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The cult of CrossFit The first rule of CrossFit club is talk about CrossFit club

CrossFitting alone. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

CrossFitting alone. (Al Bello/Getty Images)


August 23, 2023   4 mins

What’s the point of physical exercise? What’s the purpose of heaving, puffing and snorting your way around a gym three or four times a week? Personal health, obviously. The opportunity for competition at a demanding level of physical engagement too. But in a culture obsessed with appearance, exercise is increasingly seen as little more than a route to aesthetic perfection — a perfection designed not even for self-satisfaction, but to be deployed in competition with other aesthetically-perfect individuals.

It’s a tendency that no fitness company has reflected better than CrossFit. Once a branded fitness regimen combining different gymnastic and strength-training disciplines into a competitive community of leaderboards and point-scoring, the company has crystallised into a cult-like movement.

As someone with a lifelong interest in fitness, I was ripe for grooming and initiation, and duly became a dedicated member. And proselytiser, too: I helped expand the Panther CrossFit affiliate at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 and practised the CrossFit methodology for three years. While many criticise the programme — for its links to supposedly Right-leaning first responders, its internal issues with sexual harassment, or past controversial remarks by its former CEO concerning the BLM movement — these issues never bothered me during my years of practice; the entire fitness world leans Right. No, the simultaneous appeal and sickness of CrossFit lies deeper, beyond the headline controversies, reflecting an undying hunger for a slickly-marketed blend of fitness, community, and competition. It’s an obsessive, dogmatic programme that I ultimately couldn’t handle.

CrossFit has achieved one feat that many thought impossible: it motivated a multitude of women to embrace heavy lifting. Even though many often demonstrated unsafe or improper form, it persuaded both genders to experiment with Olympic lifts, deadlifts and squats. It highlighted the value of plyometrics, kettlebells, and standard circuit training. As strength coach Mark Rippetoe — himself a critic of CrossFit — aptly stated; “Since the invention of the equipment a hundred years ago, nothing has placed more hands on more barbells than CrossFit.”

However, a crucial distinction arises when one looks more carefully into CrossFit’s methodology. The programme, with its emphasis on “Workout of the Day” and techniques introduced in their certifications, can be categorised as exercise rather than training. At a fundamental level, exercise denotes physical activity undertaken for immediate outcomes, often limited to the workout session’s duration. In stark contrast, training is an orchestrated endeavour, meticulously designed for long-term goals. While training maps a well-planned route towards a future objective, CrossFit’s randomness, typified by time-bound, randomised, and often high-intensity sessions, fits snugly into the exercise bracket.

This scattered approach reflects a deeper issue with the programme which goes well beyond exercise praxis. When executed diligently, the CrossFit inductee’s life begins to revolve around CrossFit. Suddenly, their social media brims with CrossFit-centric images, their routines become unyieldingly anchored to its workouts, and to question the ordained methodology becomes borderline blasphemous. A poignant instance came when a friend experienced a catastrophic injury in a car crash due to not wearing a seatbelt. CrossFit, to its credit, produced a video highlighting his predicament to raise funds for his medical needs. Yet, it seemed almost reflexive for some in the video to attribute his survival to his CrossFit-honed fitness, overlooking the undeniable importance of basic safety measures.

Such an approach is symptomatic of CrossFit’s sales technique, of how it appeals to a world desperate to look good. It positions itself as a unique sanctuary, an oasis of elite fitness in an otherwise out-of-shape, indifferent, normie world. The plethora of CrossFit documentaries and the seemingly ceaseless surge in CrossFit-centric social media postings reveal an insular, almost narcissistic universe. Sure, showcasing routines in minimal attire may garner “likes” and comments — perhaps even “sponsorships” and a little money (always less than one thinks). But beyond the digital applause lies an unsettling truth. The exercises might not be groundbreaking, but they are elevated to an undeserved pedestal by a community reluctant to explore beyond and a company ultimately motivated by one thing.

As a business model, CrossFit resembles a pyramid scheme, with enthusiasts splurging on costly monthly affiliate memberships in the hopes of ascending to the elusive apex. The irony is stark: many top CrossFit athletes likely spend more than they earn, often on performance-enhancing drugs. The world of competitive CrossFit has experienced its fair share of doping scandals, with men and women constantly searching for loopholes in a system perennially playing catch-up. And the nature of the allegiance to CrossFit becomes evident when the workouts, which are ostensibly random, are treated as gospel, exactly the kind of reverence that leads to injuries.

The more enlightened trainees soon realise that there isn’t a singular path to fitness. CrossFit’s branding as “the sport of fitness” is almost cyclical: you train using CrossFit to excel at CrossFit. Unlike, say, baseball, where exercises enhance specific skills like pitching or running, CrossFit lacks a distinct endgame. The CrossFit Games are mere amplifications of standard routines, chosen for spectacle rather than substance. In an age dominated by digital personas, CrossFit provides an enticing avenue for social media optimisation, not physical contentment. It relies on constantly stimulating a demand for perpetual improvement, a demand born of perpetual feelings of inadequacy. It’s the process by which an interest can become an isolating dogma.

Two decades ago, Robert Putnam offered a prescient diagnosis of this sense of atomisation in his book Bowling Alone. He observed that while more Americans in the late-20th century were bowling, they were increasingly doing so not in leagues or teams, but on their own. Though most easily observed in sports clubs, it’s a tendency across Western societies, from Masonic lodges to trade unions. The associative networks we used to practise leisure in have been swept away by the tide of hyper-individualisation that has rushed across all of civic life.

CrossFit has updated and exacerbated this to a terrifying degree. In a world where community ties continue to fray, it creates a semblance of togetherness (at a hefty price) while actively pitting its participants against each other. Beneath all the surface camaraderie and personal pride lies a more solitary reality. This isn’t akin to community sports leagues of yesteryears, woven with continuity and local legends. It’s a dog-eat-dog competition to climb a rope, thrust a barbell into the air, and then row on a rowing machine rather than the open water. Not for achieving personal bests but for social media clout in the relentless race to determine who looks coolest while exercising.

Unfortunately, there’s no singular path to holistic health — not raw eggs, raw meat, SoulCycle, CrossFit, or any other smartly-marketed fad coming down the line in 2023. As we navigate the maze of modern fitness, here’s a golden opportunity to remember that diversifying our approach to health might not only protect us from injuries but also from the empty echo chambers that modern fitness cults, like CrossFit, can all too easily become. The world of fitness is vast, filled with myriad effective ways to train and grow. But it shouldn’t become a route to better social media posts, or reduced to a game that, years in, you forget why you started to play.


Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work

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Agnar Örn Arason
Agnar Örn Arason
9 months ago

As a middle aged man that has done crossfit for over 10 years I do not agree with this article at all. It seems Oliver has had some bad experiences with crossfit that probably explain his attitude towards it. It would probably be more informative if he went into that further.
Crossfit is only as competitive as you want it to be. Most people do not pay any attention to how others are doing. You are just focused on yourself.
All coaches that I have had encourage people to scale excercises to their ability and intruct people on how to perform workouts with proper form to minimize risk of injury. Still injuries happen but probably less than in many team sports.
As for it being looks obsessed, that is totally false in my experience. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of bodies that do it.
Crossfit is certainly a business but so are all other gyms. The difference is that Crossfit is a lot less boring than going to a regular gym.

David Ryan
David Ryan
9 months ago

Yes that’s pretty close to my own experience of crossfit. I don’t currently do it because of family commitments, but might try it again if an opportunity arises down the line.

David Ryan
David Ryan
9 months ago

Yes that’s pretty close to my own experience of crossfit. I don’t currently do it because of family commitments, but might try it again if an opportunity arises down the line.

Agnar Örn Arason
Agnar Örn Arason
9 months ago

As a middle aged man that has done crossfit for over 10 years I do not agree with this article at all. It seems Oliver has had some bad experiences with crossfit that probably explain his attitude towards it. It would probably be more informative if he went into that further.
Crossfit is only as competitive as you want it to be. Most people do not pay any attention to how others are doing. You are just focused on yourself.
All coaches that I have had encourage people to scale excercises to their ability and intruct people on how to perform workouts with proper form to minimize risk of injury. Still injuries happen but probably less than in many team sports.
As for it being looks obsessed, that is totally false in my experience. There are all kinds of people with all kinds of bodies that do it.
Crossfit is certainly a business but so are all other gyms. The difference is that Crossfit is a lot less boring than going to a regular gym.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

I’ve been working out with weights since the early 80s. My home gym consists of a multi-purpose bench, squat rack, leg machine, and a full variety of free weights, including barbells. I use them to keep fit. I was unaware there was a political component to this activity. It’s all so utterly boring, this shoehorning of politics into every d*mn thing.

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

Welcome to Critical Pedagogy!

David Ryan
David Ryan
9 months ago

Agreed. I did crossfit for a couple of years back in the mid 2010s, before I had kids. Three sessions a week every week. Not easy and I’m glad I did it. Ok they have a certain ideology when it comes to exercise and diet but I never felt it to be political. Anyway people should have enough sense to sidestep that stuff if it doesn’t suit them.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago

The covid period brought about a bizarre logic: a sedentary life of quarantine, take-away meals and addiction to the 24-hour news cycle became standard (and indeed was often modelled as ‘responsible’ behaviour), and those who value their own personal health and fitness were painted as the standard bearers of the alt-right. In fact becoming strong and fit is among the most altruistic things one can do during a pandemic (or at any other time). An individual who is generally healthy and resistant to illness eases the strain on the health service in two ways – they’re less likely to need medical care themselves and they’re also less likely to infect others around them.
I have a home gym set-up similar to yours and it’s my sanctuary. I think a lot of the opinion pieces that try to frame fitness (and strength in particular) as a political stance are in fact using the term ‘right wing’ as a proxy for ‘calm’ or ‘comfortable in oneself’.

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

Welcome to Critical Pedagogy!

David Ryan
David Ryan
9 months ago

Agreed. I did crossfit for a couple of years back in the mid 2010s, before I had kids. Three sessions a week every week. Not easy and I’m glad I did it. Ok they have a certain ideology when it comes to exercise and diet but I never felt it to be political. Anyway people should have enough sense to sidestep that stuff if it doesn’t suit them.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago

The covid period brought about a bizarre logic: a sedentary life of quarantine, take-away meals and addiction to the 24-hour news cycle became standard (and indeed was often modelled as ‘responsible’ behaviour), and those who value their own personal health and fitness were painted as the standard bearers of the alt-right. In fact becoming strong and fit is among the most altruistic things one can do during a pandemic (or at any other time). An individual who is generally healthy and resistant to illness eases the strain on the health service in two ways – they’re less likely to need medical care themselves and they’re also less likely to infect others around them.
I have a home gym set-up similar to yours and it’s my sanctuary. I think a lot of the opinion pieces that try to frame fitness (and strength in particular) as a political stance are in fact using the term ‘right wing’ as a proxy for ‘calm’ or ‘comfortable in oneself’.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

I’ve been working out with weights since the early 80s. My home gym consists of a multi-purpose bench, squat rack, leg machine, and a full variety of free weights, including barbells. I use them to keep fit. I was unaware there was a political component to this activity. It’s all so utterly boring, this shoehorning of politics into every d*mn thing.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

What’s the point of physical exercise?
What’s the point of anything? To while away the hours before the grave and the worm.

Sonny Ramadhin
Sonny Ramadhin
9 months ago

I am currently working on a project, about which someone remarked yesterday, “You should log your hours to avoid losing track of time”. I replied “The goal of life is to lose track of time”.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

I think you’re being overly optimistic. Never heard of competitive worming? It’s the new afterlife.

Adrian Clark
Adrian Clark
9 months ago

Entertainment is the Devil’s substitute for joy.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
8 months ago

To have as enjoyable a time as possible, and help other people do the same, before the grave and the worm (or, in my case, the ash and the urn).

Sonny Ramadhin
Sonny Ramadhin
9 months ago

I am currently working on a project, about which someone remarked yesterday, “You should log your hours to avoid losing track of time”. I replied “The goal of life is to lose track of time”.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago

I think you’re being overly optimistic. Never heard of competitive worming? It’s the new afterlife.

Adrian Clark
Adrian Clark
9 months ago

Entertainment is the Devil’s substitute for joy.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
8 months ago

To have as enjoyable a time as possible, and help other people do the same, before the grave and the worm (or, in my case, the ash and the urn).

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

What’s the point of physical exercise?
What’s the point of anything? To while away the hours before the grave and the worm.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
9 months ago

I get the impression that the author did not excel at this gym, and was perhaps a bit ostracized. The hand-wringing ensues.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

Me too. I think young Oliver may have had some unkind weight-related nicknames in his adolescence.

Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
9 months ago

I have noticed that often when people have no substantive response to issues raised, they attack the person who raised the issue.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Lorton

I’ll bet you’re a blast at parties. Like that, you mean? Am I doing it right?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Lewis Lorton

I’ll bet you’re a blast at parties. Like that, you mean? Am I doing it right?

Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
9 months ago

I have noticed that often when people have no substantive response to issues raised, they attack the person who raised the issue.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

I wouldn’t be so sure – he says he was an active part of expanding a CrossFit franchise so it seems like he bought into the cult for a while at least. Also Mr Bateman is a legitimate lifter – he regularly posts videos of himself deadlifting 600lbs+ for reps. So in that sense he has the credibility to talk frankly about training modalities in my opinion.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
8 months ago

600+ for reps is no freaking joke. “Internet lifters” tend to compare themselves to the champions, but it’s a better idea to compare yourself to other people at the gym who are of similar size and age.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
8 months ago

600+ for reps is no freaking joke. “Internet lifters” tend to compare themselves to the champions, but it’s a better idea to compare yourself to other people at the gym who are of similar size and age.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

Me too. I think young Oliver may have had some unkind weight-related nicknames in his adolescence.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Cho Jinn

I wouldn’t be so sure – he says he was an active part of expanding a CrossFit franchise so it seems like he bought into the cult for a while at least. Also Mr Bateman is a legitimate lifter – he regularly posts videos of himself deadlifting 600lbs+ for reps. So in that sense he has the credibility to talk frankly about training modalities in my opinion.

Cho Jinn
Cho Jinn
9 months ago

I get the impression that the author did not excel at this gym, and was perhaps a bit ostracized. The hand-wringing ensues.

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

There are some valid points here but the Author seems to be looking at everything through a lens of collective inclusion. As if each time a fit person engages in activity, they need to consider how it makes an unfit person feel.

Competition is normal and healthy. Its true that some people are driven by narcissistic desire for public affirmation but the idea that Crossfit is at the forefront of the problem is nonsense. Crossfit requires real work and sacrifice. There are many other forms of narcissistic attention seeking without the redeeming value that Crossfit brings.

Its very hard to look at any negative evaluation of crossfit and not see a tidal wave of resentment by people that wished they looked that way. So if we’re going to critique the earned narcissism of Crossfitters let’s also critique the unearned narcissism of most of the naysayers.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I read it more as a criticism of the cultish and sometimes exploitative nature of Crossfit – relying on paying members to spread the gospel, and operating essentially as an apparel and supplement promoter at this stage. I admire a lot of what Crossfit has done and I enjoy watching the bombastic documentaries that they produce, but (as has been pointed out several times by people more qualified than me) the best crossfitters in the world are mostly people who excelled at other sports and also excel at Crossfit as a result of their athleticism. They’re not examples of the effectiveness of the Crossfit approach to training.

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

I generally agree with that. I think we’re getting a little loose with the term Cult but I hear you. It’s a lifestyle fad. Out of all lifestyle fads, I just don’t find it to be a major source of cultural decay. At least it contains some redeeming values.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

That’s very true, there are plenty of legally available vices that will do harm to everyone involved. Crossfit may be something of a pyramid scheme but at least it still confers benefits to the people at the base of the pyramid.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

That’s very true, there are plenty of legally available vices that will do harm to everyone involved. Crossfit may be something of a pyramid scheme but at least it still confers benefits to the people at the base of the pyramid.

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

I generally agree with that. I think we’re getting a little loose with the term Cult but I hear you. It’s a lifestyle fad. Out of all lifestyle fads, I just don’t find it to be a major source of cultural decay. At least it contains some redeeming values.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

I read it more as a criticism of the cultish and sometimes exploitative nature of Crossfit – relying on paying members to spread the gospel, and operating essentially as an apparel and supplement promoter at this stage. I admire a lot of what Crossfit has done and I enjoy watching the bombastic documentaries that they produce, but (as has been pointed out several times by people more qualified than me) the best crossfitters in the world are mostly people who excelled at other sports and also excel at Crossfit as a result of their athleticism. They’re not examples of the effectiveness of the Crossfit approach to training.

T Bone
T Bone
9 months ago

There are some valid points here but the Author seems to be looking at everything through a lens of collective inclusion. As if each time a fit person engages in activity, they need to consider how it makes an unfit person feel.

Competition is normal and healthy. Its true that some people are driven by narcissistic desire for public affirmation but the idea that Crossfit is at the forefront of the problem is nonsense. Crossfit requires real work and sacrifice. There are many other forms of narcissistic attention seeking without the redeeming value that Crossfit brings.

Its very hard to look at any negative evaluation of crossfit and not see a tidal wave of resentment by people that wished they looked that way. So if we’re going to critique the earned narcissism of Crossfitters let’s also critique the unearned narcissism of most of the naysayers.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago

“What’s the point of exercise?”
I’m on blood pressure medication, and doing cardio and weights is both enjoyable and beneficial for my condition. I would also rather be fit and strong than not.

Last edited 9 months ago by Richard Craven
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago

“What’s the point of exercise?”
I’m on blood pressure medication, and doing cardio and weights is both enjoyable and beneficial for my condition. I would also rather be fit and strong than not.

Last edited 9 months ago by Richard Craven
Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
9 months ago

I have worked out in a gym several hours a week for 30 years. It has thought me discipline, focus, self confidence, and self control to say nothing of the benefits to my health and personal life. I would not have achieved much in any aspect of my life without it
 It’s also solitary but I like that very much. A time for me to focus on my goals and take a break from life’s complexities – I recommend it to anyone but this Cross Fit business sounds like too much of a good thing


Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I tried the gym, it wasn’t for me. I hate hard work and my own company, therefore sitting in the pub talking nonsense is much more up my alley. Also I don’t mean this as an insult to yourself, but I find most gym freaks to be horrendously dull, and many seem to want a toned body because they lack a personality

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Find a gym with middle-aged and older people just trying to stay fit and healthy.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

It bores me too much, unless I’m doing something else to distract me while running such as playing football I just can’t do it as I find it incredibly tedious

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

It bores me too much, unless I’m doing something else to distract me while running such as playing football I just can’t do it as I find it incredibly tedious

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I find most pub sots to be numbingly dim. See how that works?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago

You get to meet and talk to a wide cross section of society in the pub, all ages, jobs and backgrounds. It’s one of the few social institutions we’ve got left where that is the case

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well, BB, people who go to gyms for exercise are a cross-section of ages, jobs, and backgrounds, too. The same is true for people who knit, play golf, ski, do crossword puzzles, post in comment sections . . . Dismissing people who like to keep fit as “freaks” isn’t very social.
That said, not every British pub I’ve been in were filled with local bar stool philosophers eager for conversation. We went into one in Knightsbridge at 3:00 in the afternoon (it was run by an Aussie), and the only person there was a giant American sitting at the bar. Publican, Huge Guy, my husband, and I fell into conversation. Turns out, the American was an actor in London for a gig. Oh? sez I. Doing anything I might like to see? He asked, Are you familiar with “Les Miserables”? Yes,of course, I enthuse. Well, he sez, I‘m playing Jean Valjean.
He gave us free tickets for that evening – our last night in town – center loge. We went out with him and the actress playing Fantine after the show.
Tell you what: you go to a gym for a month and I’ll tell you about my encounter with Peter O’Toole.

Last edited 9 months ago by Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well, BB, people who go to gyms for exercise are a cross-section of ages, jobs, and backgrounds, too. The same is true for people who knit, play golf, ski, do crossword puzzles, post in comment sections . . . Dismissing people who like to keep fit as “freaks” isn’t very social.
That said, not every British pub I’ve been in were filled with local bar stool philosophers eager for conversation. We went into one in Knightsbridge at 3:00 in the afternoon (it was run by an Aussie), and the only person there was a giant American sitting at the bar. Publican, Huge Guy, my husband, and I fell into conversation. Turns out, the American was an actor in London for a gig. Oh? sez I. Doing anything I might like to see? He asked, Are you familiar with “Les Miserables”? Yes,of course, I enthuse. Well, he sez, I‘m playing Jean Valjean.
He gave us free tickets for that evening – our last night in town – center loge. We went out with him and the actress playing Fantine after the show.
Tell you what: you go to a gym for a month and I’ll tell you about my encounter with Peter O’Toole.

Last edited 9 months ago by Allison Barrows
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago

You get to meet and talk to a wide cross section of society in the pub, all ages, jobs and backgrounds. It’s one of the few social institutions we’ve got left where that is the case

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Take up an oriental martial art and study the country from which it came. Martial arts increases balance, coordination, reflexes, suppleness and grace as well as strength and stamina.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I did a bit of kickboxing as a kid, quite enjoyed it as I enjoyed the sparring a competition so it was easier to persevere with the fitness side of it. Just going to the gym however I’ve never been able to do, just exercising for its own sake bores me and I’ve never had the motivation to keep it up. I need something else to focus on such as playing football rather than just running

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Shaolin Temple Kung Fu or Wing Chun are martial arts which can be practised at different levels also with instructor and the alone. One train as much or as little as one wants, indoors or outdoors, and can vary it according to what else is happening in one’s life. There are other martial arts as well. Perhaps the most important aspect is quality of instruction. The instructor needs to be able to explain clearly, teach according to ability of student and explain their strengths and weaknesses. Understanding where the arts comes from helps to appreciate it and provides an insight into the past of a country.
What weight training does not do is teach people to move gracefully, under pressure, quickly over uneven surfaces.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Agreed on martial arts – I took up Jiu Jitsu a couple of years ago and can’t imagine not doing it now. The benefits are too many to name, and have reached into unexpected and seemingly unrelated parts of my life.
In defence of weight training, it may not teach us to move gracefully over uneven surfaces as you suggest, but (if done properly) it will provide some degree of insurance should a slip occur on that uneven surface. A hip/knee/ankle that has been trained under load will respond better to unexpected stressors than a hip/knee/ankle that has not been trained under load. Weight training and martial arts can coexist in harmony as long as the intention behind each practice is consistent.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

I lost a book written by The Abbot on Shaolin Training and the more advanced uses weights such as iron rings on wrists and ankles. Then there is Iron Shirt.
What Buddhist training achieves is increase in strength, power, agility and suppleness without increasing bulk and overcome with pain; perhaps something snowflakes could learn?
The Ultimate Shaolin Routine | SHAOLIN MASTER – YouTube

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago

I lost a book written by The Abbot on Shaolin Training and the more advanced uses weights such as iron rings on wrists and ankles. Then there is Iron Shirt.
What Buddhist training achieves is increase in strength, power, agility and suppleness without increasing bulk and overcome with pain; perhaps something snowflakes could learn?
The Ultimate Shaolin Routine | SHAOLIN MASTER – YouTube

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Agreed on martial arts – I took up Jiu Jitsu a couple of years ago and can’t imagine not doing it now. The benefits are too many to name, and have reached into unexpected and seemingly unrelated parts of my life.
In defence of weight training, it may not teach us to move gracefully over uneven surfaces as you suggest, but (if done properly) it will provide some degree of insurance should a slip occur on that uneven surface. A hip/knee/ankle that has been trained under load will respond better to unexpected stressors than a hip/knee/ankle that has not been trained under load. Weight training and martial arts can coexist in harmony as long as the intention behind each practice is consistent.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Shaolin Temple Kung Fu or Wing Chun are martial arts which can be practised at different levels also with instructor and the alone. One train as much or as little as one wants, indoors or outdoors, and can vary it according to what else is happening in one’s life. There are other martial arts as well. Perhaps the most important aspect is quality of instruction. The instructor needs to be able to explain clearly, teach according to ability of student and explain their strengths and weaknesses. Understanding where the arts comes from helps to appreciate it and provides an insight into the past of a country.
What weight training does not do is teach people to move gracefully, under pressure, quickly over uneven surfaces.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I did a bit of kickboxing as a kid, quite enjoyed it as I enjoyed the sparring a competition so it was easier to persevere with the fitness side of it. Just going to the gym however I’ve never been able to do, just exercising for its own sake bores me and I’ve never had the motivation to keep it up. I need something else to focus on such as playing football rather than just running

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, talking to super-fit people in a gym as a newcomer is probably a bit like talking to seasoned pissheads in the pub when you’re sober. Hard to see what they get out of it until you’ve lived that life…

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago

At least with the pissheads you get some funny stories though

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Haha, true.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Haha, true.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago

At least with the pissheads you get some funny stories though

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Find a gym with middle-aged and older people just trying to stay fit and healthy.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I find most pub sots to be numbingly dim. See how that works?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Take up an oriental martial art and study the country from which it came. Martial arts increases balance, coordination, reflexes, suppleness and grace as well as strength and stamina.

Jimminy Timminy
Jimminy Timminy
9 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, talking to super-fit people in a gym as a newcomer is probably a bit like talking to seasoned pissheads in the pub when you’re sober. Hard to see what they get out of it until you’ve lived that life…

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sylvestre

I tried the gym, it wasn’t for me. I hate hard work and my own company, therefore sitting in the pub talking nonsense is much more up my alley. Also I don’t mean this as an insult to yourself, but I find most gym freaks to be horrendously dull, and many seem to want a toned body because they lack a personality

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
9 months ago

I have worked out in a gym several hours a week for 30 years. It has thought me discipline, focus, self confidence, and self control to say nothing of the benefits to my health and personal life. I would not have achieved much in any aspect of my life without it
 It’s also solitary but I like that very much. A time for me to focus on my goals and take a break from life’s complexities – I recommend it to anyone but this Cross Fit business sounds like too much of a good thing


Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
9 months ago

Bateman joined CrossFit in 2008 and was there for three years, he says. That’s a shallow basis for saying anything about what CrossFit is NOW, as anyone currently active can attest. It’s evolved a lot.
I’m in a gym that was affiliated with CrossFit for the first several years I was there, but is now an independent small business, for lots of reasons. I like it even better now, and there are certainly problems with CrossFit. But this piece is just wrong on multiple levels, if my experience is any indication.
CrossFit gym cultures quite a bit. The founders were libertarians and the individual boxes reflect that philosophy, to some extent. Visit the gym and see, I tell people. 
“Even though many often demonstrated unsafe or improper form, [CrossFit] persuaded both genders to experiment with Olympic lifts, deadlifts and squats.” 
You can find “CrossFit sucks” videos online that supposedly illustrate bad practices, supposedly in CrossFit gyms. Not my experience. I’ve been in several CrossFit gyms in several states and generally been impressed with their attentiveness and professionalism in this regard. 
“While training maps a well-planned route towards a future objective, CrossFit’s randomness, typified by time-bound, randomised, and often high-intensity sessions, fits snugly into the exercise bracket.” 
Yes. But mostly no. 
First, no CrossFit gym is required to follow the daily workout schedule from CrossFit headquarters, and many don’t. Second, even those workouts are not “random.” They do not follow a training schedule, true, and they vary. But they intentionally cover a wide range of movements over any given period, because gym members’ schedules put them in the gym at “random” (in the same sense) intervals. 
And here’s what counts: Even when I started, seven years ago, and could only do two classes a week, I saw REMARKABLE improvement. Was it the same result as if I’d followed a personalized training plan? No. But that’s not what I was there for. I just wanted to get better, at all of it, and I did. When I got to three classes a week, I saw more improvement. I’m 65 now. I’m doing stuff that I never thought possible. 
“When executed diligently, the CrossFit inductee’s life begins to revolve around CrossFit.” 
You lost self-identity, your personal agency? Just who were you hanging with?
“Suddenly, their social media brims with CrossFit-centric images, their routines become unyieldingly anchored to its workouts, and to question the ordained methodology becomes borderline blasphemous.” 
Dude, sounds like didn’t have a life. And you needed to get off social media. 
“The irony is stark: many top CrossFit athletes likely spend more than they earn, often on performance-enhancing drugs.”
Whoa! Wait. What? What kinda gym were you helping to run!? 
And how many CrossFit athletes are even TRYING to earn anything, financially? Competitors in the CrossFit Games—which, by the way, is not even the same organization, as I understand it—are a tiny fraction of the general membership. It’s a professional sport, the top competitors are all full-time. They are NOT doing regular CrossFit. 
“You train using CrossFit to excel at CrossFit. Unlike, say, baseball, where exercises enhance specific skills like pitching or running, CrossFit lacks a distinct endgame.”
No, dude, CrossFit is exactly like baseball, in that.  At the local level, it’s a game for its own sake, with many separate skills. Like baseball. 
“This isn’t akin to community sports leagues of yesteryears, woven with continuity and local legends.”
No? My gym is. It’s cordial, fun, encouraging. It’s a place where “everyone knows your name.” It’s been a really good thing for my wife and me.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
9 months ago

Bateman joined CrossFit in 2008 and was there for three years, he says. That’s a shallow basis for saying anything about what CrossFit is NOW, as anyone currently active can attest. It’s evolved a lot.
I’m in a gym that was affiliated with CrossFit for the first several years I was there, but is now an independent small business, for lots of reasons. I like it even better now, and there are certainly problems with CrossFit. But this piece is just wrong on multiple levels, if my experience is any indication.
CrossFit gym cultures quite a bit. The founders were libertarians and the individual boxes reflect that philosophy, to some extent. Visit the gym and see, I tell people. 
“Even though many often demonstrated unsafe or improper form, [CrossFit] persuaded both genders to experiment with Olympic lifts, deadlifts and squats.” 
You can find “CrossFit sucks” videos online that supposedly illustrate bad practices, supposedly in CrossFit gyms. Not my experience. I’ve been in several CrossFit gyms in several states and generally been impressed with their attentiveness and professionalism in this regard. 
“While training maps a well-planned route towards a future objective, CrossFit’s randomness, typified by time-bound, randomised, and often high-intensity sessions, fits snugly into the exercise bracket.” 
Yes. But mostly no. 
First, no CrossFit gym is required to follow the daily workout schedule from CrossFit headquarters, and many don’t. Second, even those workouts are not “random.” They do not follow a training schedule, true, and they vary. But they intentionally cover a wide range of movements over any given period, because gym members’ schedules put them in the gym at “random” (in the same sense) intervals. 
And here’s what counts: Even when I started, seven years ago, and could only do two classes a week, I saw REMARKABLE improvement. Was it the same result as if I’d followed a personalized training plan? No. But that’s not what I was there for. I just wanted to get better, at all of it, and I did. When I got to three classes a week, I saw more improvement. I’m 65 now. I’m doing stuff that I never thought possible. 
“When executed diligently, the CrossFit inductee’s life begins to revolve around CrossFit.” 
You lost self-identity, your personal agency? Just who were you hanging with?
“Suddenly, their social media brims with CrossFit-centric images, their routines become unyieldingly anchored to its workouts, and to question the ordained methodology becomes borderline blasphemous.” 
Dude, sounds like didn’t have a life. And you needed to get off social media. 
“The irony is stark: many top CrossFit athletes likely spend more than they earn, often on performance-enhancing drugs.”
Whoa! Wait. What? What kinda gym were you helping to run!? 
And how many CrossFit athletes are even TRYING to earn anything, financially? Competitors in the CrossFit Games—which, by the way, is not even the same organization, as I understand it—are a tiny fraction of the general membership. It’s a professional sport, the top competitors are all full-time. They are NOT doing regular CrossFit. 
“You train using CrossFit to excel at CrossFit. Unlike, say, baseball, where exercises enhance specific skills like pitching or running, CrossFit lacks a distinct endgame.”
No, dude, CrossFit is exactly like baseball, in that.  At the local level, it’s a game for its own sake, with many separate skills. Like baseball. 
“This isn’t akin to community sports leagues of yesteryears, woven with continuity and local legends.”
No? My gym is. It’s cordial, fun, encouraging. It’s a place where “everyone knows your name.” It’s been a really good thing for my wife and me.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
9 months ago

Not an article I would expect on UnHerd. There are valid criticisms of CrossFit. This just sounds like a whiny 98-lb weakling angry that some people like getting big and buff.
As a doc who has done a lot of physical activity promotion, I would encourage people to discard everything Oliver has said.
Why do PA? It is anti-depressive. It creates community connections. It increases your quality of life. It likely increases your length of life (if you’re into that). Fit people “live until they die” – ie they are less likely to spend the last 8 years of their life in a nursing home and more likely to spend it gardening. It burns calories and lets you have that evening beer without guilt or weight-gain. It teaches perseverance, teamwork, and competition. I could go on…
If more of my patients did CrossFit (or whatever floats their boat) I would be much less busy looking after chronic illnesses.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
9 months ago

Not an article I would expect on UnHerd. There are valid criticisms of CrossFit. This just sounds like a whiny 98-lb weakling angry that some people like getting big and buff.
As a doc who has done a lot of physical activity promotion, I would encourage people to discard everything Oliver has said.
Why do PA? It is anti-depressive. It creates community connections. It increases your quality of life. It likely increases your length of life (if you’re into that). Fit people “live until they die” – ie they are less likely to spend the last 8 years of their life in a nursing home and more likely to spend it gardening. It burns calories and lets you have that evening beer without guilt or weight-gain. It teaches perseverance, teamwork, and competition. I could go on…
If more of my patients did CrossFit (or whatever floats their boat) I would be much less busy looking after chronic illnesses.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
9 months ago

I generally think to each their own, whatever gets you going – particularly when it comes to exercise. It’s more important to find something you enjoy than to force yourself to do it. I love dancing, so doing my silly online dance workouts isn’t something I have to discipline myself to do – I love it, and really miss it on the odd day I don’t have time. Enjoyment, not force, is how you keep consistency.
That said – how someone can truly enjoy extremes like screaming while flipping a giant tire has always been lost on me. Also, I’ve always suspected that any exercise you become obsessed with so much that your whole life revolves around it isn’t really healthy, from a big picture perspective.
All that to say – I guess the CrossFit experience is exactly what I always suspected it to be, based on this article.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mustard Clementine
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

That said – how someone can truly enjoy extremes like screaming while flipping a giant tire has always been lost on me. 
I imagine it’s quite cathartic for many people, particularly those who have been wronged by giant tires.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago

You gotta stick it to Big Tyre, man.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

Amen.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

Amen.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
9 months ago

You gotta stick it to Big Tyre, man.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

That said – how someone can truly enjoy extremes like screaming while flipping a giant tire has always been lost on me. 
I imagine it’s quite cathartic for many people, particularly those who have been wronged by giant tires.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
9 months ago

I generally think to each their own, whatever gets you going – particularly when it comes to exercise. It’s more important to find something you enjoy than to force yourself to do it. I love dancing, so doing my silly online dance workouts isn’t something I have to discipline myself to do – I love it, and really miss it on the odd day I don’t have time. Enjoyment, not force, is how you keep consistency.
That said – how someone can truly enjoy extremes like screaming while flipping a giant tire has always been lost on me. Also, I’ve always suspected that any exercise you become obsessed with so much that your whole life revolves around it isn’t really healthy, from a big picture perspective.
All that to say – I guess the CrossFit experience is exactly what I always suspected it to be, based on this article.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mustard Clementine
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago

Where do I sign up?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago

Where do I sign up?

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Not a clue about CrossFit – think more a US thing, but the ”…creates a semblance of togetherness (at a hefty price) …beneath all the surface camaraderie and personal pride lies a more solitary reality…isn’t akin to community sports leagues of yesteryears” feels not dis-similar to Strava – any UnHerd readers use that for running/cycling?
Whilst it’s a fantastic platform I do suspect it’s also aided the atomisation of clubs that used to provide outlets for these activities, and you lose something in that. The physical activity itself is only a part of the benefit from feeling part of a community sharing an interest, and relationships in three dimensions remain what we were designed for.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Isn’t Strava the one serial killers use ?

mattyslinger
mattyslinger
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Strava is great if you keep everything private as tracking your progress works well and is very useful. However when you delve in to the more social media side such as following people, you run in to the same issues of peacocking and/or feeling bad about yourself that one gets on all other social platforms. These days my rides are my business alone.
I actually think that it may have helped clubs though, as if you are into that sort of thing (god forbid) it does enable you to keep tabs on people and generates a forum that’s outside of the Sunday ride leading to a greater sense of “team”. Overall a great app depending on how you use it.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago
Reply to  mattyslinger

Yes I generally agree and it is good. I use it but on private settings too and my kids similar.
But I’m old enough to remember a Club night – both for running and cycling, where we’d chat about what we’ve done, what we plan to do, plus other stuff, welcome new members, over a cup of tea, etc. Everything seems on line now and think a bit lost in that. I’m showing my age I’m sure.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago
Reply to  mattyslinger

Yes I generally agree and it is good. I use it but on private settings too and my kids similar.
But I’m old enough to remember a Club night – both for running and cycling, where we’d chat about what we’ve done, what we plan to do, plus other stuff, welcome new members, over a cup of tea, etc. Everything seems on line now and think a bit lost in that. I’m showing my age I’m sure.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Isn’t Strava the one serial killers use ?

mattyslinger
mattyslinger
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Strava is great if you keep everything private as tracking your progress works well and is very useful. However when you delve in to the more social media side such as following people, you run in to the same issues of peacocking and/or feeling bad about yourself that one gets on all other social platforms. These days my rides are my business alone.
I actually think that it may have helped clubs though, as if you are into that sort of thing (god forbid) it does enable you to keep tabs on people and generates a forum that’s outside of the Sunday ride leading to a greater sense of “team”. Overall a great app depending on how you use it.

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

Not a clue about CrossFit – think more a US thing, but the ”…creates a semblance of togetherness (at a hefty price) …beneath all the surface camaraderie and personal pride lies a more solitary reality…isn’t akin to community sports leagues of yesteryears” feels not dis-similar to Strava – any UnHerd readers use that for running/cycling?
Whilst it’s a fantastic platform I do suspect it’s also aided the atomisation of clubs that used to provide outlets for these activities, and you lose something in that. The physical activity itself is only a part of the benefit from feeling part of a community sharing an interest, and relationships in three dimensions remain what we were designed for.

Graham Willis
Graham Willis
9 months ago

Never herd of it. I’ll stick to golf.

Graham Willis
Graham Willis
9 months ago

Never herd of it. I’ll stick to golf.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

I think these things are great. Looking from the outside, it’s really interesting.
They look at each other, they look like each other, they reach out to each other . . . on how they can look more at each other, and get more of each other to look more like each other, and reach out even more to each other . . .

That’s what The Singularity is, isn’t it?

Last edited 9 months ago by Dumetrius
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

I think these things are great. Looking from the outside, it’s really interesting.
They look at each other, they look like each other, they reach out to each other . . . on how they can look more at each other, and get more of each other to look more like each other, and reach out even more to each other . . .

That’s what The Singularity is, isn’t it?

Last edited 9 months ago by Dumetrius
Michel Starenky
Michel Starenky
9 months ago

Poor lost puppies.

Michel Starenky
Michel Starenky
9 months ago

Poor lost puppies.

mattyslinger
mattyslinger
9 months ago

Unfortunately my feeling is that it’s staffed by unqualified people or those who are so far past the beginner stage that they have forgotten the physical state that a beginner is in. I tried it once for a demo session where they had me stretch some muscles by pushing a broom handle over my head and backwards down my back. Upon doing so I immediately lost all feeling in my left arm and couldn’t hold anything for over 2 weeks. Not a great experience and needless to say I never went back. If you told me that numerous people had injured themselves irrevocably it wouldn’t surprise me.

mattyslinger
mattyslinger
9 months ago

Unfortunately my feeling is that it’s staffed by unqualified people or those who are so far past the beginner stage that they have forgotten the physical state that a beginner is in. I tried it once for a demo session where they had me stretch some muscles by pushing a broom handle over my head and backwards down my back. Upon doing so I immediately lost all feeling in my left arm and couldn’t hold anything for over 2 weeks. Not a great experience and needless to say I never went back. If you told me that numerous people had injured themselves irrevocably it wouldn’t surprise me.