CrossFit and “CrossFit-style workouts” (Some gyms use CrossFit style workouts but aren’t actually CrossFit boxes) are exploding in popularity across the country as the next best thing for getting in shape, improving health, and losing weight.
I’m not going to start a controversy and call CrossFit a fad — because it’s not, it’s a legitimate sport — but if your goal is to lose weight (or, more importantly, body fat) and improve health, we have to understand some distinctions between sport exercise and smart exercise.
So what’s the deal? Am I throwing Crossfit out completely or is there a grey area? Let’s start by identifying a problem of psychology and then addressing where CrossFit falls as a “solution.”
Line up your priorities and get your psychology right.
CrossFit workouts are popular for people trying to lose weight. The reason normal people (non-athletes) flock to CrossFit boxes is because it makes them feel like they’re participating in the most legit new fitness craze to sweep the nation.
I don’t think it was ever cool to say you did TaeBo. It’s damn cool to call yourself a CrossFitter and post on Facebook three times a day that you’re off to “the box” to do your “WODs.”
The second reason people do CrossFit is because the workouts crush you. There’s a psychological component at play that’s not dissimilar from other programs like the also popular Boot Camp model. If I wake up in the morning and do something hard that makes me sweat and want to kill my trainer’s cat, I can feel good about what I’ve done and tell myself a story about reaching my goals.
But those two reasons aren’t good reasons for doing a workout program. A good reason for doing a workout program is because it’s safe and effective at helping you reach your goals.
CrossFit doesn’t adequately address the #1 issue.
If you want your journey to be effective, and not a statistical flop, then the logical first step would be to determine what the number one effective thing for weight loss is going to be. And that happens to be what you’re putting in your mouth.
I won’t rehash it all here, but it helps to understand the truth about exercise and body composition. CrossFit programs tend to lean a bit more toward functional nutritional frameworks. But, they also tend to lack focus. And personalization — the most important aspect — is almost nonexistent. The focus is mostly on CrossFit, not on getting you healthy and changing your lifestyle with food.
Your priority is not to get up in the morning and sweat (even though working out in the morning is a great idea), it’s to get up in the morning and dedicate yourself to eating as clean as possible. That’s going to determine 80% of your results. Bang. Wipe your hands. Done.
For the other 20% you’ll want to bring in an exercise component. And it’s here where people continue to make mistakes that harm their progress and their long term goals.
CrossFit is NOT the Holy Grail.
“You must choose. But choose wisely, for as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.”
You’re not Indiana Jones and if you choose the wrong grail you’re not going to shrivel up and die on the spot. But, choosing the wrong path may lead you down a rabbit hole that wastes your time and may possibly even derail you from your mission.
CrossFit is a sport, not an exercise program. By definition, it’s not aligned with your goals of losing weight safely, effectively, and over the long term.
If I eat clean and do CrossFit, will I lose weight? Yes.
I’m not saying that CrossFit isn’t effective for weight loss. I’m saying that it’s not necessary. And, to go even further, I’d argue that it’s risky. There are far better options.
CrossFit is risky business.
I’ve seen a lot of people posting pictures of themselves doing CrossFit online lately. They want to show off the hard work and “legit” stuff they’re doing. Unfortunately, they have no idea how unlegit it actually is.
I’m not sure if that’s a real picture or a fake picture. It’s a little questionable since there’s no weight on the bar, but that doesn’t change the fact that CrossFitters all over the country/world are performing complex lifts with heavy weights in horrible positions.
Let me tell you the #1 rule about losing weight through exercise: you can’t exercise to lose weight when you’re injured.
The thing about CrossFit is that the model they use is excellent. The classes are typically short, they’re high intensity workouts, and they use functional, compound exercises. It’s not a useless model, by any means.
What’s often wrong with CrossFit workouts is the execution and general mindset.
Disclaimer: I can’t for one second claim that this argument applies to all CrossFit boxes. But any CrossFit trainer or owner has to agree that there are CrossFit boxes all over the place doing things absolutely wrong and putting their clients at enormous risk for serious injury.
The reason this is important is because the general public doesn’t know enough about body position or mechanics to know whether or not the box they’re signing up at is legit. It’s a blind guess.
If you don’t believe that this is a serious issue, watch the video below. It’s cringe-worthy. And it’s not even close to being the only one out there.
[This video was removed by the original user]
What does healthy exercise look like?
What nobody in the fitness industry wants you to know is that every goal you have for general health and fitness can be accomplished with 6 to 8 fundamental movements. Complex training regimens, “changing exercises frequently to trick your muscles,” and fad programs are all designed to do one thing: make you think this stuff is complicated enough that you need to pay an expert to help you navigate it.
The only thing you should be paying someone to do is to teach you how to safely and properly perform the 6 to 8 functional movements you need to know. And if they’re not doing that in an order that looks something like this: position > form > weight, then fire them and find someone else.
If you’re going to ignore my advice, make sure you find the best box possible.
I don’t want any of my Total Body Reboot clients going to a CrossFit box because it’s an unnecessary risk. I’m not going to be unclear here. Do I have clients that do CrossFit? Yes. But I’m officially on record with the position that it’s not necessary and that it’s highly risky. And if you get injured doing CrossFit (or become a CrossFitaholic and it interferes with your weight loss and health goals), then I’m on a firm ground to say, I told you so.
With that said, I don’t want to see anyone get hurt or fail to reach their goals. If you’re going to ignore me and join a box, then you better do your research and be damn sure the one you’re choosing is as legit as it can get. Don’t join the closest one to you because it’s convenient. If you have to drive 40 miles to get to the best one, that’s what you need to join. Meandering into any old Crossfit gym could easily end your lifestyle transformation.
Last Question: Do You Love CrossFit?
There’s an epidemic in the health and fitness industry. What is this epidemic, you ask? It’s an epidemic of people doing shit they hate.
Everyone is in a “by any means necessary” mindset when it comes to nutrition and exercise. They have this weight loss outcome that steals 100% of their focus. Everything they do day-to-day is to achieve that outcome “by any means necessary.”
This kind of mindset will lead you into very destructive behavior patterns. To prevent this, you must make sure the activities you’re engaging in are making you happy and meeting your biopsychosocial needs.
The key to lifelong success is having a daily fitness practice that’s intrinsically motivated. This will mark the end of needing “willpower” and “discipline” to stay consistent.
We’ve put together a free workbook to help you build an intrinsically motivated daly fitness practice. Even if you LOVE CrossFit, you need to do this workbook because it will allow you to add more variety and sustainability to your overall fitness practice…
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and programs like Shut Down Your Sugar Cravings.