CrossFit, the new sport of fitness, crowns the fittest athletes in the world. This competition, the CrossFit Games, is an international competition consisting of 3 days with sporadic events including power lifting, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, running, rowing and some other hard to place movements like rope climbing, kettle bells, and “burpees”. As this sport gains more and more attention, the questions begin to come up, is CrossFit a legitimate sport? If so, how does it measure up?
What follows is a hypothetical argument I will give to show why CrossFit is not only a legitamate sport but the superior sport. This is purely a thought experiment and created in hopes to think about CrossFit in a different way and open up discussion about its legitimacy as a sport. As I know this will be up for serious debate, I’ll leave you to decide!
The first step is to define “Superior”. Once the final event has been won for the questioned sport (super bowl, World Series, the CrossFit games, etc…) who has the most to show in terms of the title they won, what they had to do to get there, what kind of commitment is required from them, and its “carry over” into everyday life. In other words, what’s required to win, what they win, and its carry over into everyday life.
Note: this is simply my definition of superior. I believe this definition makes the most sense for comparing athletes of a sport. Of course, this can vary from person to person, in which case the argument would be slightly different.
Now I will attempt to show why other sports don’t quite measure up (I am completely open to argue, so if I am missing something come back at me!).
- Team Sports- These are the first to knock of the list. Being on a team takes less pressure off any one person then an individual sport. In a team sport your priority is your “position” or “part” rather than the “whole”. Catchers in baseball for instance train to catch (and to hit if needed) not first base, or pitching. In individual sports you train to be the “whole”. Any one weak asset will show in your placement. In team sports your “screw ups” can be taken up by others “good plays” and the effort as a whole is what it takes to win. Competing solo means your screw ups will screw you up. It means any weakness shows and inexperience in any of the domains necessary to win will beat you down in placement. There’s simply more pressure and more stress on any one person competing alone then on a team. Quick example of this is doing a WOD in CrossFit, then doing a partner or team version, the stress and nerves are almost immediately lifted.
- Individual sport- Now we need to knock off other individual sports. First, the “carry over” effect into everyday life is minimal. For sports like tennis, skiing, figure skating, etc., there is hardly any carry over. How good you are in the sport is all your skill allows you to do. For instance, expert tennis players have no carry over to everyday life, other than reactions times which are no more contributing then say construction workers strength. Second, what they claim to hold when they win their competition means nothing outside of their sport. Best figure skater in the world means nothing outside of figure skating. Third, they have “seasons” where their games are held allowing an “off-season” for rest and recovery. Seasons don’t exist in CrossFit and the other differences will soon be made clear.
[box type=”info”] Note: If you noticed I haven’t mentioned gymnastics, running, weight lifting and Olympic lifting in the above category it’s because all of the above are “parts” to CrossFit as a whole. CrossFit incorporates all of the above into its sport. How can a part be more superior to the whole?[/box]
- MMA- This is the only exception to the above category. This is the closest sport to CrossFit. First, it is a combination of many other sports from wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu etc. It is on the athlete how they combine these elements and how they use them against their opponent. The movements of these athletes are functional and do have a carry over into everyday life. Not to mention fighting itself is functional. It is also a sport where much is required in terms of commitment. There is no particular “season” and diet and physical ability is crucial. One wrong step and it could mean you getting your lights knocked out. If one opponent isn’t “on” in terms of diet, physical ability and skill, he will lose.
So How Does MMA Differ from CrossFit, and How Is CrossFit Superior?
First, the carry over effect is much greater. Yes, MMA and some other sports make you strong and fast but CrossFitters specifically train to run, jump, squat, pull, push and lift. CrossFit is created based on universal motor recruitment patterns; or movements that are seen everywhere in everyday life, from running after a criminal (law enforcement) taking out the garbage, lifting your luggage above your head, or running out of a burning building while jumping over wreckage and carrying someone on your shoulder.
Second, the title is much more pronounced. CrossFitters who win the games are crowned the fittest athletes in the world, meaning they are the best in the world at doing the unknown and unknowable with tremendous speed, agility, strength, coordination, balance, and mental fortitude. Unlike MMA there are no weight classes. When you win you are the best in the world, not the best up to a certain weight limit.
In MMA you are told of your opponent months before the fight. Allowing you to watch tapes and study who you are going to fight—in other words you can prepare. In CrossFit you don’t know the events until that day. The amount of events, what the events are and how much time you will have in between is completely unknown. The vast quantity of events over the course of 3 days also puts elements like recovery into play.
In most sports (especially team) coaches are provided. Training programs, nutrition outlines and day by day programming are laid out in front of you. At the very least you make a solid income for being a great player. Even in MMA or the UFC you can make some dam good money for doing what you do. In CrossFit, this doesn’t exist (yet). Those who compete do so because of the passion. We do it because it’s what we do and what we love. This also makes it more complex. Training, diet, integration of all elements involved is up to us, not the million dollar coach paid for by the team.
Taking all of this into account, is CrossFit a legitimate sport? Is it superior? What do you think?
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