Education, experience are key with CrossFitAs CrossFit’s popularity explodes, its approach hasn’t escaped the scrutiny of fitness experts.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
As CrossFit’s popularity explodes, its approach hasn’t escaped the scrutiny of fitness experts.
“The workouts are time efficient,” acknowledges Joe Warpeha, assistant professor of exercise physiology at the College of St. Scholastica. “They can be relatively short, 30 minutes or less. You could actually get a very good workout.”
Unlike the bench presses and other exercises done at traditional gyms, CrossFit’s strength and conditioning workouts mimic the movements of everyday life so it’s a more functional total body workout, he said.
And scaled to ability levels, it’s something most people can do. But, he warned, the exercises are not suitable for everybody, and pre-existing health conditions can spell trouble, he and other experts say.
The concern, Warpeha says, is that staff may not have the education and experience to identify and screen out those who are at risk of injury. Because CrossFit is an intense program, when people get fatigued, their technique is more likely to break down and their risk of injury goes up, he said.
“That’s when the door to injury is wide open,” he said. “It’s a scary thing. The trainers may very well have the right look. They know how to do the exercises. But there are other things they may not know.”
Members typically sign waivers releasing CrossFit from liability.
CrossFit has two levels of certification for its trainers but only requires a Level 1, which involves two days of training, passing a test and paying a $1,000 fee. Affiliate gyms pay $3,000 a year to use the CrossFit trademark and must have at least a Level 1-certified trainer on hand and a website for its Internet links.
“My guess is their background and qualifications run the spectrum to unqualified to people significantly overqualified,” Warpeha said of CrossFit trainers around the country. “In my opinion, the patron won’t necessarily know. They just see that trainers are CrossFit-certified, so they think they must be competent. That, to me, is a problem.”
CrossFit Duluth owner Dale Collison said CrossFit isn’t for everybody.
“Some of these young guys can really push themselves, and they can push themselves into injury,” he said. “We keep an eye on that, so they’re not pushing too hard. We make sure they are doing techniques properly.”
Warpeha thinks CrossFit is a fad, though a long-term one that could be around another 10 or 20 years in some form. He says CrossFit has taken off for several reasons, including its strong Internet presence and successful marketing. Its Workout of the Day is posted online daily. Its annual CrossFit Games competition to find the “Fittest on Earth” are televised on ESPN and are fun to watch.
But what Warpeha describes as CrossFit’s cult-like following also concerns him.
“People who are disciples of CrossFit don’t want to hear about other approaches,” he said. “They have blinders on.”
CrossFit can, indeed, be addicting, Collison said.
“There is something about people who CrossFit,” he said. “CrossFit is kind of like crack. If you get into it and find you like it, you’re going to love it and want more of it.”
Warpeha advises people interested in trying CrossFit to do their homework on the instructor and their background.
“I would like to see more than a CrossFit certification,” he said. “I would like to see an academic degree in physical education or exercise science or advance certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association or American College of Sports Medicine. Neither is easy to get.”