CrossFit is for Nerds
Yesterday I competed in the CrossFit Games Open WOD 11.5 at CrossFit HEL (in Portland, Oregon). To the majority of my readers, those words mean absolutely nothing. So, let's start at the beginning.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is an fitness program that attempts to improve your skill in the broadest range of physical abilities possible. Here is a short list of activities a random CrossFit workout might contain:
- Bodyweight Exercises (Pullups, pushups, etc)
- Olympic Weightlifting (Snatch, Clean & Jerk)
- Cardio/Metabolic Conditioning (Rowing, sprinting, jump rope)
- Gymnastic Movements (Handstands, gymnastics rings)
- Strongman Lifting (Flipping tires, Atlas stones)
- Strength Training (Heavy squats, benchpress)
- Russian Kettlebell Training
Here's the catch. A typical CrossFit workout (or WOD) is very short (10-15 minutes on average) and combines the above in the most devious ways possible. For example, try running as hard as you can until you're mind is fatigued, and THEN attempt a complex and technical movement like the Olympic Snatch.
Where do I CrossFit?
CrossFit is essentially a start-up incubator for Gyms. The main website posts a new workout every day. If you workout from home, you can do it in your garage and share your score in the comments. Over the past 5 years, thousands of small CrossFit gyms have popped up around the world. Most of these were founded by people who were working out in their garage and then decided to quit their boring job and run their own business. Initially, they and their new clients can follow the CrossFit.com workouts, but eventually they will start creating their own.
Most of these gyms are run in small, garage-like buildings filled with barbells and weights. The limited space encourages small communities and direct interaction between the clients and the owners. They are the ultimate startup. Small, focused, unable to afford fancy offices, but dedicated to their small (but growing) group of users. It's hard to describe the incredibly tight sense of community at every CrossFit gym (or "box") I've visited.
Interestingly, these gyms/communities follow Dunbar's number pretty closely. About the time a gym nears 150 members, usually some segment will break off and start another gym to return the community to a smaller, more focused state.
Stats, Charts & Data-points
Finally, here is the reason why CrossFit is for Nerds. Every workout has a score and participants are encouraged to track every possible metric. And because there are so many possible workouts and combinations of exercises, there are a dizzying number of data-points. It also provides a sense of progress. If you're trying to diet or hitting the treadmill at the gym, how do you know it's working? Does anyone try to speed-up their running or do they just set the timer for 1 hour and wait it out? With CrossFit you can say "this week I lifted 110 pounds and last week it was only 100 pounds." That's a 10% increase in a week! And I personally love looking at all the little improvements.
Which brings me to the CrossFit Games and the Open WODs. Every year, CrossFitters around the world compete to discover who is the "fittest." Usually, there are formalized competitions in each region and eventually these boil down to a single multi-day competition in California somewhere. I highly suggest taking a look at the videos from last year, which were recorded in HD and streamed live over the 3-day competition (CrossFit has a very solid IT team).
This year, there were nearly 30,000 registered athletes, so HQ (the folks who run CrossFit) decided that the first round of competition would take place were CrossFit is strongest: in the garage, in the box, and in the gyms. This year, there are 6 WODs (1 per week) and competitors can either complete them in a CrossFit gym (any CrossFit gym in the world) or anywhere they have access to a video camera. Athletes can record their workout and upload to the site for judging (I told you their IT team was badass).
First, this further enhances the community by creating thousands of mini-competitions. Second, this is all happening live on the CrossFit Games website, which means there is a metric fuckton of data. Check it out:
Now, I'm not a statistician, but this guy is. Drink in the data:
In my opinion, working out isn't about being some roided-out Jersey Shore reject. It's about improving yourself one little data-point at a time. It can increase productivity, while decreasing stress. It provides a sense of community and it will slowly give you more and more "dumb human tricks" like handstands.
- Speaking of fitness nerds, I highly recommend Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Body.
- I'm currently one of the 15 worst CrossFitters in the Northwest, according to my current place in the competition. No worries, it's not about winning. I'm getting higher scores of workouts and exercises than I ever had before!
- I ran into Justin Lewis, a principle at Instrument, at my last WOD. He remarked on how badass it was that I was competing in my jQuery Conference shirt :)
- Here are some other nerds I CrossFit with: