CrossFit: It's anybody's game
July 18th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

CrossFit: It's anybody's game

As I stood in the Home Depot Center Stadium and looked around, I realized that in just two short years I have witnessed a true evolution in CrossFit.

Here in Carson, California, before a sold-out crowd, athletes from around the globe have come to challenge themselves like nothing you have ever witnessed before, in the hopes of being crowned fittest one earth.

Brutal workouts of burpees, pullups, running, Olympic lifting and gymnastics will force them to take their bodies to their limit. What was once a grassroots organization with garage gyms, and what some believe is a crazy approach to fitness, is now a televised event on ESPN with full sponsorship from Reebok. Million-dollar campaigns are now seen on primetime networks, as Reebok shows the world its specialized gear, specifically designed and inspired by CrossFit. There's even a growing celebrity segment that has my mom finally believing that what I do is OK. That’s right if “Bob” says it’s OK... then mom says it’s OK. That “Bob" would be Bob Harper of NBC’s Biggest Loser, who was an avid spectator for the three-day event.

Community is the key in CrossFit. From large sponsors to small startups to charities, CrossFit athletes support their fellow members.

The charity Barbells for Boobs was started in 2009 by a southern California woman. For a donation, CrossFit athletes and affiliates can participate in a special WOD (workout of the day in CrossFit jargon) where all proceeds go toward Mammograms in Action. With the growth of CrossFit, this charity went from raising $4,000 in 2009 to more than $600,000 in 2011.

It’s support like this that makes the CrossFit community so unique. Justin Key, a representative for 2Pood, a small sportswear company started by crossfitters, credits the community and support for allowing him to leave his corporate job. He now coaches at his own gym and sells sportswear full-time. For the Keys, CrossFit is a family affair, with them spending quality time together in the gym with wife, daughter and son all lifting and having fun. And Justin is more than proud to tell you that after only 18 months, his lovely wife has a 275 pound dead lift. This is a mother of two who works in the apartment management industry, not someone who works out professionally eight hours a day.

The Games is a sort of an annual mecca for the CrossFIt world. Competitors and spectators come from the four corners of the world and in all shapes, sizes, ages and religions. They spend three days together having the time of their lives while battling it out on the field. A total of $1 million in prize money is awarded to athletes in 11 divisions, with $250,000 awarded to winners in the individual division, $30,000 awarded to the top team and $3,000 awarded to winners in each of the eight masters divisions.

It all begins months in advance, with what HQ calls the open, where affiliate owners, gym members and even garage athletes can sign up to compete for a golden spot in the games Each week a new workout is announced with a scoring system, and after five weeks, those with the highest scores move on to a regionals competition. Then at regionals, it all comes down to just the top three winning a slot to compete in the official games.

Russia, Australia and Iceland are represented here. At, 22 and standing 5-foot-7, Iceland's Annie Thorisdottir’s strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes and bright smile make her a true fan favorite. The 2011 and 2012 fittest woman smiles after every grueling workout, and she hugs and supports all her fellow competitors. Oh, and she snatched 95 pounds 30 times in 1 minute 21 seconds. Her male counterpart is Rich Froning Jr. who hails from Tennessee. As fittest man, his dead lift is 525 pounds. These two are both young and in great shape but, age, size and strength are not all that matters in the CrossFit Games. Heart and mental toughness are the real winners and are how crowd favorites are made. Two who stand out most are by far the smallest competitors on the field, but definitely the owners of the biggest hearts.

Meet 36-year-old Annie Sakamoto, one of the original women of CrossFit. Standing at only 5 feet tall and weighing only 120 pounds, she can back squat more than double her body weight. And she will be smiling, laughing and having a grand time while she’s doing it.

Or Chris Spealler, who in a sea of 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-2 men, stands 5-foot-5 and can back squat 380 pounds, which is about 2.5 times his body weight. He is also one of the nicest people you will ever meet. These two get the screams and support because they are amazing to watch.

There are masters divisions for athletes 60 and older. There are team competitions where three men and three women must rely on each other, work together and strategize on the fly about how to make it to the finish line. All diverse in age, size and backgrounds. Some are lawyers, others software programmers, college grads, gym teachers, moms and Julie Foucher, the second place winner for 2012, will soon be a doctor. CrossFit has something for everyone, which is why it’s grown in leaps and bounds.

But in all honesty it may not be for everyone. There is a certain excitement and tenacity in a crossfitter you don’t find in everyone, but I think it can become an infectious quality if you are willing to take the leap. Because whether it’s your first unassisted pull up, lifting a heavy weight for the first time, or overcoming a fear of handstands, all while people you just met scream and cheer you on - the feeling and sense of accomplishment is one you will never forget. You will leave a CrossFit gym a completely different person than when you started . If you get a chance to watch the games replay, I think you will see what I mean.

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soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. justine

    New Zealand was also represented at the World Games – Ruth Horrell Anderson. From the Australia Regional – but not Australian.

    July 18, 2012 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. lilgtogirl

    yeah and for $200 a month they can impress themselves all they way. Frigging thieves.

    July 19, 2012 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      Go get personal training at 24 Hour Fitness for $60 per 50 minutes, you dumb f%*K!

      July 20, 2012 at 11:34 | Report abuse |
  3. Sherri

    Crossfit changed my life. Some crossfit gyms are expensive, others are not... It's worth every penny.

    July 19, 2012 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Rob

    For quality personal coaching anywhere, you can expect to pay $50-$150 an hour. A good CrossFit coach is pennies on the dollar, and gives you as good or better value.

    July 19, 2012 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cory

      Rob I couldn't agree with you more. I always try to explain that although crossfit can be expensive (I pay $150 a month for unlimited training), if you were to get a gym membership (say $20 bucks at a cheap Globo-gym) and a personal trainer (say 3 days a week at $30 dollars a session for 4 weeks a month) you will still outspend me ($380 to my $150). I am lucky enough to train at a box where the two head trainers have exercise and sports health degrees, so not only am I paying less but I am getting a lot more for my dollar.

      July 19, 2012 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • UnapologeticRedhead

      Actual Personal training at a CF gym runs the same as a "globo". Usually 50-65 per hour. You are generally paying for structured classes, just like you would with Yoga, spin, BodyPump or pick your poison and insert here. A CF "coach" obtains his expertise after a 2 day weekend seminar. Lets let calmer heads prevail and tell the truth on both sides of the equation.

      September 21, 2013 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
  5. cn

    CrossFit also must be done under the care of an experienced trainer, not some level-1 trainer who sat through a 2-day seminar and passed a 50 question multiple choice test. Pushing people to their breaking point is good for the mind and body, but repeatedly doing so has inherent dangerous health effects if limits are not established.

    July 19, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. DOn

    I did Crossfit at a local box for one year. Its way over priced.To get that coveted Level 1 coaching cert. It takes a credit card and a few hours of time. Crossfit is run like a cult. It's the Scientology of the fitness world.....the HQ WOD programming is stupid and dangerous. When choosing a CF gym. Look for a gym that doesnt do CF programming but instead does scaled programming. You do not want to be doing heavy squats every day. Also,most importantly, make sure that all of the coaching staff have 4-year sportsmed or fitness degrees and national certs from the main fitness orgs.
    P.S. Do not drink the Kool-aid....Throwing up after a work out is nothing to be proud about, nor is getting skin ripped off your hands during kipping pull ups. CF is NOT the end all be all of fitness regimes....You will get hurt eventually doing CF, you might even break bones....Youve been warned.
    IP.P.S: I now do limited CF wods mixed in with P90x and power lifting at home and save a ton of money.

    July 19, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      Yeah, and you are fat.

      July 20, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse |
  7. DOn

    The funny thing is that the people that do well in the Crossfit games do NOT do the Crossfit HQ wods,,,, They spend their time doing basic powerlifting workouts and wind sprints in very well programmed work outs. Not some mystery disjointed WOD.

    July 19, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. xjafc

    You couldn't be more ignorant in your comments and remarks. I do, however, respect your opinions regarding our program. Your comments are not quanitifiable and come off opinionated at best. I suggest you attend our L1 Courses so that you may find the cause of your own ignorance when speaking of what CF is/isn't. It's a shame your experience with that particular affiliate was what it was. But don't throw the rest of our community under the bus from this sole experience.

    Feel free to email me if you care to find out more about what CF is, and to understand our fitness methodology at chris@cfjax.com

    July 19, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. DOn

    Robb Wolf pretty much says the same thing as I have. No body would call him ignorant of CF methodology. Just listen to his podcast on CF....He pretty much says the same thing.

    July 19, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • xjafc

      🙂 My apologies, mate. Had I realized Robb Wolf was your resource for your CF expertise and that you follow rather than lead by your own example and your own experience, then I would have not posted to begin with. BTW- when you say that 'nobody' would call him ignorant to the CF methodology...whom do you speak of exactly? Again, you use unquantifiable/opinionated statements that you can't justify. Just because someone says something on a podcast doesn't make it gospel. But I gather you believe everything you hear. My advice to you is to continue listening to an authority figure on nutrition to make claims on his expertise on a fitness program. In the meantime, I will seek a dentist to give me advice on juggling.

      July 19, 2012 at 21:12 | Report abuse |
  10. DOn

    XJ,,,You've just proven my point about Crossfit and its similarity to Scientology.....Thanks for playing.

    July 19, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. benjaminmoores


    I've never worked out at a single affiliate that DIDN'T allow scaling. Like Chris, I believe you had a bad experience. I also agree that basing your own opinion off of Robb Wolf's, who as Chris mentioned, is an "expert" on nutrition is a bit foolish. If you look at the ".com" workouts and chose not to scale when the prescribed workout is beyond your abilities, you have noone to blame but yourself. Scaling is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Finding a box with a competent coaching staff is the most important thing. If you don't take it upon yourself to find the best one available to you, you again have noone to blame but yourself. You wouldn't simply find the first car dealership you stumble upon when buying a car would you? I hope not. Presumably you'd find the dealer offering the product you want, in this case fitness, with a staff who can offer you that product in the most effective way possible, in this case an experienced, informed staff. Your mind is clearly made up and I have no intention of changing that. The reality is CF just isn't for some people. However, spreading ignorant opinions, not even based on original thought, is a bit sheepish, no?

    July 20, 2012 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • G8rDave

      Very well said. I did CF for 2 years using the BrandX WODs, which are scaled versions of the CF Main WODS. (The main site even provides the link, explicitly revealing the awareness of scaling as integral to CF's success.) However, I agree with many experienced CF-ers who decidedly avoid the main site WODs, even scaled. I agree with above observations that you MUST find a gym with coaches with an education and experience in exercise physiology/kinesiology and preferably biology to integrate diet into the exercise. The L1 certification is not a bad thing and all I know who have completed it were impressed with the teaching, etc. But a cert on the wall does NOT a CF coach make, in and of itself. It's YOUR body, people. "One does not simply walk into CrossFit", as Boromir might have said. Most gyms have free days, or free visits. Take advantage of it, if you are new to it. Ask questions. How are the members treated? Is there a good age range of members, if that matters to you? What is the education and experience of the staff? Do people seem to be having fun? Do they have a "puke bucket" as big part of their image or do they de-emphasize nonsense like that? Guys, can you handle women who can proportionately and absolutely outperform you on lifts, maybe at first, maybe all the time? Women, can you get over being afraid to ask questions, or for help? Can you leave your ego at the door? These are things to consider before taking the plunge. If yyou do, then I say "Welcome to the Fellowship of Shared Suffering".

      July 20, 2012 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • gsmcwb

      Excellent posts, Benjamin and Dave! As a recent attendee of a L1 cert class, I can attest to the fact that it is time and money well spent. The lectures were very well presented, the workouts were challenging but encouraging, and the fellowship was amazing. The most useful part of this class is the hands-on aspect that allows participants to perform the fundamental movements and recognize flaws in form (and how to correct them). This class focuses on making attendees into better coaches. The 50-question test at the end is definitely not a formality. To pass it (and typically only 70% do), you must study the materials ahead of time and pay close attention in the lectures.

      Being a great coach requires continued learning and practice. It is also beneficial for coaches have great mentors that can teach them.

      At face value, I understand the comment that it is best to have a 4-yr degree in fitness; however, so much that has been taught over the years about fitness is crap compared to a "constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements" approach.

      P.S. I did the complete P90X program as prescribed. I saw improvements, but I nearly pulled my hair out having to listen to Tony tell the same corny jokes over and over. Btw, there isn't a single P90X (or plus or Insanity) video that will kick your butt harder that Fran!

      July 20, 2012 at 13:23 | Report abuse |
  12. CJW

    I am 65 and have been doing Cross Fit for 3 years. I am in much better shape than others my age, great balance, able to move my furniture and lift heavy loads at home. Cross Fit helps with practical skills needed as we age. I am not lifting huge weights as my trainer does scale workouts for my ability but i am proud of every increase in weight and all the moves I can do. I wouldn't be exercising without CrossFit. I appreciate and love all the trainers at my gym and have met so many great people.

    July 20, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ben

      Don says Crossfit sucks, so I can only assume you are lying and are not in good shape.

      July 25, 2012 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
  13. bouybilly

    Reblogged this on numberonedad.

    July 20, 2012 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jesusisgay

    Catholics for Crossfit! The priest puts his barbell in the little boy on his knees and works it. The Lord commandeth, thou shalt loveth the Lord as if he's your boy toy! So get down on your knees, take a swig of wine, and take the Lord's body right in the mouth! Praise Jesus! Amen!

    July 22, 2012 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jesusisgay

    I reblogged this comment on numberone dad too! Catholic priests and a.4.al sl..uts.

    July 22, 2012 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. DOn

    Hey, benjaminmoores! Why don't you s\/ck my c0.ck! Fluck you!

    July 22, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sherri

    I know crossfit is the greatest, but I'm actually still a fat ugly slob!

    July 22, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 27, 2012 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. john

    why wouldn't you just become proficient in each of the catagories that crossfit does? Do cycles/periodization etc. Umm I dunno like olympic athletes do? I bet a top tier gymnast with one month of learning the olympic lifts would beat out a top tier Crossfitter @ crossfitting. Plus the major athletes that retired to do crossfit got there bodies from...you guessed it there sport specific training. Not from crossfit. However for your average joe who's biggest workout is lifting his briefcase yeah it's gonna be good, until he dislocates his [fill here]. just sayin And olympic lifts are not ment to be done for 20, 30 reps

    July 27, 2012 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. EverybodyIsAnExerciseExpert

    CrossFit makes people better. IF you already have a routine then continue doing it. IF you dont have a routine try CrossFit. If you dont want to pay – do it for FREE from CrossFit.com IF you want great training Pay for it at an affiliate that knows what they are doing. If you want to continue to be a slouch just move on to the next blog or go to CrossFit.com and Start CrossFit.

    August 10, 2012 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jimmy

    Those guys are flat out crazy. I do crossfit but I only do the beginner lifts that I find on http://crossfitworkouts.co I don't think there is anyway that I would be able to ever complete the lifts that these guys are doing. BEASTS!

    August 31, 2012 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bryn

    try this on for size! we call it the Ponzi scheme.10 deeadlifts(50kg),20 pull ups,30 power squats(30kg),40 plank rows(8kg),50 jump squats,60 push press,70 push ups,80 wall balls(10kg),90 burpees,100 cal.row TIME – 30'26" Bryn Freeman – 70kg triathlete – program designed by Enver Johns

    October 31, 2012 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
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