The first rule of Crossfit is…always talk about Crossfit. The second rule of Crossfit is…ALWAYS talk about Crossfit. It seems everyone on my social media newsfeed is posting something about this type of exercise (read: cult). People hate Crossfit or love Crossfit, but rarely are they indifferent about it. So why does it have such a huge following? Are Crossfitters really as crazy and obsessed as they seem? What does Crossfit mean to the pencil pushing, conference calling, cubicle warriors like you and me? I’ll dive into these questions and more, but first, let me offer a disclaimer. I am one of those crazy, obsessive fad-following athletes known as a Crossfitter.
The Rise of Crossfit
As you probably know by now, Crossfit is a workout program that focuses on functional movements, strength, and agility. The sport combines weightlifting, gymnastics, plyometric movements, and cardio. Crossfit basically started off as a hipster indie-folk band. Barely anyone knew about the exercise program, and most practicing Crossfitters were working out in “underground” clubs and gyms. The sport was especially popular with military personnel, serving both at home and overseas, because of the emphasis on functional movements and the reliance on readily available equipment as opposed to large, bulky machines. But that was then, and this is now. In 2009, there were about 1,000 Crossfit affiliate gyms located worldwide. By 2012, the number of gyms jumped to more than 5,000, and the number of facilities opened has doubled every two years. So what happened? Well, representatives from Crossfit Headquarters claim the exponential growth is due to the Internet and social media. This totally makes sense and explains why your newsfeed is inundated with obsessive freaks like myself posting about our “WODs,” “Boxes,” or “Paleo this or that.” You see, the rise and emphasis of social media helped spread the word about this new fitness routine like wildfire. If you think about it, outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others have made a tremendous impact on the diffusion of information relating to social awareness, trends, news, gossip, or political events. Why should a new exercise trend be any different?
The Crossfit “Cult”
The big difference between Crossfit and many other fitness activities lies in those who practice the sport. From the outside world, it seems like Crossfitters are crazy, obsessed, and a little brainwashed. I can assure you that not all of us are. Like any other hobby or activity, there are those who believe in moderation and those who come off as extremists. Unfortunately, those participating in moderation rarely catch people’s attention, so outsiders only see the freaks who cannot look beyond the barbells and medicine balls. The sport is filled with athletes of all ages, genders, shapes, sizes, and ability levels. Some people participate in Crossfit because they want to get into shape, some love the competition and see it as a sport, and others see it as a hobby they can participate in to get themselves out of a rut. This is why Crossfit is so popular. Because the sport can literally be for everyone, Crossfit is the SUV of the fitness world. No, we don’t all constantly post Instagram pictures of our Paleo meals, and we don’t all brag about our workouts in a daily Facebook status. I am truly sorry if you have friends who do engage in those practices.
Why Crossfit Matters
I personally believe that Crossfit is the perfect activity for postgrads for several reasons. First and foremost, you’re not 20 anymore. At some point, your metabolism is going to slow down, and the beers you pound on the weekends to make you feel a little better about your miserable job will eventually catch up with you. Crossfit is a great way to get (and stay) in shape. You probably don’t have a lot of free time, but Crossfit doesn’t take a lot of time. Most gyms offer classes that are 60 minutes long. If you do these classes a few times a week, you will see and feel the results in no time.
Finally, your life probably sucks right now. Sorry, but let’s be honest with each other here. You traded in a four year vacation at some resort disguised as a higher learning institution for what? For this? You are the first one in the office and the last one to leave. You work from home and you work weekends. You have a cubicle with a view of the hallway and access to the office pot of the crappiest coffee money can buy. Crossfit offers an escape from all of that, for an hour a day. Human beings were not created to sit behind a small desk in a quarantined area while monitoring a white screen for eight hours a day. You have the opportunity to be active, lift heavy things like a badass, and not look like the overweight single 40-year-old who sits behind you. But probably the most valuable thing that Crossfit offers is the sense of community. The people you work out with will become your friends, and you will look forward to seeing them in the gym. The community offers a supportive environment where people genuinely care about each others’ progress and wellbeing. Often times, athletes feel the members of their gym are like a second family, and the facility becomes a second home. This is especially important in this day and age.
In her article, Eleanor Brown explains how in the past, it was quite common for adults to have “third places” locations where they should spend time outside of their workplaces and homes. These “third places” often took the form of bookstores, cafes, and pubs. However, over the years, many of these places have failed to sustain themselves as third homes. Brown states that Crossfit gyms may be recreating the phenomenon of third places–the result is a person who feels more socially connected to others and his or her community.
After college is over, you and your friends probably parted ways for career reasons. Now you’re in a new location where the only people you have to hang out with are the ones you met at work. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually hang out with people you like, and people you get to choose to associate with? Plus, you get the added benefit of escaping all things work-related for a while.