As an Affiliate owner and Crossfit coach I get regularly bombarded by the plethora of media out there on why Crossfit is; saving the world, bringing on the apocalypse, revolutionising fitness, destroying the fabric of society. Anyway you get the picture. In general my response can be summarised as:
My standard policy is ignore and move on. Both the haters and popularists have pumped out some questionable propaganda on both sides of the fence - I'm generally too busy actually doing my job. But eventually you reach a point where it seems prudent to dissect an article (briefly) and put some coherent and intelligent discussion around the veritable river of crap that flows through my news feed.
That brings me to Erin Simmons blogpost, touted about by Dailydot, that reached me this morning, 'Why I don't do Crossfit' - you can waste some brain cells and time by reading it here.
Alternatively let me give you a highlight reel...
First question I ask is who wrote this and why?
Second question - would it stand up to any valid peer review scrutiny. (I'm a scientist and nerd by trade as well so the peer review thing sits well with me)
Let's start with the who and why.
The beauty of the internet - you are free to post your opinion, whatever that is, for all and sundry to gaze at in wonder.
The problem with the internet - everyone else can do the same.
SO if I have a blog that needs some traffic, I need to stand out from the crowd. You can do that by actually being a seriously credible expert in your field and post quality content over time, garnering the respect and confidence of your community.....or you can troll like a mastermind, take some cheap shots and let the comments drive your traffic stats through the roof.
Looks like Erin (and Dailydot) went the low road.
So to me that looks like the why, lets check out the who.
'...Erin Simmons has a Master of Science in Biology. She has worked for the Department of Defense as a contractor in a physiology laboratory, and she is currently working on her Ph.D. in Fisheries at Texas A&M. A former student athlete, she is a volunteer assistant coach for the national championship track and field teams there, and she has created her own brand of fitness and health advice with Erin Simmons Fitness....'
Ok so looking past the 'volunteer assistant coach' thing, (that's a gimme if ever there was one) you're doing a PhD so I assume you have some understanding of statistics, hypothesis and conclusions. And i'm wasn't sure what 'your own brand of fitness and health advice' consitituted but after some research of your article and your blog I think I have an idea - but we will get to that.
Given that any PhD student worth a pinch of footnote would understand the value of peer review - or at the very least having an arguement that will withstand intelligent enquiry. Let's have a crack..
Your Honour, defense calls 'complete contradiction' to the stands..
"..Never once, in the five years I was at Florida State University working out with a three-time back-to-back national championship team, did my strength coaches give me a workout sheet that told me to do Olympic or Power lifts for time. Never once did they give me a workout that told me to do sets of 15, 20, or 30 Olympic or Power lifts. Never once did they tell me to do as many as I possibly could. Never once in the nearly two years I’ve been at A&M working for a men’s four-time national championship track and field team and women’s three-time national championship team, have these things occurred.
Why? Because Olympic and power lifts are not meant to be done in sets of 30 or for time. They are extremely technique-oriented and are meant to be explosive and powerful over very short periods of time with plenty of rest. Subjecting your muscles to those movements continuously for time or for reps sets you up for injury..."
Erin's Blog; (Jan 2012 - here)
"...This week’s workout, the “P” Workout! Give it a try :) it may look simple but it’s not so easy. If you’re not completely exhausted after 4 sets (which you should be if you’re doing them as fast as possible!), then take a 5-10 minute break and do it again! I completed my 4 sets in 18:58.
Keep in mind that “for speed” never compromises form! Keep power cleans and push press light. The real speed comes from the pull-ups as well as your transit time. So just keep moving...'
Holy Sheet Batman - kinda looks like you're advocating power cleans for speed and time there...in complete contradiction to your espoused expert opinion...
But in your defence when it came to giving some advice on the movements you did refer to the industry standard for proper form reference;
I’d love to follow your workouts but I don’t know what all the exercises are (like power clean, pikes and push press) where can I find these and how to do them properly?
Try some instructional videos on YouTube. Eventually I hope to have my own videos up for all my workouts, but I just haven’t had the chance to really sit down with my photographer to shoot that much video! Pikes should be on my stability ball workout which is also on YouTube. Let me know if you have any more specific questions!
I kid you not - straight from the blog to you...
But let us continue...
Defense calls ignorance and wild accusation to the stand..
"...Then the timer started. I was constantly yelled at to go faster, to take shortcuts, and to do movements from which previous injuries precluded me. It was a whirlwind, and all I remember was stopping at one point and watching some of the bad form that people were using around me.
And that’s when I started to worry.....but I did it anyway....'
Let's be honest - there absolutely is some poor Crossfit coaches out there, As well as general personal trainers, garage gym trainers and weekend warriors. There is bad programming, poor coaching and even injury. As there is in every single sport on the planet. Every watched a local footy or netball match - ever seen an injury?
The flip side - there are some amazing coaches and facilities out there. I actually don't know a CrossFit Affiliate that religiously follows HQ programming so please don't tar us with the same brush. I also don't know of a Box where the coaches sole qualification are a Level 1. Sure you can get a Level 1 and open a box but I guarantee you will be out of business within a few months. If that.
Erin went to two boxes from what I can read and had a bona fide poor experience. The problem is that she then used two boxes to extrapolate to the behaviour of the other 8000+ of us out there. And by extrapolate I mean this;
"...Boxes have attempted to combat the bad reputation of CrossFit by saying that other gyms do bad stuff but their gym is different, their coaches know good form, their gym focuses on safety. This is simply not true and every single thing that I’ve posted in this article refers to every single gym that follow CrossFit. There are no exceptions, if you’re following the WODs, it’s not good for you, it’s not safe, and you’re putting your health in danger. Take it for what it’s worth, but please believe that your box is not different, no matter what your coach says...'
So I'm going to guess that the fact that our coaches learnt their Olympic lifts from Commmonwealth Games athletes, their kettlebell form from Andrew Read and the RKC team, their gymnastics coaching from Hangstrong - Yep we clearly have no idea what we are doing. (I won't mention the bachelor and masters degrees floating around, granted I'm not doing my PhD in Fisheries but hey, it's not like that is relevant anyway...). Did I mention a collective four decades of teaching, coaching and competitive experience.
"...And that’s when I started to worry.....but I did it anyway....'
If in your expert opinion this was so dangerous then why the F*$k didn't you stop.
Are you incapable of speech or require constant adult supervision?
With you extensive athletic background of volunteerism surely you could have stopped and offered some advice?
Last but not least if you are going to reference articles to back up your assertions - don't use the Huffington Post or WedMD. It's like using a wiki to make policy decisions. Next time just send in Colin Powell with a powerpoint presentation. That worked.
If you want one iota of credibility use some peer reviewed material that has already withstood some actual scrutiny. Then I might give your opinion some weight.
So well done Erin, you wrote a blog that will gather plenty of traffic.
The Crossfit haters will love it, the trolls will applaud you and a few us will read it and see it for the tissue paper thin argument it is.