Sam Parker discovered CrossFit in 2008 while he was still in the military, and this immersion into the world of CrossFit ultimately led him to own his own gym in Grand Rapids. Today, Sam’s CrossFit Grand Rapids occupies a 5,500 square foot warehouse just outside of the big city in Wyoming.
As a seasoned veteran of CrossFit, Sam has watched the evolution of CrossFit from a niche workout movement to a mainstream fitness phenomenon, and he has certainly heard all of the criticisms that have materialized along the way. As such, he has presented us with five things he thinks everyone should know about CrossFit, particularly if you’re curious about it, or if you’re on the fence about whether or not you’d like to try it.
1. You shouldn't be intimidated by CrossFit.
Even for seasoned athletes and exercisers, CrossFit facilities can be intimidating. The sounds of weights being dropped, the sight of long ropes being whipped around and the hum of Concept2 rowing machines can be a little unnerving to people accustomed to the circuit training rooms of mainstream gyms. Sam understands this feeling from the uninitiated, but he insists that rookie CrossFitters have nothing to be afraid of.
“Any time you try anything new or go outside of your comfort zone, there is always going to be some trepidation that goes along with that,” Sam explained. “People don’t want to try CrossFit because they don’t think they’re in good shape. Sometimes they walk in and people are dropping weight and the music is pumping, and they get the deer-in-the-headlights look. If you can get someone in the door, you can get them to try it and realize we’re just average everyday people that just chose to do this fitness program. Once you get people in the door, they like it most of the time, even if they’re men and women in their 60s.”
2. CrossFit will make you a well-rounded athlete.
Specialized athletes like football players, hockey players, swimmers and runners are used to their standard training protocols, and they might have a tendency to be dismissive of CrossFit programs that include exercises that aren’t particularly sports specific. While Sam concedes that there is some non-specificity to CrossFit programs when compared with other sports, he views this as a positive rather than a negative.
“CrossFit’s value to athletes is that it helps the athletes to be well rounded,” Sam said. “CrossFitters are able to do gymnastics movements, they’re able to do weightlifting movements and they’re able to run. They also have spatial awareness and they’re able to use their bodies. They’re able to do everything pretty well and they have a basic level of strength and athleticism in all areas.”
3. CrossFit can be your next favorite sport.
What started as a training revolution has evolved into a full-blown sport, and CrossFit now has its own events for crowning regional and world champions. Thanks to this transformation of training tactics into a recognized sport, Sam has watched many athletes make the transition from traditional sports to CrossFit, and they’ve come to the gym looking for a new sporting realm in which to compete.
“A lot of college athletes that finish their careers are looking to continue that competitive nature that they had an outlet for in the sport they played, and crossfit is the new competitive outlet for them,” Sam said. “We do get a chunk of people that are in good shape that come to CrossFit because they’re competitive. It was never intended to be a sport, but it’s measurable and controllable like a sport, and the idea of the CrossFit Games as a sport just evolved into what it is today.”
4. CrossFit gyms are a unique fitness world.
Because of the uniqueness and non-traditional setup of CrossFit gyms, some folks are scared away. On the flipside, others are attracted to the community-forming nature of the CrossFit regimen and the sense of belonging to a unique group of fitness enthusiasts. Sam has come across many CrossFitters that didn’t seem to fit in with a typical fitness setting, but something clicked for them the first time they set foot in a CrossFit facility.
“Most people that are attracted to CrossFit have tried the mainstream gyms like the YMCAs and the Snap Fitness-type gyms, and it’s just not for them,” Sam explained. “They find us when they’re doing the New Year’s resolution thing or when they’re struggling to find time to work out on their own, and they’re drawn in by the community. It attracts more type A people because it’s not easy and it takes a while to kind of get good at it, so the people that stick with it are usually pretty resilient.”
5. CrossFit is only dangerous if you make it dangerous.
Perhaps the most oft-repeated criticism of CrossFit is it contributes to a high number of injuries due to both the number of repetitions involved in the workouts and the highly technical nature of many of the CrossFit lifts. When injuries occur, almost invariably, CrossFit itself is blamed. While Sam admits that some of the criticism has been warranted at times, the truth is that most injuries are avoidable, and CrossFit is no more dangerous than any other form of strenuous exercise.
“That’s the job of the coach or the owners of the individual gyms to make sure their athletes and members are doing the exercises correctly,” Sam insisted. “Those criticisms were valid when CrossFit came on the scene in 2008 and 2009, but training for the certifications has pushed toward making the trainers more professional and understanding what they need to do. Injuries happen, but more injuries have happened to my members outside of the gym than in the gym. With any athletic endeavor there’s risk, and we try to mitigate that risk as much as possible. We don’t just try to push a ton of weight on people that can’t handle it. We don’t want them to get injured; we want them to stick around.”
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