The Sport of Fitness or Functional Fitness?

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Recently I was sent an an E-mail via one of the regular electronic newsletters I receive. The topic was the recent change in the CrossFit Games structure and how it may potentially affect CrossFit gyms worldwide. Essentially CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman wants to usher in a new focus on health and sustainability, as opposed to the current state of CrossFit, where a vast majority of the attention is on CrossFit as a sport (think the Open, Regionals, and the Games). Check out this article for some more details. To sum it up, Glassman does not want so much of the attention and resources, allocated to something that is representative of only .01% of the population. Instead, he would rather focus more on the CrossFit affiliates and community as whole. The E-mail I was reading brought up some good points on how the evolution of the CrossFit games has also changed the way general programming is written in affiliates. Over the past 9 years or so, we have seen a big shifts in CrossFit games programming, and in turn programming for a lot of affiliates. We have seen Muscle ups become standard, weights have increased drastically in terms of met-cons and strength averages, and we have seen the CrossFit games turn into a five day spectacle, with enough workouts to last a normal person two weeks. Some of these changes have trickled down to the affiliate level, all be it not quite to the same extent. Heavier weights, high level gymnastic movements, and high volume/intensity workouts are now part of regular programming in gyms. It has been very interesting to see the evolution of programming in CrossFit gyms around the world change in accordance to the changes in the sport side of CrossFit. If Greg Glassman makes true on his promise to shift the focus of CrossFit to health and wellness, I am excited/curios to see is how programming will be affected in gyms. Only time will tell, and hey, maybe I am completely wrong and there won’t be too much of a change in programming.


Don’t get me wrong, competing from time to time is great!

The main thing the article made me think of, and I have written about a similar topic recently, is how over the past couple of years, the sport of fitness and functional fitness have become blurred. People watch the CrossFit games and assume thats what true CrossFit programming should be like. This is not necessarily the case. The workouts you see at the CrossFit games are meant to crown what CrossFit defines as, “the fittest person on earth.” In order to achieve this goal, the CrossFit Games has to test all areas of fitness. This is where the lines of functional and sport become blurred. Because the level of competition has increased so drastically over the past nine years, the level of difficulty of the tests has increased to superhuman levels. Despite the CrossFit Games utilizing functional training methodologies, the increase in competition has forced them to take their tests to an unhealthy degree. In accordance to this, athletes have had to shift their training to be prepared for these grueling tests. Athletes are now training multiple hours a day, usually twice a day, and are training so many areas of fitness at such a high level, it becomes unhealthy. And again, we see this trickle down to the general populous. We now see everyday people trying to train like the top games athletes so they can become more fit. But this is where the distinction needs to be made, training to become the fittest you can be, and training to be healthy, are two different things. Once you shift your focus to competing (the end result) as opposed to training (focusing on the journey), you are foregoing a focus on health. If you are always trying to lift as heavy as possible, go as fast as possible, and are always chasing that feeling of utter exhaustion, you are employing competitive training habits. Now, don’t misunderstand me, trying to get the fastest time, PR a lift, or being left on the ground after a workout is okay….from time to time. You should just need to understand what it means to train for health versus competition.

If you have yet to read Nabil’s post on remembering your why, I would highly encourage you to read it!

With this competition mindset being the norm in so many gyms over the past couple years it will be interesting to see if that will shift as CrossFit changes over to focusing more on its health side, rather than emphasizing the games. At the Sweat Shop I think we do an excellent job of programming across the board. If you followed the prescribed (Rx’d) programming for all workouts at the Sweat Shop, along with proper diet and recovery practices, you’d be well o your way to optimizing health and wellness. Same goes for advanced track. Beefy and Bison is a different story. That track is reserved for the competitors and people interested in getting better at the sport of fitness. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, you just have to know what your intentions are and what you want to get out of your training. Its also okay from time to time really go for it and be sprawled out on the floor after a workout, just try not to make it a regular occurrence! An awesome post I would refer to is Nabil’s  post on “remembering your why“. He does a great job in explaining what it means to train to be healthy, and to train to be competitive. If you’ve made it to the end of this post (bonus if you read through Nabils in addition to this one) I challenge you to take a step back and really think about why you train, what you want to get out of it, and where you see yourself in five years in terms of your health and wellness.

2 replies
  1. Erik Polzin
    Erik Polzin says:

    Great post DJ! Good perspective. How do I redeem my bonus points for going back and re-reading Nabil’s post on remembering your why? 😉


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