Monday, November 10, 2008

The Truth About CrossFit

by Chris Shugart for Thanks to Dwinson for the heads up!

"Was I in the right place?" I asked myself for the second time that day.

The little street near Southern Methodist University in Dallas was an incongruous blend of old houses and new bars teeming with college kids. It was 9 p.m. and the sun had set, making it impossible for me to read the street numbers. Finally I pulled over next to a bar called The Green Elephant to look at my directions again.

And that's when I saw them, a handful of men and women lunging down a long corridor holding Olympic bars over their heads. A well-built young man held a timer and appeared to be either encouraging them or yelling at them.

I'd finally found CrossFit Dallas Central, one of 650 CrossFit affiliate gyms.

Later I learned that the athletes — which included members of the SMU lacrosse team — were performing what the owner of the facility called a "single-movement mindfuck." This group was on their 28th minute of overhead walking lunges, the only exercise in that day's workout. The record was 400 meters in 20 minutes flat. The sweat poured.

Earlier that day, at 6:45 a.m., I'd had the same experience, driving around an industrial-warehouse district in Plano looking for building numbers in the dark. That time, instead of lunging lacrosse players, I was clued in by a man running by my truck wearing a weighted vest. I followed.

Ripping the vest off, he walked through a door with me close behind. CrossFit Plano was small but well-equipped with the standard markers of the "CF" gym: bumper plates, Olympic bars, kettlebells, dumbbells, gymnastic rings, climbing ropes, tractor tires, bands, Concept II rowers, medicine balls, pull-up bars.

gym rings

The runner dashed into the next room and began to do kipping pull-ups. I learned later he was doing "Murph": a one-mile run in a vest followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body-weight squats, and another one-mile run, all done against the clock.

This "WOD," or Workout of the Day, was named after a Navy Lieutenant and CrossFit enthusiast killed in Afghanistan. Most other WODs are given girl names, like they used to do with hurricanes.

I was there to learn the truth about CrossFit, the training phenomenon dubbed "one of the fastest-growing fitness movements on the planet" by the Business News Network. Later, I'd do interviews with CF fans and critics, make phone calls, and read everything I could find online. But I'd start by driving to Dallas and doing CrossFit ... twice in one day.

This is what I learned. This, as I see it, is the truth about some of the most controversial aspects of CrossFit.


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