While I don’t do CrossFit anymore, you should. I encourage anyone trying to lose weight or get in shape to join a CrossFit affiliate or do the workouts at home because for 90% of people, CrossFit is still the best fitness program ever developed, especially for beginners.
At my advanced level of fitness, with more than 10 years experience in the industry and nearly 8 years coaching 22 classes a week at my affiliate, the CrossFit method of fitness no longer delivered the progress I desired.
It’s not the high membership prices, the intensity of the workouts or any aspect specifically wrong with the program that made me move away from CrossFit. It was my level of (or lack of) athleticism.
CrossFit was a godsend to me in my late twenties. Having played competitive team sports since childhood, my early twenties saw a huge decrease in athletic participation. Once you graduate from college and cease playing intramural sports, where does an athlete go to play competitive team sports? Most people in their twenties are working 40 hours a week and spending weekends socializing at bars, leaving little time for sports. But how can a guy who played basketball, baseball, football, swim team, volleyball and racquetball suddenly walk away from all of these sports? But that’s just what happened to me from 2005–2008 until I discovered CrossFit. The most appealing aspect of CrossFit was that it was similar to a team sport: everyone in a group working out together in a competitive environment. CrossFit was challenging, fun, sweaty and social—just like all of my previous team sports!
To fill the gap left by sports, I’ve dabbled in mountain biking, rock climbing and other fringe activities, but nothing offered the same rush as a good basketball game or sand volleyball tournament. Even team competition CrossFit was a little flat compared to true team sports since most team CrossFit events are just scores composed of individual efforts. That’s why when our family moved to Gainesville, Ga., in 2016, I started looking for places to play real sports. Luckily, I found several options and I now play volleyball and basketball a few days a week. In the future, I plan to join a tennis league and compete in local volleyball tournaments.
But back to quitting CrossFit. I’d always been a hard-gainer at 6’2” and 175 pounds, but being a coach taught me ways to put on mass and increase strength. The CrossFit program (regardless of what anyone says or writes on the internet) is not a mass-gaining program. It’s also not a strength-building program unless you’re brand new to working out and have never lifted weights. High-intensity workouts using 50% of your max and high reps does not build strength. So the solution for CrossFit athletes was to add in a strength program, which of course I did and encouraged my clients to do as well. But the combination of a robust strength program and CrossFit metcons was a recipe for injuries, overtraining and sub-par results. CrossFit made me great at CrossFit, but it didn’t increase my athleticism after the first few years. Was I making progress with my fitness? Yes. But it wasn’t the progress I wanted. Spending five days a week in the gym for 90 minutes to complete a warm up, mobility, strength program, conditioning workout and stretching routine without being a better athlete, gaining muscle or feeling more energetic was frustrating. But what were my options? Back and bis? chest and tris? Curls for the girls in front of a mirror? Ugh, nope.
My Current Program
I’ve always loved the feeling of a great conditioning workout: that amazing feeling of being totally exhausted. I want to keep that going, but I also want to build strength and add some muscle mass. For the past six months, I’ve designed and implemented a custom strength program and occasionally thrown in a 12-minute conditioning workout just for the feelz.
Now, my focus is back on sports performance and athleticism. I noticed that in the beginning, CrossFit enhanced my athleticism, but as I progressed into a more elite CrossFit athlete, it hindered my performance in real sports. CrossFit made me sore, tired, injured, slow and generally a bit of an awkward oaf. While I could do more than 100 double unders and dozens of kipping pull-ups, at the same time I had trouble with finesse movements such as jump shots in basketball or hand setting in volleyball. So now I focus on playing sports as often as possible, lifting weights consistently and only doing conditioning workouts on non-sport days or when I have excess energy.
Once again, I don’t hate on the CrossFit program of high-intensity workouts. But after 10 years of grinding through the most intense fitness program ever developed and having the injuries to prove it, I’m much happier now playing sports again like a real athlete. Most of my injuries have disappeared, along with the never-ending soreness that trademarks a true CrossFitter.
As far as fitness is concerned, while I may not be able to perform 100 consecutive wallballs or 48 unbroken kipping pull-ups like the good ol’ days, I can play seven games of pickup basketball one afternoon, 3 hours of volleyball at night, wakeboard on Lake Lanier, mountain bike the trails around Northeast Georgia and even deadlift more than 400 pounds all in one week.
I quit CrossFit, don’t miss it and for the foreseeable future, will never go back.