Everyone is built to be fit, but not everyone is meant to be CrossFit. In the past five years or so I’ve seen more injuries and mental breakdown from people participating in CrossFit workouts than any other form of training. Unless you’ve been living in a cave like Brandon Frasier in the movie Blast From the Past, then I’m sure you have had a conversation or two about CrossFit, the injuries, the benefits and the cult like following as one of the biggest fittest trends in the past 20 years. CrossFit is a series of daily exercise programs usually timed that are athletic, require strength, power, endurance, flexibility, balance, coordination and a strong mind.
The purpose of this blog is to shed light on the challenges that I have been made more aware of after recently watching the Netflix documentary, “The Fittest On Earth”. As a health and fitness professional I am always looking for ways to help individuals stay consistent in their pursuit of health and fitness excellence. And after watching this documentary my concern is for the competitors and the millions of participants worldwide, who like the elite in this documentary invest so much of their lives into the pursuit of being “The Fittest On Earth”. After reading this blog you’ll be able to better understand not only the physical risks, but more importantly I believe you’ll have a greater understanding of the psychological impact long term competing at the intensity CrossFit classes at any level for prolonged periods of time.
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Please don’t get me wrong, I am totally for any type of exercise activity that helps people find ways of being better physically, mentally and spiritually, but what I what I want to convey in this blog is that one who is interested in CrossFit or is already participating should consider building a stable foundation, cross train with other activities like yoga, meditation, pilates or the like to have balanced conditioning for the long duration of your life.
My exercise paradigm in which I built a successful business over the past 20 years has been based around the notion of “feel good, not looking good”. In city like LA where the community is the antithesis of this paradigm, I’ve had my work cut out for me. Feeling good is the one of the most important aspects of life in my opinion. Feeling good has long-term benefits emotionally, physically and spiritually to help keep you performing at the highest capacity in all areas of your life. However, too many people put the emphasis on looking good causing imbalances mentally, emotionally and physically that can lead to burn out, disappointment and inconsistency to name just a few of the common side effects. In my observations, CrossFit focuses on primarily performance goals that are timed or achievement aimed to compete against others around the world or in their gym. And in my opinion these type of goals can lead to similar side effects that that focusing on looking good does leaving the participant injury prone from the inside out.
CrossFit is an endeavor I believe you can’t do forever. The average age of the most elite athletes is 27yrs old and the Masters category begins at age 40. So with said, it’s obvious that CrossFit is a young persons game or activity. I watch my good friend Justin perform at the highest levels of his athletic life and he’s had a tremendous amount of success including being chosen to be on the Baltimore Anthem the National Pro Grid League a professional cross-fit team competing nation wide and at now at 42 he’s starting to slowly breakdown. I know he’ll kill me when he reads this, but it’s inevitable. This can be demolishing to a person’s ego. Most CrossFit athletes will eventually have a career that is going to be on the on the downswing in their mid 30’s or sooner. So what’s going to happen after that career is over. What is going to be of these athlete’s minds and bodies? Are they going to be living pain free? Are they going to have a mindset that they can be satisfied and content with performing at lower levels? What will be their personal expectations for their fitness life span?
As I ponder the answers to these questions I can’t help to think that most of the answers are negative. And for me, that’s a hard place to be since I am a glass half full kind of guy and quite the optimist. If any athlete has been performing at a high level of expectation of them selves and from their peers long enough, it’s hard to take two steps back and perform at a lesser intensity and expect themselves to be satisfied. Their bodies just can’t perform at the level they are accustomed to or they can’t compete against the young bucks that are starting young.
I believe that people who participate in fitness endeavors with the focus of feeling good rather than looking or performing good have a much better chance for long-term success. Less can be more! Yes you heard me correctly. Less can be more if you want to take care of your body for the long haul of life. Treating your body with love, respect and gratitude goes a long way even at an early age. At the age of 41.5 I feel stronger about this than I’ve ever have. I’ve played hard. I’ve competed in all types of sports including contact sports like football and lacrosse. I’ve almost done it all. And if I haven’t done it, I just haven’t had the time or interest. I am a competitor by nature and love the thrill of the fight. But life is typically hard enough and exercise should feel good from the start. So why add more stress, more tension and more risk of injury if it’s not necessary. Participate in Cross Fit, but use your judgment and know your mental, physical and emotional boundaries. Participate periodically to allow your body rest and recovery. Don’t follow the heard toward a life of pain, discomfort or burn out. Be the outlier of this strict community and find your own purpose, meaning and pleasure for sport or fitness participation. And no matter what…. “always feel good doing it” because you were born to be fit.
Steve Jordan is a nationally renowned personal trainer, health expert, and motivational speaker. You can learn more about his remarkable work at SteveJordan.com.
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