I wonder how that plays into its use.

  16. Ben Sullins says:

    It’s always concerned me how crossfit (the sport) has impeached the credibility of crossfit (the workout program) Glad to see this perspective from someone so invested in it.

  17. Jennifer Ford says:

    Wonderfully balanced, well thought out and illuminating post that covers every “reason” for a Crossfitter to Crossfit. Honestly, I think every box owner, Level 1 trainee, coach and student should read this before launching. I truly appreciate your humble perspective and wish others would adopt it. Thank you!

  18. Jason says:

    Great article. I’ve found CrossFit to be a huge positive in my life. The gym had become so routine, with no real direction. Felt almost like a waste of time. CrossFit has caused me to focus much more intently on my goals. And it has made a HUGE difference in the other sports I enjoy. Skiing and snowboarding have never been so much fun. Thanks again for the great read.

  19. Mick says:

    Thanks for sharing this Chris. It is a great way to look at the many ways one can go about doing crossfit and setting goals for themselves in and out of their box.

  20. Gabriel Stockton says:

    Thank you for your time, that read totally hit home. Crossfit Ogden, Utah has change my life.

  21. Jason says:

    Great post man. Couldn’t be more right on about setting goals. I used to think it was enough to try to always do more weight ‘next time’. But without some sort of specific goal driving me, it was easy to lose focus.

    Keep up the great writing. Loving it.

  22. Phill Mamula says:

    Incredible Post! Thank you Chris for helping us realize our goals and to stay humble, stay focus, and don’t look back.

  23. Jeri says:

    Very well written Chris. Thanks.

  24. annia velazquez says:

    Thank u so much for this tip, it is absolutly true about how we do considered ourself. This has made me to rethink on my goals. I wish i had found Crossfit early in my life, but i am not discourage myself i keep it as i see it, my sport. It is not to loose weight or to be fit anymore. Every time i lift or do a Pr is the most amazing feeling compared with no others I LOVE CROSSFIT, and even if i can not go to Elite i am a crossfiter.

  25. Smith says:

    I like CrossFit a lot, but I still don’t get it, how a workout can be a competitive sport, but why not – let Rebook get its marketing exposure, they need it :D . Some interesting stuff for CrossFitters like workouts, mobile sport apps reviews, gear etc. can be found here: http://workoutforge.com/

  26. Wow, awesome post there man! One of the best well written articles on crossfit attitude. Love it. Please be sure to check out my website too. I’ve made a huge research on how a good crossfit shoes can dramatically improve your workouts.

  27. Chris I love this article. Possibly the best part of crossfit is the community that is built, not only between people in your own box, but everybody that is involved in crossfit!

    I appreciate this article because i think a lot of people that are coming into crossfit have the goal to become the next games champion. While this is great and i love being competitive, people are starting to lose sight about what crossfit is all about. Being a games athlete is rare, and if you make it that is amazing, but for the other 99 percent of people crossfit should be about being healthy, being physically active and sharing those experiences with others !!!

  28. Tory says:

    Chris, this article has been a tab in my browser for weeks now and I finally read it. It’s about time. I needed to read this especially now with the new year fast approaching. You really gave me perspective and lit that fire under my ass that I needed. Thank you.

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  30. coach outlet says:

    It is appropriate time to make a few plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy.
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  31. Byron says:

    Great post, Chris. I myself am in the “Training CrossFit” category, but
    I think one is not necessarily exclusive of the other.

    I’ve found that incorporation of the competitive aspects of CrossFit is why I and so many others are drawn to it and why I constantly push myself to achieve better. In that way, I am able to achieve both short-term (i.e. win) and long-term goals (i.e. be more fit, better snowboarder, athlete, etc.)

    Anyways, thanks for the insight!

  32. Alex says:

    Goal setting is extremely important. I can remember Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson having a similar “levels” to his goal setting.

  33. jakhlanhatlo says:

    Your Post Is Really Helpful.Great post. Thanks for putting the time in to write it.
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Trackbacks

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