With the first workout of the CrossFit Games Open being released today I want to talk to you about how Dave Castro has ruined CrossFit.
It's funny, just writing those words makes me feel like the Russells will be coming after me or I will be having my affiliate revoked but just wait and hear me out. Obviously there is a catch here (beyond the obvious click bait) because CrossFit is doing great. Hundreds of thousands of people from tens of thousands of CrossFit affiliates worldwide are giddy with excitement and just a bit nervous. So how can I say CrossFit has been ruined?
CrossFit started as an exercise program. That's it. It has become a sport and that is largely due to the efforts of Castro. Sure there has always been an element of competition to CrossFit and that is what makes it so groundbreaking, that little dose of competition pushes people to go just a little harder and that effort is rewarded by stronger, more efficient, healthier bodies. Many of the people coming into CrossFit affiliates in 2016 have seen the CrossFit Games on ESPN and decide to give it a shot after seeing Froning, or Baily, or Thorisdottir. Great bodies. Amazingly capable bodies. Most of these people don't know the roots, and never take the time to learn. Hell, let's be honest, many of the affiliate owners would fit this bill too. The CrossFit Games and the unmitigated success that it has been has helped CrossFit grow into a fitness empire and given many people (myself included) the chance to do what we love for a living. How is that ruined?
Way back in 2005 Greg Glassman wrote a CrossFit journal article titled Virtuosity where some very profound concepts are laid out. Concepts that many of the people now finding their way to the local affiliate lack. Sadly, many of the new affiliates also seem to lack. Because for the new initiates CrossFit is a sport. But that isn't where it started. Unlike basketball, where if I can go down to the local playground and throw a basketball at the hoop and have fun with my friends why take the time and effort to learn good shooting mechanics? Because I'm not being asked to score on Shaquille O'neal that's why. This isn't just a problem with new CrossFitters of course. Here is an excerpt from Glassman's article where he points this out. This is his insight -- his genius in this regard.
There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques. This compulsion is the novice’s curse—the rush to originality and risk. The novice’s curse is manifested as excessive adornment, silly creativity, weak fundamentals and, ultimately, a marked lack of virtuosity and delayed mastery. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be taught by the very best in any field you’ve likely been surprised at how simple, how fundamental, how basic the instruction was. The novice’s curse afflicts learner and teacher alike. Physical training is no different.
In many cases too much emphasis is placed on competition and sport too early and not enough on virtuosity. I have no problem watching Jeremy Kinnick drop to a knee during the Games (even if the Weightlifting purists would) because he is a highly trained athlete competing at the highest levels. He knows what he's capable of and is competing to win. But when I see almost the identical act performed by a hundred pound girl at a local contest I cringe. Where is the virtuosity?
Too many affiliates put too much emphasis on competing and not enough on doing it well. People new to CrossFit are having the competitive part of what we do prioritized and because of that they miss the bigger picture. CrossFit started as a fitness program and not a sport. Competing is fine in your affiliate, it is even fine in the Open, but until last year there were no scaled options and so many people were over their heads trying to do what they clearly weren't capable of doing.
The Open is awesome. Regionals are awesome. The Games are awesome. But just because Castro has done an amazing thing building this into an annual event that so many hundreds of thousands will participate in, doesn't mean you forget where Glassman started. It starts with virtuosity. It starts with a fitness program. Of course compete, work hard, but compete with yourself. Put in the work. Be CrossFit. Remember your roots.