An Open Letter to Erin Simmons

Lying about Crossfit doesn’t make you a better person.


  • **IMPORTANT UPDATE**
There is an addendum at the bottom of the page rectifying a glaring mistake in my writing, which I thought was important to address separately versus editing this piece that was written in the heat of the moment.

Who is Erin Simmons and why should you care? This is what got me all tight in the whites today:

http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/why-i-dont-do-crossfit/


It was painful to read but I made it through your rather successful blog today — north of 80k shares via social media. I’d say that’s a pretty big deal. Once I finished, my first reaction was to join the other trolls on the message boards, soundly giving you a piece of my mind…but I stepped back from it. I decided it was best to take some time to ponder your words and try to understand where you were coming from. That’s when it hit me.

The glaring half truths, the outright lies and the misrepresentation of one of the fastest developing professional sports in the world and you have somehow positioned yourself in the pack as an authority on the subject of Crossfit. But, we know that’s not true, now don’t we?

I’ll start with the obvious misrepresentations in regard to your assertions on the sport of Crossfit. You state that it is your opinion — this rather drawn out piece of nonsense — yet, it’s a full blown attack on the sport and the people that participate. You even go as far as to suggest that maybe we (those who participate) aren’t thinking clearly in our cult like state of belonging. I found humor in this, considering that the majority of people I WOD with are upwardly mobile professionals, including doctors.

It’s a hatchet job and you swing the axe quite carelessly. So lets break it down:

You refer to what can only be pictured, from your description, as a bunch of hapless clowns trying desperately to do muscle-ups while you deftly swoop in and knock em off like it’s an easy feat. Kudos to you for having so much athletic prowess. Now let’s get back to reality. A legitimate box isn’t going take a bunch of people who aren’t qualified to do muscle-ups and tell them to jump in and give it a go. The manuals and documentation on achieving the coveted musle-up, the holy grail of Crossfit moves is detailed and exact. The move, so complex in it’s difficulty of range in motion and power required, that most responsible boxes will explain to the newer Crossfitter that it could take 2-3 years to perfect it. Some boxes don’t even promote the move because of its complexity and the ease in which it can injure. This isn’t to say that you didn’t happen upon a shoddy box where the owners/instructors didn’t have control — it’s just not the norm and shouldn’t be expected.

You talk about jumping into a WOD and being thrown weight. The only way I can see this happening, with the exception of an extremely negligent box, is that you possibly eluded to your skill set (maybe it was the impressive muscle-ups) and gave them the idea you could handle the weight. It’s not uncommon for someone to oversell their abilities in a box. The legitimate practice is to scale to one’s ability. This means that the new person in the box isn’t going to match weight with the competitive long time Crossfitter. While we do the work outs together — the motto is clear: “leave your ego at the door.” And we scale, both to our abilities and, our limitations.

all I remember was stopping at one point and watching some of the bad form that people were using around me.

You can go into any gym in the world, in any sport, with any level of athlete and you will see bad form. A good box works with its members to correct bad form and with time, this is attained with almost all athletes, especially those that stick with it and listen to their coaches.

OK.

Let’s talk about Olympic power lifting and the moves you claim are so dangerous. Olympic power lifters don’t do high repetitions for time because — their skill set is heavy weight. The difference? Crossfitters do the movement because it helps to promote the “explosive” nature of that movement. Where it differs for us is the amount of weight we thrust or deadlift. Olympic power lifters would not consider pushing an RX for men of 135lbs a feat in a thrust. And no Crossfitter in their right mind would attempt to do maximum reps of a thrust with Olympic power lifting type weight.

The point here is that subjecting your muscles to extremely high stress repetitively is not good. CrossFit seems to think that the more pain you are in, whether on that day or the days following the workout, the better. The more you disregard the pain and keep pushing through it, the “tougher” you are.

If ever there was an indication of how little you understand Crossfit culture; this would be it. Pain is a bad sign — in any sport. Do we push ourselves in Crossfit? Damn right! But we push ourselves to fatigue so we can maximize the benefit of short, intense work outs. This concept wasn’t created by a bunch of half-witted hillbillies in someone’s backyard. The list of contributors to this sport is long and varied and includes — get this — Olympic power lifters. It also includes professionals with backgrounds and degrees in kiniseology and a host of other ologies that you seem to think all condemn the sport of Crossfit. Did you really do your research before sitting down to write your piece?

Let’s touch quickly on your assertion that Crossfit coaches get certified in a weekend. While the certification test happens in a weekend, there is literally months of preparation for the test. This includes studying all of the manuals and shadowing the coaches in the box so you understand the fundamentals. Also, the people that are going for their certification don’t drop in for one class and decide they are going to be coaches. Most who are going for their certification have already been active members of a box for years. They know and understand the fundamentals through experience.

The certification (level 1) allows to you do some coaching at a basic level. Want to open up your own certified “Crossfit” box? That certification won’t even get you close. Want to be a personal trainer and open up a gym? You can get your certification online without qualification of any kind. Seems far more legit than Crossfit..don’t you think?

Personally, I have been doing Crossfit for 16 months now. I just turned 50 and was in terrible shape when I showed up at the box. I’m now in the best shape of my life and getting stronger every day. I also injured myself once — it was 3 months in and I wasn’t listening to my coach. That was the last time.

I would like you to know I’m good friends with a lot of the people in my box and in 16 months, I haven’t seen one serious injury. Not one. I have more friends that are runners and are constantly dealing with serious injuries. How about all the other sports where injuries are just part of the routine? Yoga anyone? Tennis? Golf? If you don’t want to get injured — surf a couch and let your health decline that way….digressing.

You mention the perils of Crossfit and share quotes from professionals that condemn the sport. I especially love the piece from the “Science of Running” when running is one of the most dangerous of all sports out there. What’s interesting is that Crossfit didn’t make the list of most dangerous sports and with your claims, it seems like it should be at the top.

Want to see a list of the most dangerous sports? You’ll notice Crossfit didn’t make that list and in fact, I couldn’t find one list that had Crossfit on it as a sport to avoid for injuries. Your chosen field of Track? Ya, it’s on most of them. Here’s the top 10 for those who are interested:

http://www.thetoptens.com/most-dangerous-sports/

You’ve cherry picked a lot of information to put the sport of Crossfit in a bad light and that is really unfortunate. It’s difficult to guage your motive for such an attack so I’m forced to chalk it up to pure ignorance. I can only hope that people take what you’ve written with a grain of salt and make their own, informed choices.

Listen Erin, I’m not here to change your mind. Crossfit isn’t for everyone. The people that love it know why they love it and why they preach it. If it can help one person improve their life — and I’m talking the whole package — body image and mind, then they should go for it. I’m talking from experience here because my life has improved ten fold since I joined the “cult”.

Is it perfect? Of course not but it is relatively new and the ideas and concepts are pioneering training for both the professional athlete and those like myself who are looking for better quality of life. It’s evolving every day and, we’re evolving. There is much to be said for that. It is truly time to move past the negativity. If that’s all you have to hold on to — your position is weak.

On a closing note; I will share some great links below so that if you want to see some simple truth to counter everything that you have come with, maybe it will enlighten you and one day, you can apologize to our community for your harsh words and unkind criticism of a sport we love.

I’ll start off with a respected body builder and his new found love of Crossfit:

http://www.t-nation.com/training/crossfit-apology#.U4Syc2o8ajs.facebook

Speaking of cherry picking — I’ll share the full article from WebMD rather than the one small paragraph you chose to focus on:

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/crossfit-review

What’s this? A doctor that does Crossfit?

http://breakingmuscle.com/crossfit/how-crossfit-makes-me-a-better-doctor

What’s this? Two doctors walk into a Crossfit gym:

http://games.crossfit.com/article/two-doctors-walk-crossfit-gym


Addendum
It’s been a whirlwind of a day as we’ve watched the number of hits on Facebook come up on 100k. Of course, this doesn’t translate into actual reads but, it is inspiring none the less and, plenty of people have come forward to let me know how good and, how bad this piece is. The number one gripe most have is with my reference to “Olympic Powerlifting” which — as I learned today- doesn’t even exist.
That’s my ignorance; thinking that weightlifting and powerlifting were essentially the same. Not even close. It is in this regard that I apologize profusely to both camps. I spent a few hours researching it tonight and while there are similarities; I stand corrected in my reference to “Olympic Powerlifting” and will from now until the end of time, refer to it as “Olympic weightlifting.” Thank you for your time.