Exercise The Sport Psychology Side of Crossfit


Crossfit is an aspect of the fitness industry that draws a lot of different opinions.

These opinions can range anywhere from, “Crossfit will fix the obesity epidemic of this country,” to “Crossfit is the worst thing since the Atkins diet.”  There are many views and opinions of Crossfit from experts in the field of Kinesiology, like Mark Rippetoe or Dr. Allison Belger for example. I am going to show you how Crossfit is viewed by these sub-disciples: sport psychology, sport history, sport sociology, and exercise physiology.

Sport psychology is the study of psychology in the field of sports and athletics, to see what makes a player succeed or not.

This is much different than traditional psychology, which just studies illnesses and disorders.  Sport psychology watches and observes how and why people act and think a certain way in a kinesthetic setting. Crossfit, according to Dr. Belger (2012), is a positive psychological experience.

Is Crossfit as inclusive as it sounds? In the sports psychology world, this question gets asked about Crossfit regularly.  First, let’s look at regular gyms. Crunch Fitness is a gym that has the slogan, “No Judgments.” This implies that when you go to this gym, no one will look down on you or judge you no matter what experience level you have or what physique you have.  On the flip side, Gold’s Gym, is not known for emphasizing any judgments.  Instead, it is a gym that seeks members who have the perfect physique. They do this for various reasons and do not cater specifically to overweight people or those new to exercising.

Crossfit can be either nonjudgmental or exclusive depending on the gym and its individual philosophy because every Crossfit gym operates individually as its entity; anyone can open a Crossfit gym and sell to whoever they want.  One gym, which is called a box, will cater to the individual that is seeking some activity, but you can go to the other extreme where a box will only train athletes that are training for the Crossfit Games.  The thing that Crossfit does do is create a community of people.  It is not a secluded community that only certain people can get into.  A quote from Dr. Belger (2012), who is a Crossfit gym owner and a clinical psychologist says, “We know that communities can provide the kind of social support and connectedness that foster a myriad of positive outcomes in people’s lives” (p. 32). Belger reinforces that a community can be found anywhere in Crossfit.  Will one cater to the needs of a particular individual? Yes, and so does a regular gym like Crunch or Gold’s Gym.

The history of sport in American culture is something that reflects the identity of our country as a whole.

Crossfit feeds right into the history of sport in America.  Competition and sport are something ingrained into the fabric of the American culture.  Some parents will spend more money on their kid’s training and travel in youth sports hoping for a college scholarship, than if they just saved that money to pay for college. This shows how American sports have developed a high competitive nature within each sport.

Crossfit, at its roots, is a competition based sport.

Athletes compete for each workout against themselves, their time, and their peers’ performance.  How did Crossfit become what it is today and why is it so competition based?  This derives from the root of American society.  If you look at almost every aspect of American life, we are constantly in competition or perceived competition.  Americans love to compete against others like baseball, bodybuilding and tough mudders, which is what Crossfit is really about.  The founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman, takes a different approach to why Crossfit is so successful.

Glassman (2002) explains, “From the beginning, the aim of Crossfit has been to forge a broad, general, and inclusive fitness” (p. 1).  The part that Glassman leaves out of his description is the competitive aspect of the sport.  The Crossfit games are an example of competition at its finest.  This is an event that brings together the best of the best “cross fitters” to compete against one another in various workouts.  This is why Crossfit is seen as a constant competition against others.  If you watch the Games, you will see what values Glassman holds: broad and general exercises, and athletes congratulating one another after the competition.  Crossfit will not be going anywhere anytime soon and will make its mark on the history of sport.

Crossfit, in the realm of sport society, is a controversial topic.

When you talk to people within Crossfit and read some of the articles writing by Crossfitters, they all come to the conclusion that they don’t worry about what other people think of them.  They will defend their institution when needed, but all in all, they aren’t worried about others opinions.  They don’t place an opinion on others, but if you ask people within Crossfit, they think that most, if not all, people should be doing Crossfit.  They also get a lot of joy in going to their box every day.  Parker (2012) is quoted saying, “One thing I love about Crossfit is that every day is different—different movements and different workouts” (p. 6).  Parker wrote a journal as a beginner going into Crossfit. Parker argues that even the most untrained individual can do Crossfit because every day is different than the next and there is always a variation of an exercise.

Mark Rippetoe, one of the leaders in the US on strength training, suggests that Crossfit isn’t as great as it sounds because of the lack of education provided to Crossfit Coaches. Rippetoe (2013) says, “The Ugly is that there are many thousands of CrossFit affiliates around the world and hundreds of new “coaches” each weekend. Think about this very carefully (Rippetoe, Do you have what it takes for a CrossFit workout? Hint: No beginners, 2013),” (The Ugly section, par. 14).  As mentioned before, Crossfit brings in a lot of different opinions from people outside of the Crossfit society.  One conclusion that most people would agree with is that Crossfit can help you become healthier.  Society will always have a mixed view on Crossfit, but in general, there is no denying that they are very well liked in our society based on the rate of new box gyms opening up in this country.

From an exercise physiology standpoint, Crossfit hits on the anaerobic phases of training, which comes with some benefits to your body and health.

Crossfit hits on a multitude of physiological realms. The main two are phosphocreatine phase and glycolytic phase.  Both are short and quick movements that last, at most, for a few minutes.  Two of the most common training methods for Crossfit involve time.  The first one is called AMRAP, and the second is called EMOM.  AMRAP stands for “As many repetitions as possible.” The WOD, or workout of the day, will prescribe a certain time, then you perform as many repetitions within that designated time. This would satisfy the glycolytic phase of training.  EMOM, is “every minute on the minute,” this is usually comprised of one repetition max. Every minute you do a repetition of a certain lift and then rest for the 50 seconds in-between. This is satisfying the phosphocreatine phase of training that Crossfit prescribes.  WOD’s are not necessarily better for you since it is similar to other types of training.

This is satisfying the phosphocreatine phase of training that Crossfit prescribes.  WOD’s are not necessarily better for you since it is similar to other types of training, like high-intensity interval training, which provides the same physiological benefits. Dan Diamond (2015), a health and fitness writer for Forbes, points out that WOD’s only caters to people that can be obsessive with fitness and in turn become detrimental to their physical health.  Crossfit tries to counter this by coming up with fictional characters that show the adverse effects of overtraining.  This character is called, uncle Rhabdo, he represents rhabdomyolysis which is a breakdown of muscle fibers that get into the bloodstream and destroy the liver.

Crossfit has many physical benefits, but it can also come with some detriments just like any other form of exercise.

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