The CrossFit Games start this weekend, moving into a stadium with less than half the capacity as their previous location. This comes as no surprise to anyone who watched the 2016 Games, when the stadium was conspicuously sparsely populated. There were practically as many competitors as spectators. So what happened from the time when CrossFit was on the top of the world, say… Four or five years ago, to now?
A joke quickly developed when CrossFit first gained popularity. “If someone is a vegan CrossFitter, which do they tell you about first?” The in-your-face, hyper-macho-ism rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. This was not helped by front man Dave Castro’s mega-bro personality, eventually giving away handguns for the top prize. For reference, there are a number of European competitors in the Games, who might not even be able to legally own/use such weapons (the ethics of guns as prizes for an athletic competition are another matter).
People Got Smarter
As time went on, more fitness personalities appeared. They looked great and they, shock of all shocks, did not do CrossFit. Then there were the well-publicized injuries. For some people, CrossFit was just a gateway to actual sports, like powerlifting. If you just like lifting heavy, why bother with the running parts? A lot of gyms made their own metabolic conditioning programs, sans the need to spend weeks learning how to properly do the Olympic lifts. They were faster to pick up, included with the cost of gym membership (so usually cheaper than a CF box), and reached their fitness goals just the same.
CrossFit (hilariously) Failed to Adapt
As people started leaving, CrossFit as a company made now attempt to keep them. Workouts remained the same and prices never fell. It never occurred to them that there could be multiple ways to achieving “elite fitness”. Now, to their credit, they did attempt to address the injury problems and individual boxes did introduce multi-level classes, it wasn’t enough to make a difference. Class-based fitness boutiques are doing very well, and CrossFit lost the edge of its branding.
CrossFit Makes No Sense
CrossFit’s definition of fitness is essentially “the ability to adapt”, but there’s no radical change to any of the workouts. Every year seems to boil down to a swim, a run, and then some Olympic/Power lifting and goofy bodyweight exercises. Now, given the firearm prizes and the general image of the company, it gives a “combat readiness” feel. Not a bad thing at all. However, no military uses metrics like CrossFit’s. Armed forces primarily look at endurance in physical training, and the rest is technique, like obstacle courses and hand-to-hand fighting. The US Marines use pull-ups in their PT test, but good luck convincing them to accept those things CrossFit calls “pull-ups”. Even when the US Military looked into the possibility of changing physical readiness standards to be more “powerful and explosive” (similar to CrossFit), the proposal was rejected. Updated standards have actually skewed less toward “adaptation” and more towards specificity.
So what is the point of CrossFit? No doubt it’s a good way for the average person to learn new exercises and principles, but it needs to adjust its image, its regimen, and its leadership to continue as a “sport”.