Why I Attacked My Wife Last Weekend

With a baby on the way, my wife and I decided it was about time we got a security system for our home. This wasn’t the result of some alarming incident or deep-seated suspicion, we just wanted something to keep our relatively few valuables (a Care Bear collection and various snow globes) safe for when we’re out of the house at work or shopping, nothing too fancy. Unless of course you’re a tech-savvy burglar browsing the Internet for easy targets… In which case I’d like to disclose that we’ve hired our neighbor’s 8-year-old son as head of security.

I hope you like paint cans motherf*cker.

And he works holidays.

During a conversation with a security salesman at our house, he had an interesting bit of advice for us, “If someone knocks on the door while you’re at home and you don’t recognize them, don’t open the door. But, and this is the important part, make sure to answer through the door and let them know you’re home. Tell them you’re not interested, or that your husband’s asleep after his MMA workout, whatever. Just make sure they know the house isn’t empty. Nefarious characters tend to prefer easy targets, and an empty home is an easy target. Surprising a robber with your presence can turn a bad situation into a terrible situation.”

After the salesman had left, his advice got my wife and I talking. Now, I’m not unreasonably paranoid… I’ll eat a gummy bear well after the five second rule, my first reaction is never to call customer service, and being involved in an assault or robbery strikes me as a highly improbable event. While I understand the likelihood of being the victim of violence certainly exists, it isn’t something that concerns me on an hourly basis.

That this company has three managers for every customer service agent is pretty concerning.

That this company has three managers for every customer service agent is pretty concerning however.

Nonetheless, talk of home invasion got the ugly “what if” questions going… What would my wife do if someone decided to break in while she was home alone? What would she do if she were attacked? What would she do in the event of a sexual assault? As a husband (and not exclusively as a husband) it was a pretty terrifying conversation to have… Especially when the answer to the questions ranged from “I have no idea” to the equally frightening “Nothing.” She’d pretty much just come to the conclusion that as a female, there was basically nothing she could do in the case of violence. My wife, who spends 4-5 days a week at a CrossFit gym getting stronger, faster, and more powerful had pretty much resigned herself to “just kind of submit and hope for the best” in case of assault. The vastly more horrible part was that deep down, I basically agreed that she was powerless should she find herself in a violent situation.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that an opportunity to attend a course by the name of CrossFit Defense cropped up close to home. I had seen the course’s creator, Tony Blauer, in a video describing how to avoid getting mugged at an ATM about 8 months earlier after it had popped up in my Facebook feed. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend taking a gander. As a violence averse citizen, it was nice to see a defense expert talk about how to avoid conflict rather than how to five finger death punch an assailant once it’s taken place. At the risk of sounding not very heroic, I’d really prefer to go through life never having to punch or kick my way out of a situation.

Perhaps the one exception.

Perhaps the one exception.

While it was obvious after our conversation that there was plenty of benefit to be gained by attending a personal defense course, my wife and I were still hesitant to pull the trigger. After some conversations at our gym, we found that many of the misgivings we were rolling around were voiced by several of our friends as well. While there was no absence of opinions on the value (or lack of value) we’d get out of CrossFit Defense, there was no actual first person experiences to draw from. That sounded like an opportunity.

So after signing up and attending the CrossFit Defense course, I thought I’d share some of the reservations I had before the course and how I feel about them now after having participated in the program.

1. My wife is a tiny person incapable of defending herself against a stronger male, so why bother?

This, embarrassingly enough, was my actual assessment of my wife’s defensive abilities before attending CrossFit Defense.

Towards the end of the first day, all of the students partnered up for the “Outside 90 Drill,” it’s based on the instinctual flinch you make when someone enters your personal space unannounced… You use your arm to create a space between you and an attacker.

Being the socially inept hermit I am, I asked my wife to partner up. For reference, I’m 5’9″ and 190 pounds. I have a 205 pound shoulder press, I can open almost every jar in my house (the vanilla extract being the one exception), and I can pretty much grab both of my wife’s wrists with a single brutish paw.

My wife on the other hand, weighs about 120 pounds and hits 5’3″ on a warm day. She can almost reach the top shelf of our medicine cabinet and still asks me to get rid of crickets that find their way into our house. Did I mention she’s pregnant? She’s also pregnant.

And feathers. She's made of feathers.

And feathers. She’s made of feathers.

The purpose of the drill was for the defender (my wife) to keep the attacker (me) at arm’s length. I decided far in advance that I’d be attacking with just 10% of my normal ferocity, I didn’t want to hurt my wife or spawn. So I lunged… And she kept me at bay. Quite easily I might add. So I tried to pull her in a bit harder… And she still didn’t budge. It was at this point that I realized in order to break the space she’d created, I’d have to actually try. So I did. Then I tried harder. And harder. And harder.

When Coach Blauer finally told us to switch, I still hadn’t made any progress. I wasn’t assaulting her with the gentle pressure of a husband, I was trying with every ounce of my being to get this woman into a bear hug and I simply couldn’t get any closer. My wife, who screams and runs out of the bathroom when she sees a moth, was able to hold at bay a pretty fit dude that outweighed her by 70 pounds.

The biggest benefit I saw that day wasn’t that my wife learned how to properly execute the “Outside 90 Drill,” it was the realization that she was fully capable of fending off an attacker should god-forbid that day ever come. The decision to fight, to scream, to kick, punch, scratch, to defend yourself could be the difference between being the victim of an attack and being the victim of an attempted attack. The first day of CrossFit Defense, my wife gained the confidence to not allow herself to be an easy target. To me, that experience was beyond value.

But while the drills were awesome exposure to new defensive postures…

2. Two days of punching a medicine ball sounds like something exclusively enjoyed by a 12-year-old.

Based on the videos I’d seen on YouTube and my general preconceptions, I assumed CrossFit Defense was going to be a two-minute lecture followed by hours of holding medicine balls like speed bags and worrying about getting a haymaker in the mouth.

Which, and I can't stress this enough, was basically my childhood dream.

Which, and I can’t stress this enough, was basically my childhood dream.

To my surprise, on the first day of the seminar we didn’t perform any physical drills until six hours in. This wasn’t because Coach Blauer needed to diagram where our fist should land during a falcon punch or the proper body position during Randy Savage’s elbow drop. He used this time to discuss defense in a way that we don’t normally consider it. Whereas I usually think of self-defense as stopping a punch with my teeth, Tony would claim I’ve already skipped over two steps, detect and defuse.

That two-thirds of self-defense is being aware and defusing potential risks was in itself a pretty mind-blowing concept, despite it seeming incredibly obvious. “Detect” wasn’t just looking over your shoulder as you walked up to the ATM… It was not getting on your phone to check Facebook immediately after getting into your car. It was paying attention to that little voice in your head when something doesn’t feel right and acting on it (even if you feel stupid or embarrassed afterwards). It was, as Coach Blauer phrased it, “choosing safety over everything.”

I know... It's far less catchy.

He’s basically the Drake of Personal Defense.

It wasn’t six hours of lecture based on paranoia and scaring the audience. It was learning about situational awareness and trusting your instinct. It was understanding fear management and distinguishing between legitimate and manufactured fears. It was lots and lots of swearing. Lots of it. Tony swears a lot.

I’d love to expand on the lessons learned during the lecture portions of the course, but I’m pretty sure that would be borderline plagiarism and I’m not sure I would do any of it justice. I know that six hours of sitting around talking about personal safety sounds horrendously boring, but believe me when I say it was anything but. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, Tony is absolutely hilarious and manages to make the content incredibly interesting.

And he even throws in this EggGenie.

And if you order within 30 minutes, he even throws in this second EggGenie.

So the course was a good mix of lecture and drills, which was a welcome surprise. But still…

3. CrossFit is for getting all my grocery bags in one trip, not smashing a guy in the face.

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, not a one-stop shop for all my survival needs. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what could be the benefit of CrossFit brand self-defense.

What I didn’t realize until afterwards was that the same shameless realism that permeates CrossFit finds its way into the specialty programs as well. That brutal honesty that causes Founder Greg Glassman to say that CrossFit “can kill you” is an integral part of CrossFit Defense. Tony Blauer doesn’t make promises about becoming John McLane or defeating end bosses. He doesn’t pretend that defending yourself is a heroic right of passage that we should all go through.

Sunday's practical test was pretty brutal though.

Though Sunday’s practical test was pretty brutal.

Coach Blauer was always honest about the fact that he was teaching us to use fire extinguishers, not to run into a burning building with a firehose. This wasn’t CrossFit MMA. We were learning the most basic and easily understood movements with the broadest benefits. Where CrossFit has “functional fitness”, CrossFit Defense has “functional defense,” the idea that your body’s instinctual flinches are actual defensive measures and that this training helps you leverage those natural reactions.

CrossFit excels at distilling movements to their most basic components, an effort to extract the most benefit with the greatest efficiency. That Tony Blauer’s defense program incorporates that philosophy actually becomes an incredible asset.


The three reasons to avoid CrossFit Defense mentioned above are not an all-inclusive catalog of my hesitations. Similarly, a comprehensive list of benefits I received from the lecture and drills are not included either. While it may feel like this is the one course you hopefully and most likely will never have to use, there are benefits that go far beyond the knowledge or confidence to make yourself a difficult target for an attacker. I’ve found myself incorporating fear management into my workouts as I stare at high volume thrusters, or using those same techniques before I head into an important meeting. I no longer zone out on Facebook as I walk down the street and I’ve stopped trying to figure out what fashion models are staring at when shopping for clothes with my wife.

Is it a bear? It's a bear isn't it? I hope it's a bear.

Is it a bear? It’s a bear isn’t it… I hope it’s a bear.

As a personal recommendation, CrossFit Defense was actually really fun, incredibly informative, and made use of familiar CrossFit movements and vocabulary to drive home the physical aspects of defending yourself. If you’re looking for a personal defense program that focuses on avoiding conflict and not depending on constant training to defend yourself in case it does happen, I’d definitely take a look. Plus, you may even learn some new swear words. Did I mention Tony likes to swear?


CrossFit, Back Pain, and Severed Spine Injury.

Facebook has been brimming with support over the past two days for Kevin Ogar, a CrossFit athlete and coach who severed his spine this last weekend at the OC Throwdown, a fitness competition in Southern California.

The spinal injury was the result of a missed snatch, with the result of Kevin being paralyzed from the T-11 vertebra down. It was an injury as rare and anomalous as it was tragic, and Kevin not having health insurance has only exacerbated the catastrophic nature of his accident.

At this stage, the focus is rightly on Kevin and the support the community is able to provide. There has also been an immense amount of discussion on the incident and what it means for the sport of fitness, as well as the relation between risk, reward, and responsibility. The conversation has played out both in the gym (respectfully) as well as on the interwebs (not so respectfully).

My perspective during these discussions has been from the vantage of a 30-year-old married guy that does CrossFit relatively intensely. I competed for the first time this last December and plan on doing more in the future. So when I heard what had happened over the weekend, my first reaction was pure unadulterated fear. Fear for myself, fear for my wife, and fear for my friends and family. My wife and I CrossFit. My brother and brother-in-law CrossFit. A huge portion of my friends CrossFit. And we perform snatches with regularity. Was there a missed lift in my future with a life altering injury in tow? Or even worse, was my wife at risk of a similar accident?

That initial reaction of fear seems to be fairly prevalent… In addition to the incredible support I’ve seen across the net and pouring in to Kevin’s Fundly page, I’ve also seen a lot of ill-timed and ill-intentioned posts and replies. Comments questioning the safety of CrossFit, competition, olympic lifting… Comments like, “What did he expect?” or “What did YOU expect?”

With more time to consider my thoughts, I’ve realized that my initial reaction was a result of my own flawed ability to understand risk.

We fear the missed lift, not the drive to the gym.

Our brains have been wired to deal with sensational, unlikely events in ways that completely overestimate the odds of horrible but rare accidents and underestimate the risk of completely mundane and ordinary activities. Fear touches the primitive brain and causes it to make reflexive reactions before we even really understand what we’re seeing or reading. I read an article about how a professional athlete experienced paralysis after a missed snatch and my mind immediately jumps to my wife ditching a bar on her back, but I’m happy to kiss her goodbye as she drives to work… Completely ignoring the over 30,000 motor vehicle deaths a year in the US (car accidents also accounted for almost 40% of all spinal cord injuries from 2005 to 2012).

Fear strengthens memories, the horror and drama associated with unlikely events cause our brains to expect them to occur more often. I speed to the airport at 75 mph through traffic to make a flight and all I can think about is the plane crashing. I take the freeway to the gym 5 times a week and all the sudden my concern is whether or not a missed snatch attempt is going to end with me in the hospital. The fear skews our analysis of risk.

But of course, what does it matter? Why not just avoid all risky activity and remove any doubt?

We fear the missed lift, not the back pain.

Ironically enough, this morning an article popped up in my newsfeed from NPR discussing how exercise can help alleviate back pain. The article discusses the possibility that we are overprescribing painkillers, overprescribing injections, and overprescribing back surgery. The article goes on to talk about the “endless loop of pain,” the term used to describe patients experiencing acute back trouble due to persistent hypersensitivity of the nervous system. This would be like the full year I spent where my back would twinge every time I sneezed. I’d wake up in the morning and be hunched over for the first 15 minutes of my day and I was only 27. It started when I got too busy at work and stopped going to the gym. Because my back hurt, I didn’t workout. Or run. Or do anything active. In the meanwhile, my back got weaker and the pain just became chronic.

It wasn’t until I got back in the gym that I noticed my back started to feel better. I joined CrossFit and within a few months my back pain disappeared. Not “got better.” Disappeared.

Our brains are really good at underestimating a menace that builds up over time. The idea of dropping a bar on our back becomes much more frightening than the idea of living a sedentary life of chronic back pain. It’s difficult for our monkey brains to understand a risk that doesn’t produce immediate negative results.

And it’s bigger than chronic back pain. Heart disease killed almost 600,000 people in 2010. Diabetes was almost 70,000. A life of stagnation can result in a sub-par quality of life that ends prematurely. Be wary letting the microscopic risk of catastrophe limit you to a life of inactivity.

Respect the missed lift.

Perception of risk can also swing the other direction: Risky behavior can seem less risky when we feel we can control the outcome. It’s the same reason I distrust drivers who text at the wheel yet I’m perfectly comfortable doing it myself. In addition, the perception of risk can also decrease as safety measures increase. That is to say, if my form gets better and my body gets stronger, I may increase the level of risk in the form of volume or load. The brain prefers to maintain a specific level of risk, and if risk decreases in one area it likes to increase it in another. Just remember that not having gotten into a car accident for the past 20 years does not make you incapable of getting into one today.

The point of course is not to avoid increases in risk at the detriment of our development; but rather, to understand the real risks that exist and try our best to mitigate them. There’s not a lot we can do to avoid a freak accident, that’s why it’s called a “freak accident” and not “terrible thing you should have expected.” But there are actions we can take to mitigate the damage of a “freak accident.” In the case of fitness and the terrible mishap this last weekend, perhaps the lesson for the community is the importance of catastrophic health insurance. Or safety measures that haven’t yet been explored. I’m sure the webz discourse over the next few days will only get more polarizing and interesting and something will come up.

How to help…

I’ve never met Kevin and I can’t imagine the emotions he’s experiencing. I’ve spoken with a few athletes at CrossFit Max Effort who’ve known him over the years and I think Zach Forrest summed it up with, “Kevin is one of a handful of people I know that is capable of taking a terrible situation like this and making it something inspirational and good.” (I didn’t write it down at the time, so I may be paraphrasing).


Be a part of turning this into something inspirational and good and donate what you’re able to on Kevin’s Fundly page. It’s been only two days and at the time of this post the community has already surpassed the goal of $100,000. Give what you’re able, the CrossFit community has always had a reputation for overachieving, go live up to it.

Rhabdo – A First-Person Perspective

This last week we did “Grace” at our gym.

“Grace” is a nasty little workout where the athlete performs 30 clean and jerks as quickly as possible at a weight of 135 pounds for men and 95 pounds for women. It can be a slow grind or an unabashed sprint and I had every intention of achieving the latter. While I spent almost all day visualizing the bar moving up and down from the floor to overhead, I spent almost no time thinking about the possibility of “Rhabdo.”

Rhabdomyolysis or “Rhabdo” as the Internets likes to call it is the breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream where it can wreak havoc on the kidneys and other parts of the body. It can be the result of dozens of causes, but for the purpose of this post, physical over exertion is one of them.

And here's a picture of Channing Tatum to keep this upbeat.

And here’s a picture of Channing Tatum to keep this upbeat.

During the workout, I tried so intensely to keep ahold of the bar that my forearms went from an aching pain to a dull numbness that screamed, “LET GO OF THE BAR.” Which I did, after 26 unbroken reps. I continued knocking out the last 4 reps as singles and ended with a time of 1:43, which was by far the hardest I’ve pushed myself in any workout ever.

Whatever fitness science/magic that needed to happen occurred about 15 seconds after finishing the workout as my body caught up with the unusual effort I had asked of it. Breathing was a chore and my arms felt likely useless weights attached to my torso. I was a mess.

After a few minutes, everything seemed to equalize and get back under control, I was able to break down my bar and head on home with my wife. I took a shower, had dinner, went to sleep, classic CrossFit stuff.

The next morning, I woke up with a strange sensation. I was tingly and lightheaded, I turned to my wife and yelled, “Yo, I CRUSHED that WOD yesterday!” Because that’s how I talk when nobody’s around.

But no, not with my flavor. That would be weird.

No, not with my flavor. That sounds terrible.

Everything was fine. I could still grab a knife to butter my Strawberry Pop Tart, I could still stand in the shower and ruin “Bye, Bye, Bye,” and I was still able to go work out at the gym. Later that day, I came across the article, “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret” serendipitously being shared via The Facebooks a day after I made my limit pushing effort during the workout. While I know everything that could be said has been said on the subject of Rhabdomyolysis and CrossFit, my overly-inflated sense of self worth says I should probably chime in with my take on “Uncle Rhabdo” as I’ve heard absolutely no one ever refer to it as.

1. Rhabdomyolysis will savagely rabbit punch everyone you know and care about.

I’ve been CrossFitting for about 16 months now and I have yet to hear a first hand account from anyone who’s suffered “Rhabdo.” I understand that’s a terrible population subset (anyone who’s gotten Rhabdomyolysis is unlikely to return to CrossFit), though I’ve also never met anyone with even a second hand account of anyone who’s gotten Rhabdo. This includes talking to CrossFitters who have 4+ years of experience coaching CrossFit, as well as long time members in multiple gyms in multiple geographical locations around the country. Yes, I asked. Awkwardly and mid-conversation.

This isn’t to say that Rhabdomyolysis is not a risk of CrossFit. It is absolutely a risk of CrossFit. Just like Rhabdomyolysis is a risk of Triathlons or High School Football. Just like Decompression Sickness is a risk of Scuba Diving. Just like Structural Damage is a risk of Thirst.

The Thirst Industry has been sweeping it under the rug for years.

He’s smart enough to use ice, but not smart enough to use the door?

And while an anecdotal story about a friend of the author certainly shows the ferocity of the condition and its terrible repercussions, I’d be cautious in making the jump that CrossFit causes Rhabdo. Much in the same way that I’d be cautious to say that Scuba Diving causes Decompression Sickness. It’s a risk, and based on my equally anecdotal experience, a starkly low risk. CrossFit is very up front about that risk and makes an effort to educate athletes and coaches. It’s an integral part of the L1 course and you can find plenty of articles (examples here and here) on the CrossFit Journal. It’s not a “dirty little secret” as the article describes. It’s a well documented and oft talked about subject in CrossFit, we’re not trying to spirit it away.

And while the terrifying reality of muscles breaking down and poisoning your body is certainly a jarring concept, the brutal nature of Rhabdomyolysis doesn’t somehow make it more common.

2. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. (Matt Damon cries.)

Eric Robertson wrote a follow up piece to his initial “Secrets” post, “I didn’t Shoot John Lennon.” In it, he mentions that a largely supported rebuttal to his first article is “personal responsibility,” the idea that many CrossFitters believe the athlete should have an understanding of the inherent risks of intense exercise and understand how to mitigate those risks through education and not letting their ego get the best of them.

While I agree that education on the subject is incredibly important and that athletes need to understand their limits, I also understand that I go to CrossFit to push those limits. I spent all day preparing myself for the devastation I would go through during “Grace” and I pushed myself harder than I can recall doing in my recent past. I also didn’t get Rhabdo. But maybe I could have. And then maybe I wouldn’t have suckered you into reading this post with its misleading title.

This bridge.

Or buying this bridge. Which by the way, is for sale.

Rhabdomyolysis can be the result of bad programming or poor coaching. It can also be the result of poor decisions made by the athlete. It can also be a thing that happens. Just a thing. That happens. Like Lil Wayne or the Teletubbies. Not anyone’s fault. Just the result of an athlete pushing themselves slightly too far during a workout that 99.9999% of the time would be perfectly normal and sane.

This happens all the time in normal non-CrossFit life. Driving is statistically a terribly dangerous activity to participate in. Especially compared to using public transportation (buses are 170 times safer than riding in a car according to the National Safety Council). But I do it literally all the time. I find that it fits my transportation needs quite well and despite the inherent risk I will continue to do it. I could certainly get into an accident. It might be the other driver’s fault. It might even be my fault. Or it could just be a thing that happens. And that would be terrible.

As I’ve shamelessly plugged on my blog before, CrossFit is not for everyone and if the incredibly small chance of Rhabdomyolysis is enough to turn you away from this particular form of fitness, that’s totally okay. I get it. There are other options available with perhaps less risk/intensity or that maybe fit your goals a bit better. If the level of intensity available to you through CrossFit is what you desire and you accept that Rhabdo is a thing that could potentially occur in the most minute of circumstances then that’s cool too. But let’s not pretend that this is something that I need to constantly be brooding over and concerned with every time I do 100 push ups and my arms get sore.

3. So wait… Did CrossFit break the Internet?

It’s incredible to me how excited the internet gets about CrossFit. I’m not sure everyone’s quite caught that Rhabdomyolysis is not a new disease invented by CrossFit. I used to run a few Triathlons and longer endurance runs and I never heard anyone talk about Rhabdo and its causes/symptoms. And not because it wasn’t a risk. It was just something people didn’t talk about. Though to be fair, I also didn’t seek out information on potential hazards of running Triathlons.


Like getting my leotard all sticky.

CrossFit is exposing a larger population to a form of exercise that is much more “intense” than many of us are used to. Creating that level of intensity on this massive of a scale means that the larger population is not only able to reap the benefits of the program but is also exposed to some of the risk that is associated with that particular level of fitness.

The upside to all this online conflict is that more athletes are getting involved with the Rhabdo discourse, even when much of it is thinly veiled “I love CrossFit/I hate CrossFit” talk (present blog included). My wife is way more interested in reading about Rhabdomyolysis today than she’s been in the past year and that’s awesome. All CrossFit athletes (and athletes generally) should have a good understanding of Rhabdo and it’s causes, symptoms, and remedies. Just don’t make the assumption that if something can happen it will happen. It’s like the worst kind of lottery ticket.

Well, maybe the second worst kind of lottery.

Well, maybe the second worst.

Three Reasons to Get Upset About CrossFit

About 13 months ago, I arrived home for lunch and found that all three elevators were out in my building.

I was living on the 20th floor at the time, so this was not soul crushing news. I grabbed my Hello Kitty lunchbox and plodded up the stairs, thinking that if anything this was an opportunity to burn some calories before gorging myself with mid-day pancakes and jelly beans. What I didn’t count on was months of lethargy and inactivity… I arrived at the front door soaked in sweat and ready to take a nap. I was only 28 years old.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in my mid to late 20s I reached a state of general malaise. It was not a conscious decision, I didn’t wake up one morning and decide it was time to stop moving around quickly or throwing things on a field. It was just the result of months and months of stagnation and apathetic decisions.

And ding dongs. SO MANY DING DONGS.

And ding dongs. SO MANY DING DONGS.

Without action, my health was only getting worse. I had a vision of my sweaty, overweight, and out of breath self trying to keep up with my future unborn children and it was disquieting. My vision of the future would be an enormous disappointment to my childhood self, who had always planned on wearing jean jackets with Michael Dudikoff and staring handsomely at the horizon.

He could've snuck right in if just wore a red uniform.

He could’ve snuck right in if just wore a red uniform.

My brother had joined “the CrossFit” a few months previously and seemed to be in pretty awesome shape, so I figured I’d start taking a look at what this newfangled fitness regimen was all about. I knew it had something to do with doing 100 pull ups and throwing up, which was a fancy stretch from my normal 3 month stints of chest & tricep, back & bicep, and shoulders & legs. In the end, I signed up for an Intro course and jumped right in.

Now, I am by no means a trendsetter. I only just started wearing trucker hats; I have the musical taste of an impressionable 13 year old girl; and I did not join CrossFit before it was cool (I don’t even know what “cool” is anymore… Is “twerking” drugs?). Over the past year however, I’ve seen CrossFit mature into a much more mainstream fitness program. With that popularity, I’m starting to see more and more articles and resources popping up in crazy numbers on blogs, news sites, magazines, and newsfeeds. However, I’m also finding it harder and harder to distinguish between fact, opinion, and trolling when it comes to a lot of these pieces, especially when I consume most of my information in the madness that is the digital wild west.


I read articles with titles like “CrossF*cked” and “10 Reasons Why CrossFit is Not a Sport” and I have trouble taking them seriously.  I can’t tell if the authors are confused on the meaning of “edgy” or if they’re just replacing content with provocation. It seems as though the purpose of these articles is less to inform those that are trying to forge an opinion on the subject and more about driving as many shares, likes, and comments to the bathroom stall that is their comments section.

At times, the opposition seems no better… Both sides can tend to paint a very black and white portrait of the subject. The internet is no place for a grey thought.

My greatest fear is that people who are truly concerned with their fitness would read these articles and let them dictate their outlook on CrossFit without ever being exposed to a milder perspective that might shed some light on its value.

I also have an irrational fear of Liam Neeson.

My second, third, and fourth greatest fear.

I’m certainly no authority on the subject, but I’d love to address three of the more common issues and complaints brought up by some of these CrossFit articles and posts from a perspective of relative experience and critical thinking. Feel free to disagree in the stall below.

1. CrossFit Illuminati Serve Kool-Aid via Water Fountains

Let’s get this one out of the way early… Yes, CrossFit can be a bit “culty” at times. Just like owning a Harley Davidson, being a car guy, or having babies can be “culty”. It’s an activity that has its own vocabulary, encourages commitment from its members, and becomes a neighborly gathering place for those with like mind. CrossFit can be a very social activity… And while some members can take it a bit far by revolving everything they do around it, it’s up to you on how far you want to go down the rabbit hole.



My wife and I both do CrossFit, and we both enjoy it. We talk about WODs during dinner and have been known to be an annoying/overbearing CrossFit couple that posts too many workouts on Facebook (we’re working on it, really). We have tons of friends we’ve made through they gym (far more than I made at the gym during my bench and tricep days) but we’ve still managed to make and keep friends from outside the gym and not drive them off with talk of Heroes and Girls. People get excited about CrossFit just like they get excited about camping, or drinking, or their pets. Anyone can be high handed and overbearing regardless of the interest… Assholes in real life become assholes who like CrossFit, and awesome people in real life become awesome people who like CrossFit. Just be awesome. Always.

The word “cult” should not be used in place of a lack of understanding on why a large group of people are excited to workout together. A “cult” should really refer to a group of authority figures with no accountability, using subservience to force members to cut ties with family members to further their main goal of bringing in new members and money.

Yes. That.

Yeah, like that.

And on that note…

2. CrossFit Wants ALL Your Lunch Money

In a world of 99 cent apps and Walmart discounts, CrossFit can seem outright swanky. Relative to the price of a monthly membership at your local 24 Hour Fitness, we could be looking at a difference of eight fold or more. So yes, CrossFit costs more than a membership at your local gym.  My wife and I pay just short of a combined $300 a month for our current memberships and I find it extremely reasonable for the amount of value we get. On average I’ll spend anywhere from 8-10 hours in the gym per week and not only do I get instruction from highly qualified olympic lifting and strength and conditioning coaches, but I also get to train alongside former college level athletes, games athletes, and a wide array of friends and cohorts that are willing to push me during the workouts far harder than I’d push myself. All for less than $5 per hour. 

You can spend $20 a month on a gym membership and if you’re getting the results you want, awesome (I enjoyed this for years). If you’d prefer to build a garage gym and train by yourself or with a partner and that works for you, fantastic. Personal trainer? Great. I happen to prefer working in a social setting with the oversight and personalized training of my coaches. I don’t mind paying them the equivalent of a couple of fast food tacos per hour for that service either.

Only you can make a decision about what your personal finances can handle and how you’d like to prioritize your expenses.

I've made shrewd decisions on where I've put my money.

I’ve made shrewd decisions on where I’ve put my money.

Just remember that your health functions like any other investment, the earlier you start contributing, the more value and benefit you’ll be able to enjoy later. Siphoning your money into weekend binges or daily dinners is awesome and I’m certainly not one to tell you how to live your life. Just don’t convince yourself that your health is a financial priority that falls well below your cable bill and coffee allowance.

Speaking of health…

3. CrossFit Wants to Rip Out Your Knees and Break Your Back With Them

Before CrossFit, aches and pains were usually the result of “sleeping wrong” or turning my head too quickly. It’s easy to avoid injury when “intense activity” means yelling at 12 year olds when they end my killstreak.

I like to make sure they know Santa Claus is an elaborate lie.

I make sure they know Santa Claus is an elaborate lie.

Yes, you can get injured doing CrossFit. You can also get injured jogging, rock climbing, surfing, skiing, walking, or any other activity in the present progressive tense. While I have yet to have a serious injury, there are certainly days where something is aching abnormally, or I have a pain in a place I normally don’t. I consider this a side effect of being active and pushing myself physically. I take those days as indicators to slow down and let my body rest.

One of the major foundations of CrossFit is “intensity”, the idea of doing “more work in less time (without overdoing it)”. The competitive nature of CrossFit is where I can find myself getting into trouble, losing sight of the real goal of “fitness” and replacing it with “winning”. I’m fortunate to have incredible coaches that know how to teach the movements, but they can’t be by my side every second of every lift. I have to take some personal responsibility and understand my own physical boundaries and limits. If something’s too heavy, no one should know that faster than me. Your ego will get you injured quicker than CrossFit will.

On that same note however, each gym operates completely independently with very flexible standards of quality and training. Like any purchase, there needs to be a certain amount of research done on the background and qualifications of the gym you’re interested in joining. Not all CrossFit affiliates are created equal, so make sure to spend at least as long deciding on which gym is right for you as you do deciding on the right shampoo for your hair type.

Where's scraggly?

Where’s “Receding?”

Injury is a pretty broad subject, so my take is: Make sure your coaches know what they’re talking about. From there, make sure you understand what they’re talking about. Then, make sure you follow through and don’t let your ego get in the way of performing what they’re talking about. And if you’re doing it right, you’ll still get aches and pains.

But what does it all mean?

I’ve found that CrossFit is not for everyone. Just like basketball is not for everyone. Just like skiing is not for everyone. Just like black licorice is the worst candy ever created.

How terrible does your childhood have to be to enjoy black licorice?

Seriously, how terrible does your childhood have to be to enjoy black licorice?

For me, my CrossFit gym is a social gathering place. It’s a venue to enjoy the company of some seriously hilarious and ridiculous folks that I may have never met through any other means. In a world of work relationships and Facebook acquaintances it’s nice to find that kind of opportunity in a common interest.

It’s also a place I go to play around. “Play” is a thing so many of us have lost touch with that we forget how much fun it was when we were kids. Monkey bars are much more difficult than you remember. So is jumping rope, dodgeball, tag, and all the other physical activities we used to do in gym class. And while they’re much more labored than you recall, they’re equally as awesome.

It’s also a challenging environment. It’s a place I go to push myself mentally and physically, to limits I would never choose to go in any other comfortable setting. You quickly find out if you’ve gotten enough sleep or have been paying attention to your nutrition. I never truly understood the value of a good night’s sleep or a well balanced meal until I started recording my performance and quantifying what a weekend of drinking looks like during a workout.

Or a weekend of whatever the hell that is.

Or a weekend of whatever the hell that is.

And while CrossFit may not be right for everyone it may very well be right for you. You’ll never find out if you try and experience it through the twisted pages of the Interweb, so be wary of creating an opinion based solely on the belligerent works of Internet trolls and squabble peddlers. Find a qualified affiliate close to home and give it a shot. If in the end, you’re not a fan and dislike the approach, just make sure to write a combative and venomous post about it (I’d suggest a misleading title like the above). I’ll see you in the comments section.