Thursday, August 5, 2010

CrossFit is more than the Games

The 2010 CrossFit Games had all the trappings of an epic event. There was months of anticipation, interviews, video journals, and endless speculation over what the WODs would be. The change of venue offered an upgrade in prestige and logistical complexity; the addition of the Masters division increased the breadth and diversity of competition. There were multiple event locations for spectators to move between, endless lines of sponsor tents rimming the main arena, and more racks, ropes, rings, and walls than any athlete could have expected. The prize packages for the winners and the general investment in the Games themselves offer hard evidence of CrossFit’s exponential growth. Taken in sum, these games undoubtedly took the program out of the garage and into the blinding light of a mass appellate sun.

Some have balked at this perceived success. After all, CrossFit is beloved for its rawer qualities—roll-up garage doors, canvas sand bags, and pullup bars wrapped in sheaths of blood and chalk. People argue that while the progression towards high definition coverage and corporate sponsorship is at times convenient, it compromises the blue-collar tenets and attitudes that CrossFit was built on. They ask that if its fundamental philosophy is to prepare people for an uncontrolled environment, why are the Games being held in such a regulated space? People moan about the costs of attendance/parking and the commercialization of an idea that should not be perverted or abused. Purists are quick to point out that CrossFit is, at its essence, an anywhere, anytime test that requires nothing but the individual and the task and, therefore, a stadium filled with ticket takers and security guards, professional camera crews, and acres of health and safety regulations are tangiential distractions from what is really important.

Honestly, I find none of these objections objectionable. Few if any of the upgrades made this year are essential to CrossFit’s basic existence and the slope is slippery. In fact, a WOD without them would probably more closely resemble the situation at your home box. Your gym does not care if every video angle is covered, whether winners get interviewed, or how many people get access to results. By the same token, daily life is ambivalent to where the WOD is held, how many seats there are, or how much parking you have out back. All that really matters in any session on any day is that you find a way to improve.

This is the heart of the methodology and I can understand the criticisms that this year’s Games were a deviation from it. But the application of that methodology and its manifestation into a global test that is sustainable requires some transformation. Dealing with a popular phenomenon means spectators, marketing, and investment. The presence of these elements at the 2010 Games should not be viewed as an evil materialist influence, but as proof of the program’s effectiveness and popularity. That 250,000 people tuned in to their computers to watch this event around the world doesn’t mean that CrossFit is a commercial giant, it means that a quarter of a million bodies are interested in the methodology and want to learn more. By reaching that many people we are simply increasing the chances that they will decide to make a positive change in their lives.

Ultimately, the CrossFit Games are not CrossFit. They are a showcase for the methodology and the most powerful motivational speaker ever invented.


  1. I completelely agree. Saying that the CrossFit Games in their current and evolving format undermines the core principles of CrossFit is a bit like saying that Major League Baseball undermines Little League Baseball.

    The fact that baseball is played at a high level in the major leagues does nothing to discourage anyone's love of the game. In fact, it is MLB that introduces most children to the game and gives them a reference for what excellence in their sport looks like.

  2. Hi Blair! My name is Joel and i have a blog about CrossFit in Sweden. I wonder if i can post your blogs "Fitnes is..." I think they are great and i would like to chare them to the new crossfitters in Sälen!

  3. Blair, were you skateboarding down Mission beach tonight?

  4. Joel, feel free to post. Robert, if i was i surely wouldve eaten shit quickly.