I completely understand why people hate CrossFit. CrossFitters are an incredibly annoying group of people. They talk about CrossFit non-stop, they wear CrossFit sneakers, and they display misguided pride over their disgusting hand calluses. And CrossFit workouts? They’re ridiculous. How do they expect a 41-year-old mother of two to do a handstand pushup? And am I really supposed to push a weighted sled around a parking lot?
Don’t get me started on the membership fee. Monthly memberships can cost upwards of $150 for access to facilities — CrossFitters call them “boxes” — that resemble little more than empty warehouses.
Trust me, I get it. On paper, CrossFit looks like a scam. But despite these seemingly valid criticisms, CrossFit has become a fitness phenomenon. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that even big gyms are now offering CrossFit-style classes in an effort to capitalize on CrossFit’s popularity. People just can’t get enough of CrossFit.
So this begs the question: What is it that makes CrossFit so different from other fitness studios or gyms? My theory: CrossFit is a deliberately social community, and that makes it incredibly addictive (and awesome).
I have been taking fitness classes for the past 20 years. Occasionally I would meet new people in a spinning or boot camp class but nothing would ever come of it. We would say hello at the start of class, roll our eyes at one another during a particularly tough workout and then wave goodbye at the end of class. In all those years, I can’t think of a single time that a “fitness friend” ever crossed the threshold into becoming a “real friend.”
CrossFit members, on the other hand, tend to socialize inside and outside of CrossFit. One reason? There are kegs at CrossFit boxes. There are also frequent happy hours and social events thrown at the boxes. CrossFit is equal parts fitness facility and coed fraternity. When you enter CrossFit, members enthusiastically greet you.
The photo to the left is the perfect example of what I love about CrossFit. During workouts, photos are often taken and posted on Facebook. Most of the time members are unaware that the photos are being taken because they’re too intent on executing the workout. On this particular day, the workout involved medicine ball sit-ups. Clearly, I was running out of steam as this picture was snapped. I like to think that this photo makes me look like I’m simultaneously vomiting and sucking on a lemon. So when I saw this photo posted on Facebook later (Every woman’s dream, am I right?), I had to laugh out loud. I wrote in the comments, “How can I obtain an 8×10 print of this photo?”
A few days later, I walked into CrossFit for my usual 6 a.m. class. One of the coaches told me that he had something for me, then proceeded to hand me a poster-size version of the photo of me doing a sit up. I laughed so hard I almost fell over. The idea that the coaches had taken the time to blow up this ridiculously hideous photo really made me feel like I belonged. Would I rather that someone blow up an attractive photo of me? Absolutely, yes. But I still think it was a really funny moment and, in many ways, encapsulated what I like about CrossFit.
CrossFit continues to expand and thrive not because their workout is superior to other fitness classes. Its power comes from the fact that CrossFit focuses on building a strong community of happy members. And that’s something I can totally get behind.
Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA. To learn more about her practice, go here. And to read more of Lauren’s posts for Be Well Philly, head over here.