You can’t blame CrossFitters for getting a bit excited.  CrossFit gave me a new lease on life.  It gave me 5 more years of competitive Judo when I thought my body could no longer keep up with the rigours of competition, including a trip to the World Judo Masters Championships in Brussels.  And it has provided me a competitive outlet after Judo that is much safer and more sustainable for my aging body.  It has made me fitter at 47 than I’ve ever been in my life.  Given my a physique (including abs) that I never possessed in my youth.  It has provided me a community of cherished friendships that have enriched my life.  CrossFit has given me a quality of life that I didn’t have before.  And I watch it daily provide the same to others.  So yes, sometimes we tend to shout about this amazing program that we’ve discovered hoping others may get to enjoy the benefits we ourselves have experienced.

But sometimes the way CrossFitters express their excitement can be off-putting.  It can come across as arrogance.  Even the title “Fittest in the World” rubs people the wrong way.  CrossFit has defined fitness as “Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”  By this definition, the fittest person is the person who demonstrates the greatest capacity across the broadest set of tests.  The CrossFit Games is the proving ground for this, selecting the men and women who by CrossFit’s definition best embody the broad generalized adaptations across disparate domains such as swimming, climbing, running, lifting, jumping, throwing, cycling and more.  Who is fastest, has the best cardio and muscular endurance, strength, coordination, accuracy, balance, agility, power?  To date, no other training regimen has proven capable of producing athletes demonstrating the broad adaptations required to excel across such disparate domains.  There are open seats at the CrossFit Games for non-CrossFit athletes who think that they can compete.  Few have stepped up.  None have excelled.

CrossFit is producing some amazing athletes.  But let’s not not lose sight of the key word in our definition of fitness which is “broad.”  By definition, CrossFitters are generalists.  We’re Jacks-and-Jills-of all-trades, masters of none.  The corollary of this is that there’s a whole lot of things we’re just not that great at!  And that’s by design.  After all, we specialize in not specializing.  I’ve trained Olympians and professional athletes and CrossFit has made them fitter.  That does not diminish in any way how accomplished they were before CrossFit in their own domains, CrossFit has simply helped to round out their skill set.

In my experience, most CrossFit coaches and athletes have nothing but respect and admiration for sports specialists.  We appreciate and admire the dedication required to become master of a craft.  Having dabbled in gymnastics, I have a greater appreciation for the endless hours of work and incredible strength and skill required to become a gymnast.  Having a respectable-for-a-CrossFitter clean and jerk of about 1.5 times my body weight, I truly marvel at the Olympians capable of lifting 3-4 times their body weight.  At Empower we regularly invite coaches and elite athletes from such diverse domains as swimming, track and field, power lifting, Olympic lifting, rowing and gymnastics.  We are in awe of their expertise.  To watch a master at their craft is humbling indeed!

In CrossFit we dabble in a lot of things but most of us have not developed the skill in any area worthy of bragging about.  So from where the arrogance?  I suspect it comes from CrossFit newbies.  Athlete wannabes who think that because they have a few muscle ups and a pair of Nanos they are the next evolution of fitness.  On the journey of mastery they would be at stage two: “unconscious incompetence.”  They’re so new to these skills that they have no idea how little they know.  They have yet to spend hour-upon-hour and year-upon-year honing those skills.  What they possess are a few rudimentary party tricks they can show off with.  In my experience, few of these characters hang around in CrossFit for very long because the programming gets harder and few have the discipline or patience to develop the refinements required to work through to the next level.

One CrossFit hater has summed up the CrossFit Games as “The sport of who can work out the hardest.”  It always makes me chuckle because, after all, isn’t it kind of true?  And put that way, doesn’t it sound a bit silly?  I love competing in CrossFit and, silly or not, I have no plans to stop, after all, is getting super fit and having an awesome life silly?  I’m quite proud of what CrossFit has made me capable of doing but if you recall our hypothetical hierarchy of athletic development, you will remember that the apex is sport – not the sport of fitness – but the chaotic world of player versus player sport like Judo or Football or Tennis.  What we’re building in the gym are the foundational layers required to excel in sport.  CrossFit was always intended as a means to an end, not the end in itself.  So you’re great at CrossFit?  So what?  How is that making you great in life or sport outside the gym?  Because that’s where it really matters!  The CrossFit Games was just a rebuttal to all those doubters who questioned whether CrossFit really worked.

CrossFit didn’t invent any of this stuff, we adopted kettlebell training, gymnastics, rowing, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, running, skipping and other training methodologies precisely because they are great at developing very elite athletic results.  Turning around and dissing the very roots of our programming makes no sense.  It is possible to admire sports specialists without aspiring to be like them.  In CrossFit we embrace all athletic endeavours but refuse to sacrifice capacity in one domain for dominance in another.  Celebrating CrossFit does not require deriding other athletic pursuits.  It’s great to be excited about broad general physical preparedness but let’s not be arrogant about it!