What is Fitness?
June 20, 2007 8:46 AM   Subscribe

“What is fitness?”(large PDF) is an essay by the leaders of the CrossFit movement. The ideal they propose is an athlete who is “equal parts gymnast, Olympic weightlifter, and multi-modal sprinter or ‘sprintathlete.’ Develop the capacity of a novice 800-meter track athlete, gymnast, and weightlifter and you’ll be fitter than any world-class runner, gymnast, or weightlifter.”
posted by jason's_planet (51 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
And here I thought fitness was a direct measure of how your heart reacted to exertion. I demand my middle school fees back!1
posted by Firas at 9:06 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like it. Roughly corresponds to the training ethos that was instilled in me as a beach lifeguard in high school and college, where oftentimes a variety of these fitness types were utilized during the course of a single rescue.
posted by saladin at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2007


Well, Firas, I think you will be fitter when you can do all these things, because doing only one sport makes your fitness limited to just "one" muscle group, e.g. good cyclist will get exhausted faster when swimming than when cycling.

Mmmh, just become a weightlifting triathlete?
posted by mmkhd at 9:14 AM on June 20, 2007


Develop the capacity of a novice 800-meter track athlete, gymnast, and weightlifter and you’ll be fitter than any world-class runner, gymnast, or weightlifter.

And have the free time of a mother of newborn sextuplets.
posted by DU at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


Ooops, I just should have read paragraph one. (Seems I have been hanging around ./ too much)
posted by mmkhd at 9:16 AM on June 20, 2007


And holy shit, I'm going to either going to join or found a Hoover Ball league as soon as possible.
posted by saladin at 9:17 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fitness is a measure of fecundity. The rest is pride.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Inventing new ways to assure people they are not 'fit enough' so they'll spend more money on the fitness industry, while avoiding worrying about other things with less direct impact on their own precious selves.
posted by Goofyy at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2007


This concept is well-known among elite athletes who are highly specifically trained to do one thing. A fairly well-known US road racer (he has completed several Tours de France) spoke about this very thing—he remarked that while he had no problem riding a 50-lb cruiser up a steep hill en route to this meeting, walking up the stairs to the meeting hall winded him.

I think this is also the reason that some people regard pro basketball players to be the "best-trained" athletes in the world - they need strength, speed, stamina, explosiveness, quickness, and hand-eye coordination to compete at that level.

For another example, see: Jenner, Bruce

In other words, there's nothing new under the sun; old concept with new name.
posted by Mister_A at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2007


*pines for the days when great athletes could be overweight alcoholics*
posted by jonmc at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think this is also the reason that some people regard pro basketball players to be the "best-trained" athletes in the world - they need strength, speed, stamina, explosiveness, quickness, and hand-eye coordination to compete at that level.

I heard the same thing about boxers.
posted by mmkhd at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2007


And have the free time of a mother of newborn sextuplets.

Actually, these guys emphasize short, intense workouts. A long workout in the CrossFit regimen would be something like running 5K for time.

So, no, you don't have to live in the gym to get fit.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2007


mmkhd - absolutely.

jonmc - those days ended in fall of 1993.
posted by Mister_A at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Excellent. Since I am closer to novice at those things than I am to world class I just dramatically improved my fitness without doing thing. Those are the kind of gains I like.

A fairly well-known US road racer (he has completed several Tours de France) spoke about this very thing—he remarked that while he had no problem riding a 50-lb cruiser up a steep hill en route to this meeting, walking up the stairs to the meeting hall winded him.

That makes no sense to me. Stairs and cycling are very similar and use a lot of the same muscles and being winded is a reflection of cardio fitness rather than muscles anyway. Perhaps if he had tried the stairs with EPO?

*pines for the days when great athletes could be overweight alcoholics*

I'm pretty sure that was just yesterday for baseball.
posted by srboisvert at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2007


HOW Crossfit trains is interesting. Certainly not new. In fact quite old school for the most part except how they cycle everything together. Its like going to high school wrestling practice in 1979 all over again with a few modern twists.

Sometimes their regimes are bit over the top but they do let you go at your own level. I more or less do a modified version of their routines i just added jump rope and shadowboxing to the mix. I really like it.
posted by tkchrist at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2007


So the Crossfit philosophy is to spend the time and effort that would let you become highly competitive in one sport... to become mediocre in six.

All because of this undefinable concept of "fitness". Brilliant!

Now go and do 400 muscle-ups.
posted by Bletch at 9:45 AM on June 20, 2007


Seattle blogger Fran Mason has been writing about her Crossfit training for several years now.

"I bought a 16-kilo kettlebell. When I saw that they were making them in red, I couldn't resist. [...] Update after several uses: The red kettlebell is gorgeous, but its finish is so smooth that the handle gets hard to hold when wet. I've also found in using it for the snatch, when it shifts to rest on the back of the wrist, the peculiar smooth friction on the palm feels like it will produce a blister more quickly than the slightly rough black kettlebells would."
posted by anitar at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2007


That Hooverball looks like a pretty intense workout. Nice.
posted by oddman at 9:55 AM on June 20, 2007


A 16-kilo kettleball? That's some snatch!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:56 AM on June 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I am an athlete by accident. I ride my bike over 70 miles a week as a commuter and do about 8 hours of kung fu training a week, not to mention lots of Impromptu Ten-Minute Dance Parties.

It all sort of crept up on me over time, so it's only lately that I have started taking care of myself accordingly, ie: getting enough rest and eating everything in sight. I figure by this time next year I will be either a carnie or a high-paid assassin, whether I like it or not.
posted by hermitosis at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2007


I've been a carnie. You are way over-qualified to be a carnie.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Were you the bearded lady, IRFH?
posted by Mister_A at 10:19 AM on June 20, 2007


Fitness is training like boxers train.

Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini summed it up when once asked who were the most fit athletes. "Boxers," he replied without hesitation. "When runners get tired, they can slow down. When weightlifters get tired they will fail to lift as much. When wrestlers get tired, they get pinned, but when boxers get tired, they get the living shit beaten out of them."
posted by three blind mice at 10:34 AM on June 20, 2007 [10 favorites]


Were you the bearded lady, IRFH?

Heh. No - I worked a line of game-booths. Which actually was quite a work-out, now that I think about it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2007


*pines for the days when great athletes could be overweight alcoholics*

While not an alcoholic, you could always start rooting for Prince.
posted by drezdn at 11:32 AM on June 20, 2007


I have the best all round gym in the world, only 10 minutes away. It's called A River Runs Through It. It takes about an hour if you try to ride everything once, or hours upon hours if you insist on riding everything until you stick it. The day after you ride this, you are sore everywhere, without exception.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:54 AM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


For those making fun, here's my testimonial. First of all, I hate crossfit's political leanings, so my time on the website is limited to reading the WOD (workout of the day), and getting some idea of what times people are posting for it. Then I go and do the workout, write down my time, and wait for the next day.

I have never felt fitter for my sport than when I was doing crossfit consistently for 4-5 days a week. I train (and occasionally compete) in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and last year while I was training for a large tournament I did crossfit for the two months or so leading up to the fights. I felt great. I could push the pace of a fight for the whole fight and not get tired. It made a huge difference, especially against larger training partners and opponents.

For some disciplines, crossfit probably isn't an ideal training format. But for most people, it's pretty phenomenal. Most people don't aspire to deadlift 600lbs +, cycle 100+miles at a time, or run a marathon in under 2:30. Those people need specificity. But there are a lot of sports that require a wide range of fitness capabilities. Basketball, football, combat sports, hockey...all demand that you have good cardiovascular endurance, good muscular endurance, decent strength, and decent power/explosiveness. Crossfit is one of the only workout programs I've found where all of that is included in the day-to-day progression of activities.

There are two big added bonuses as well: most of the workouts can have you in and out of the gym in an hour, sometimes less, (including warmup and cooldown) and the workouts are so varied you won't get bored of the routine. There is no routine.

And I would argue that the same (excellent) quote three blind mice gives applies to mixed martial artists as well, a number of whom use the crossfit program.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


[expetive deleted]-That trail looks unreal, and totally beyond me. I'm sure it's a beast and a half, fitness wise. Looks amazing. Thanks for the videos. I'm sending them on to some riding budddies.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:24 PM on June 20, 2007


Glad you liked it, Underpants. I rode it yesterday for the first time this year. It kicked my ass. Let's just say I'm glad I was wearing a full-face. There is something about the XC-Freeride style of the trail that makes it an all round punishing workout. You need cardio fitness, since it takes at least 45 mins, provided you aren't just riding around all the stunts, you need explosive power to get up and over a lot of the obstacles and you need excellent core strength and well developed balance and coordination to stay on the skinnies. All you need to do is stretch beforehand.

I couldn't find a good shot of the centerpiece of the trail, from which it gets its name; that is a 30' long, 1' wide logride suspended 6 feet above a rather cold and fast moving river. I fell off it two years ago in March. It was cold. Shock and awe cold.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:45 PM on June 20, 2007


I love Crossfit. I also hate their political leanings, though if you browse the comments on the rest days when they post the various articles you'll find the community is certainly not all in the neo-con camp.

Unfortunately, right now I'm out of the program with a pulled hamstring and sprained knee tendons (the former due to an overzealous training program, the latter due to an overzealous boyfriend), but I can't wait to join it again.

Goofyy, CrossFit does not advocate sinking big bucks into the fitness industry. In fact, they're pretty contemptuous of most commercial gyms and the fancy, limited equipment within. They recommending putting together a home gym that works for you, and while that can be a money hole there are a ton of threads on the message boards dedicated to building one's own equipment to save money. I built my own parallettes from the instructions they link to in their FAQ and am getting ready to build my own gymnastics rings.
posted by schroedinger at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2007


Inventing new ways to assure people they are not 'fit enough' so they'll spend more money on the fitness industry, while avoiding worrying about other things with less direct impact on their own precious selves.

since crossfit is pretty much free huh...

and while i really enjoy crossfit and the ideas they have and getting more people interested in it, i have to say, this is a pretty terrible post. a 5 year old PDF pulled from the front page of the only other link in the post? i hope you don't put this little effort into your work outs.
posted by teishu at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2007


I forgot to mention the free part. Doh. For the crossfitters...I'm doing Elizabeth today. Ouch.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:13 PM on June 20, 2007


Contributions
MeFi: 0 posts , 86 comments

posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:15 PM on June 20, 2007


posted by teishu at 3:59 PM on June 20 [+] [!]

MeFi: 0 posts , 86 comments


This place can be so predictable sometimes . . .
posted by jason's_planet at 1:15 PM on June 20, 2007


They have political positions?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2007


This is interesting, thanks for the post. It reminds me of another fitness regime evolutionary fitness which, despite being a bit woo-woo in places sounds like it has (or might have) a kernel of truth to it.
posted by Skorgu at 1:29 PM on June 20, 2007


Smedleyman: Yeah, it's part of the training. Some days you have to go to a business lunch for President Bush and support the troops, some days it's off to a Barack Obama meeting. others days you go to a Green meeting in support of solar power. Once a month they do either side of the Palestine question.

It keeps you intellectually limber and ready to respond to any political situation.

saladin: Can you tell me where you are setting up your Hooverball competition? I'll be setting up my massage chiropractice office as closeby as possible.
posted by sien at 3:34 PM on June 20, 2007


Actually, I've often heard that racing car drivers (v8 supercar or formula one) are extremely fit. They have to have total focus and precise reactions for hours on end, in extremely uncomfortable conditions.
posted by ysabet at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2007


Sien, is that a joke? I honestly can't tell.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:39 PM on June 20, 2007


Yes, sien's post is a joke. The program is a 3 days on, one day off rotation. On the off day, they post an article, and open what is usually a workout thread, to comments on the article.

The article is usually something espousing a right-wing agenda. The articles denying global warming drive me up the fricking wall. So I just avoid those, and use the excellent, free workouts provided.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 5:14 PM on June 20, 2007


Actually, it would be kinda interesting to try and do different political things and actually try and argue for different points of view on a regular basis.

It is kinda odd that they have politics with their exercise regime. Then again, a yoga web site would probably have lefty-green stuff there.
posted by sien at 5:22 PM on June 20, 2007


Sien, my experience as a debater led me to the opinion that being exposed to and forced to advocate different points of view does improve mental fitness, or at least improves your moral flexibility.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:36 PM on June 20, 2007


improves your moral flexibility.

I once accused a friend who was a high-school debater of being a moral chameleon. Kind of a pot calling kettle black situation in some ways, but so true.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:18 PM on June 20, 2007


I do crossfit at a gym and its a GREAT all around workout. Most of the people that do it are firefighters / policemen / military and with that comes the stereotypical right leaning political stance.

The general principle is that anyone can get to an elite athletes level of fitness doing short, intense workouts ~6 times a week. These workouts are always varied so your body does not adapt to any one movement or exercise, and also focus on movements that you would perform in real life that use your whole body rather than targeting specific muscles.

The idea is that if you do a sport and do long, multiple hour workouts your body can only take so much before it stops getting stronger and starts just going through the motions. After an hour or so of practice your body is not getting physically stronger, only your technique is improving. These workouts are designed to allow you to have a level of fitness so high that you will excel at any other sport you do, rather than training for a specific sport itself.

I like it, it kicks my butt 3 time a week.
posted by outsider at 7:19 PM on June 20, 2007


Also in re: $$ on the fitness industry, the equipment is pretty basic and you could put together a home gym easily. Things like jump ropes, boxes to jump on, a pull up bar. The only "machine" that is typically used is a rowing machine. The reason I go to a gym is to make sure I am doing the workout right and to do it in a great atmosphere of people that drive me to succeed.

One of the nice things is that alot of the workouts are a set of exercises, say 15 push ups 15 double unders (jump rope), 15 squats, 5 pull ups and a rope climb. Do this as many times as you can in 25 minutes. Some people get 3 cycles, some 7, but everyone is pushing their body to the limit and there is always room to improve as you cant "finish" the workout before the time is up. There are recurring "named" workouts, so every couple of months you might do the same workout and you can look at your time from the last attempt and see how much you have improved.

Ok im done.
posted by outsider at 7:28 PM on June 20, 2007


I figure by this time next year I will be either a carnie or a high-paid assassin, whether I like it or not.

you could combine the two and make a career of pushing people off ferris wheels. I'm just saying.
posted by jonmc at 8:35 PM on June 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


The article says I am fit if I can do well upon "being asked to perform fetes randomly drawn from the hopper".

Sounds like overweight alcoholics are made to order!
posted by JParker at 8:37 PM on June 20, 2007


This is interesting, thanks for the post. It reminds me of another fitness regime evolutionary fitness which, despite being a bit woo-woo in places sounds like it has (or might have) a kernel of truth to it.

You're welcome.

It's funny you should mention that, as a lot of CrossFitters follow the Paleo Diet which seems kind of similar.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:03 AM on June 21, 2007


Goofyy, CrossFit does not advocate sinking big bucks into the fitness industry. In fact, they're pretty contemptuous of most commercial gyms and the fancy, limited equipment within. They recommending putting together a home gym that works for you, and while that can be a money hole there are a ton of threads on the message boards dedicated to building one's own equipment to save money.

Seconding that. Here are some photos of a local CrossFit gym which should give you an idea of their minimalist, no-frills approach.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:43 AM on June 21, 2007


And, before I forget: The Garage Gym
posted by jason's_planet at 12:10 PM on June 21, 2007


Crossfit is an unbelievable workout. It's difficult and fun and works very well. The workouts are also posted free on the crossfit web site.

The regrettably bad writing of the newsletters and the kooky far-right political posts, I could live without.
posted by betterton at 12:26 PM on June 21, 2007


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