CrossFit Games – IMO
If you go back and look at the the first definition of CrossFit, only 100 words of the final sentence of that paragraph deals specifically with movement. That is really interesting.
As CrossFit has grown the movement side has really evolved and it has become professionalized at many levels. Without patting myself on the back too much, I consider myself to be a movement specialist. But there is a whole component to the CrossFit program that doesn’t deal with movement.
Due to the changes to the CrossFit Games, A LOT of you have asked me my opinion or what I think about the direction it is going. I will give my take on the changes, but there is a lot history behind my answer that I think will be interesting to new members and those of you that don’t know me as well.
I competed as an athlete in college every weekend for four years, all three seasons. When I graduated in 2008 and headed off to grad school, it was hard to adjust to life outside of the NCAA. As it would happen I didn’t compete in anything when I stepped off the track in 2008 until my first CrossFit competition in 2012. For those four years I ran almost every day and still did interval days on the track once or twice a week. While I was living in Russia I learned to use kettlebells, the clean and jerk, the snatch, and I did P90X in my apartment. When I moved to LA to study and teach at USC, I started looking for gyms.
CrossFit Meanstreets had a horrific website, but their website header had a picture of kettlebells so I showed up in October of 2011. I had only heard of CrossFit a few times as a senior in college, so I wasn’t really sure what a CrossFit gym was. CrossFit still had their old website, which looked janky as all get-up and made a really horrible first impression. One of my roommates had left the track team as a junior and he pulled up the CrossFit site on an old Mac. I still remember this conversation because it’s still so funny.
I think the workout was:
At the time we were running 1000M at practice in about 2:30. The idea of running and then doing extra stuff after the running seemed horrific and I’m pretty sure I made fun of him for doing such a dumb workout. I didn’t understand that there were regular people (non-runners) doing these workouts and running a more realistic 3:30-5:00 1000M interval. I was so engrossed in Track and Field world that it didn’t occur to me that you would pace the run slower than a tempo pace (80%).
“I didn’t want to do CrossFit – all I wanted to do was work on my kettlebells…”
So, I showed up to CrossFit Meanstreets and found out that they ran classes on the hour. I didn’t want to do CrossFit – all I wanted to do was work on my kettlebells and go back to USC. Eventually, Andrea Ager convinced me to do a few CrossFit workouts with her group of friends. They would meet after the noon class and workout for hours until the beginning of the next class. All of a sudden I was doing programming that was WAY ahead of its time, lifting, and doing tons of metcons everyday. Long story short I got hooked.
I remembered how much I loved to compete, and we did local competitions almost every weekend. When the 2012 CrossFit Games Open came around I had a goal of getting top 100. After a few weeks the goal dropped to top 75. Then the final week came around and I was about to make regionals after doing CrossFit for only a few months.
I’m going to fast forward here. I went to regionals 2012, 2013, and 2014 in the old SoCal Regional and my best finish was 14th. I was way too small to compete with the bigger guys but I always had fairly competitive showings in the Open when things were lighter. I opened Verdant in 2014 and we went to the Northwest Regional in 2015 then went to the Games. In 2016 and 2017 we went to regionals again. 2018 has been the first year I haven’t competed in CrossFit since 2011.
Regionals has changed a lot. In my opinion it became something real and something serious in 2012. If you go back and look at 2011 or anything before then it was truly a weekend warrior sport. 2010 they programmed “Amanda” and that was the genesis of “everyone needs a muscle-up”, so sometimes people use 2010 as the year that the games and regionals got serious. In 2012 Regionals they were several strength events – a max snatch ladder and a workout that was 2000M Row, 100 Pistols, 30 Hang Cleans 225/135. At the time, those were really advanced workouts that most people in a gym couldn’t do. 2013 got more serious and by 2014 you needed to be almost a full time athlete to make regionals.
If you look back at the games programming, the 2012 year had a MASSIVE effect on programming at most boxes. Strength cycles were becoming more prevalent at the more sophisticated gyms by about 2013. Competitor programming became its own industry right around 2013 and the Grid League was developed as a reaction to specialized athletes not making the Games. I’m not sure if this was good or bad. It was really dependent on the gym. Some gyms really sacrificed the health and wellness side of fitness for a chance at regionals. Other gyms were able to maintain sort of a split personality – they focused on the general population as well as their competitors.
I started CrossFit and stuck with CrossFit because of the competition, it has meant a lot to me and it filled a void. But times change and right now I think it’s great that the CrossFit Regional is being eliminated. Every year there are people or teams that don’t represent the sport well (our team in 2017 was a good example) and other than being there as a participant, no one really gains anything from it. The competitive side of CrossFit since ~2012 has been exclusively for people that can train for hours everyday. If that’s something that people want to do, that’s great. But the sport, at the high end, isn’t designed even for the “above average” CrossFitter and more often than not the sport leads to injury or frustration.
“the sport, at the high end, isn’t designed even for the “above average” CrossFitter…”
Truly being a competitor requires a huge lifestyle change. There are a bunch of really athletic kids that represent CrossFit well at the highest level and I think those are the right people to represent the sport. They look the part, generally they act the part, and they move incredibly well. The CrossFit Games have become more professionalized for years, we are finally becoming like other major sports – there should be a huge difference between professional athletes, NCAA athletes, and weekend rec leagues. Like any other professional sports, the people at the highest level are the ones that are either incredibly gifted from birth or have made competing in that sport their entire life.
For anyone interested in how it runs here at Verdant you can ask some of the people that recently went to the Granite Games. I try to run our competitive athletes somewhat like an NCAA program – it’s like NCAA but with free will. We have regular meetings and there are pretty strict rules put in place for behavior, competitive edge, lifestyle choices, and mindset.