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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 07-11-2008, 01:40 PM   #1
Brandon Oto
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My current position on CF WoDs

I was going to bed last night and the last piece clicked into place for the way I'm currently feeling about CrossFit.

At various times I've felt that CF is best for beginners and not intermediates, or for intermediates and not beginners. The argument for the former is that it requires no knowledge and covers all bases, so it's a nice cookie-cutter prescription for retarded beginners, but intermediates should be able to customize their own program. The argument for the latter is that I feel most beginners are better off starting with a strength program, yet after that everyone should eventually get to some conditioning, bodyweight stuff, etc.

Now I'm starting to think that they're both right, which means that CF is a pretty GOOD program for both, but not actually the BEST program for much of anyone.

1. CF WoDs have developed, both theoretically (with a goal of "increased work capacity across broad blah blah") and actually, into workouts focused on improving work capacity. This is a useful thing, but except for a few individuals who need a very high level of non-specific conditioning, it's not THAT useful. It's not necessary to emphasize it this heavily, and doing so reduces their ability to develop other traits of fitness. Therefore, if your goal is GPP -- be good at everything, do anything -- the most sensible role of CF workouts is as a "metcon day," to whatever extent you need this. Few athletes will need to use them predominantly.

2. Why are you training? If it's for a sport, or your job, or some other specific demand, you should obviously be customizing your training for those needs. If it's for general health, longevity, or "life" (the classic examples of picking up your sofa, going skiing, or responding in an emergency), then you frankly do not need this level of fitness. It is extremely difficult and taxing and requires a major commitment of your life, and you have no need for the level of fitness it develops; you could train functionally but with much less intensity and probably be happier, less sore, etc. If you're interested in the competition or self-challenge, CF makes sense; this is basically no different from training for some other sport, and the growth of things like the CF Games should make this easier. But if you have no actual reason to train like this, then you will tend to: 1) do whatever you're told since you don't have any goals; 2) suffer the downsides, such as potential injuries, burnout, and time/money drain; 3) at some point realize what's going on and simply stop or do something else.

Where does this leave CF? As a good program for many people but not the best for anyone except "metcon-biased" demands like maybe MMA, firefighters, etc.; as a good tool to use for the conditioning component of your training; maybe as a test for progress (do a named workout periodically, see how you're doing) or weaknesses (do a WoD with a bunch of movements, where are you sore, what was failing?); and I suppose as the best option for anyone too retarded to develop their own personalized GPP program.

Thoughts?

(Just to add, there are some terrific things that CF has brought to the table, and many of them aren't tied up in the WoD at all. Things like re-popularizing weightlifting and gymnastics, functional training, getting people to work hard and pushing a culture of fitness, putting a lot of nice gyms out there, and most of all introducing, defining, and legitimating the idea of training for athletic GPP rather than a specific sport. This isn't what I'm talking about here.)

(To further add, I realize that Glassman has claimed that the focus on work capacity grew out of a black box finding that it was the best correlate for overall fitness. I have no idea where he got this, and I haven't heard any elaboration on the point, so I'm just going on the outlook that work capacity is nothing more or less than the ability to do more stuff. Oh, okay, there's a nice mental benefit in discovering your true maximums, but this just requires you to have gone hard enough often enough that you know what you're capable of, not that you do this every damned day.)
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Old 07-11-2008, 02:13 PM   #2
Scott Borre
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

Coach has said before that CF isn't for everybody. Read the top banner 'Forging Elite Fitness.' If you aren't interested in elite fitness, then perhaps one can do a scaled workout of CF or take some of the general principles to get 'decent fitness.'

For sport specific training, definitely. If you are trying to win the marathon, then perhaps the WODs will never get you there. But if you want to play professional basketball, then perhaps CF is a great thing to do in the offseason to maintain great shape, and to improve in certain areas. But you also have to continue playing your sport.

Coach G has stated that when people have asked him how they should modify CF for their sport, he has told them that they should just do CF as is, and let their sport training (e.g. shooting baskets, kicking the soccer ball, swinging the bat, etc) fine tune them for their sport.

Are there going to be some exceptions? Sure. I'm really interested to hear how John Welbourn's CrossFit experiment turns out. If he feels in better shape for the season, how his workouts go (workouts for a new team, or back with the Chiefs, whichever way).
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Old 07-11-2008, 05:55 PM   #3
Brandon Oto
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

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Originally Posted by Scott Borre View Post
Coach has said before that CF isn't for everybody. Read the top banner 'Forging Elite Fitness.' If you aren't interested in elite fitness, then perhaps one can do a scaled workout of CF or take some of the general principles to get 'decent fitness.'
I wonder how it would fly at your local affiliate, the comments section, or on this very forum if you mentioned that you were scaling CF to obtain "decent fitness."

But if a CrossFitter can't articulate why they need elite fitness (understanding that "elite" is a very challenging goal requiring a number of sacrifices), then they probably don't, do they?
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Old 07-11-2008, 06:28 PM   #4
Scott Mahn
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

People have been having this same conversation, on various forums, for years. The funny thing is, whenever anyone tries to even define what crossfit is it's either too elusive to, or it evolves into something else.

I'm paraphrasing poorly, but someone once said something along the lines of, There are two kinds of delusionals:

A) Those who think Crossfit is the best way possible to forge elite fitness (whatever "elite fitness" is).

B) Those who think they could devise a better program to forge elite fitness on their own.


-------

Whereever one stands, what I think one will find is that in designing one's own program they'll incorporate so much that CrossFit already uses that it wont be all that far off from CrossFit. For instance, when asked what is a better off the shelf program the answer will often be something like Ross Enemait, Performance Menu, or something like an MEBB or "hybrid" program - all of which have much in common with CF, and which of themselves borrowed freely from it.

Thus, mainpage CF can't be perfect for all people at once, but it sure changed the way the masses think about working out. It's hard to be an educated consumer and not be doing some stuff that's closely aligned with CF because CF borrows from that which has historically proven itself to be productive.
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Old 07-11-2008, 06:41 PM   #5
George Mounce
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

You aren't stating the whole point Brandon...increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

That may help your thinking.
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Old 07-11-2008, 07:15 PM   #6
Steven Anderson
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

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Originally Posted by Scott Mahn View Post
People have been having this same conversation, on various forums, for years. The funny thing is, whenever anyone tries to even define what crossfit is it's either too elusive to, or it evolves into something else.

I'm paraphrasing poorly, but someone once said something along the lines of, There are two kinds of delusionals:

A) Those who think Crossfit is the best way possible to forge elite fitness (whatever "elite fitness" is).

B) Those who think they could devise a better program to forge elite fitness on their own.


-------

Whereever one stands, what I think one will find is that in designing one's own program they'll incorporate so much that CrossFit already uses that it wont be all that far off from CrossFit. For instance, when asked what is a better off the shelf program the answer will often be something like Ross Enemait, Performance Menu, or something like an MEBB or "hybrid" program - all of which have much in common with CF, and which of themselves borrowed freely from it.

Thus, mainpage CF can't be perfect for all people at once, but it sure changed the way the masses think about working out. It's hard to be an educated consumer and not be doing some stuff that's closely aligned with CF because CF borrows from that which has historically proven itself to be productive.
Agreed, a lot of the other "off the shelf programs" are very similar and IMO, better than crossfit. Which, is why I don't understand why some people around here get so defensive when one says "they don't follow the WOD," and another says "then you don't do crossfit," ridiculous.

Regardless, I tend to agree with Brandon on this one. I, personally, have some goals, what they are doesn't matter because you all probably don't care. But, as far as obtaining "elite fitness" as described by crossfit's standards, I probably won't ever get there. You see, I am a firefighter/paramedic and I work on a busy rescue unit (again, you probably don't care). I get up most nights (multiple times) and sometimes my sleep and diet aren't what they should be. Diet, I control pretty damn good, sleep on the other hand, well, I certainly can't ignore the "tones" when they go off, now can I? My lack of sleep, inconsistent schedule and "not always perfect eating at the fire station" will probably prevent me from being considered "elite" according to crossfit. But, oh well, if any firefighter games come up soon, and one of you want to go head to head...

Point in case, training CF style day in and day out wears and tears on my system and actually makes me perform worse on calls and in training (fires, spec ops, water rescue, etc, etc.) I just don't need all that "metcon," a little overrated. I asked Steven Low recently, "What is Fran really doing for me anyway?" Broad time and modal domains? Sure, I understand it, but when on the job and when a rafter that weighs 95lbs. falls on me, I'm certainly not thinking, "hmmm, I gonna squat press this thing 21 times, then 15, then 9 and then I'll throw it off me and hell, I hope I do it in less than 3 minutes."

I've tried some other things and they work for me. Why? Because I like them. CF may not necessarily be for me, but that doesn't mean that it's not for someone else, even another firefighter, if they like it. Funny thing is though, I love rosstraining. Yep, it's crossfitlike, but, eh...it's different. It's simple, there is no rowing machine and Ross is living proof, that well, simplicity works with either none or very little equipment.

I think it's really simple...and is that simple, as setting some goals, finding something you love that's going to help you work towards those goals and finally achieving those goals. You really can increase work capacity minus the metcon.

Last edited by Steven Anderson : 07-11-2008 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 07-11-2008, 07:35 PM   #7
David Wood
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

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Originally Posted by Brandon Oto View Post
I wonder how it would fly at your local affiliate, the comments section, or on this very forum if you mentioned that you were scaling CF to obtain "decent fitness."

I have no idea, but let's try it out: this (scaling CF to obtain "decent fitness") is pretty much what I've been doing for the last 3 or 4 years.

I run a consulting business, have a family, and have most of the other time sinks that eat up the time of a middle-class, middle-aged American. In that context, I recognize that I will never be "elite" by CF standards, but I can be in the top 5% (maybe even 2%) for my age group . . . and it doesn't even take 3 on / 1 off to do it.

CF gives me (a) broad health and body composition success (b) all the "fitness" I need to do well at my only "athletic" outlet (skiing), (c) a better DL than almost anyone else in the gym (the only guys lifting more than me outweight me by 100 pounds) . . . all on about 3 days / week.

What else do I need?
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Old 07-11-2008, 07:44 PM   #8
George Mounce
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

Are you serious you just used a rafter falling on you and relating it to Fran? Thats the worst example I've ever heard, it makes absolutely no sense.

All you did was say you do what you like. Anyone can do what they like. The point is to do what you hate, because thats where we most often are worse at.

Nobody here says you have to do anything, and if you have found something better - go for it. Having been doing CrossFit for a year and a half, I've found the program change dynamically to incorporate newer things and shift priorities when many discussions have occurred as to what the focuses should or shouldn't be. I think that for the most part, CrossFit should incorporate a whole bunch of more gymnastics type training, which is unfortunately very skill based and the majority of the public won't put the effort into. That I find is a very sad thing, which I why I do it on my own.
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Old 07-11-2008, 08:55 PM   #9
Scott Borre
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

Define what it means to be better than CrossFit.

Does this mean that if 2 people of equal fitness and genetics started on both programs at the same time and put just as much dedication/effort into them, that after X time the person on the non CrossFit program would be less fit (or functionally fit, or something of the sorts)?

If so, aren't you just guessing? If so, and you aren't just guessing, what's your proof?

I think the key is to decide why you are working out, and then achieve those purposes. If you think something is better, do it. I don't get why there are so many people on these boards as of late who think they have a system better than CrossFit, or who don't do CrossFit, but feel the need to attack the system and the people who do it.
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Old 07-11-2008, 09:18 PM   #10
Chris Bate
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Re: My current position on CF WoDs

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Originally Posted by Brandon Oto View Post
Where does this leave CF? As a good program for many people but not the best for anyone except "metcon-biased" demands like maybe MMA...
The idea that CF would be great for MMA/combat sports is something that has been a strong point for the program, IMO.

Recently, however, there's been a lot of interesting discussion on sherdog about serious conditioning for fighters, prompted by appearance of Joe Jamison on the forums, director of endzone athletics He has worked with professional fighters such as Mach Sakurai, Rich Franklin, and Chris Lebon.

He absolutely abhors Crossfit (got in a rather testy argument with Anthony Bainbridge about it) but his approaches to S&C, from what I can glean from his posts, are very logical and allow very specific development towards an end goal. His principals are taken from Russian texts and are a sort of marriage of science and athletics that are far from the norm.

It really prompted me to reflect on my training, the goals I have, and whether following Crossfit WoDs is the right thing for me right now as a wrestler. I agree with Brandon in that Crossfit's usefulness seems to pale when "working out" for "fitness" becomes "training" for an event.

Last edited by Lynne Pitts : 07-18-2008 at 05:51 AM.
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