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Old 02-15-2006, 05:11 PM   #1
Brian Sullivan
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Location: Montreal  Quebec
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This appeared in the Arts&Life section of Tuesday's Montreal Gazette: a4cc-60ce020f309e&k=19281

CrossFit is fast and furious
A new brand of workout that packs weight-swinging, sprints and pull-ups into a punishing 20 minutes has some observers calling it extreme. But are a triathlete's weekly miles any more moderate?

The Gazette

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Are endurance athletes, like triathlete Jacques Caron, the exemplars of fitness? Not according to the founder of CrossFit, a California-based exercise program. His regime's quintessential athlete is "equal parts gymnast, Olympic weightlifter and sprinter."

Triathlete Jacques Caron sweats through 10 workouts a week, logging five to eight kilometres in the pool, between 20 and 40 kilometres on the run and, over the course of a year, 6,000 to 7,000 kilometres on a bike. He also cross-country skis in the winter and has been known to race in long-distance events on back-to-back days during the summer months.

With all that exercise, you'd think it would be safe to say Caron is in great shape. Not so, claims Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, a California-based exercise program that is gaining momentum in the United States and Canada.

"The general public ... holds endurance athletes as exemplars of fitness. We do not," writes Glassman in an online edition of the CrossFit Journal.

Glassman states that endurance athletes sacrifice speed, power, co-ordination, agility, balance, accuracy and flexibility in their pursuit of stamina. His idea of an effective training regime is short, high-octane workouts that combine weight training, gymnastics and sprints. Performed on a three-days-on, one-day-off cycle, CrossFit's training regime aims to create the quintessential athlete, whom Glassman describes as "equal parts gymnast, Olympic weightlifter and sprinter."

Here's the formula for a typical CrossFit workout: a warm-up, followed by three to five sets of three to five repetitions of a multi-joint exercise like squats, pull-ups, push-ups, dead lifts or bench presses. Next, a 10-minute circuit of gymnastic-type moves performed as quickly as possible. And finally, two to 10 minutes of high-intensity sprint training. Incorporated into the mix is jump training, obstacle courses and lifting and swinging various heavy objects like kettlebells (weighted balls with handles). The whole thing takes about 20 minutes.

Using this basic structure, devotees are encouraged to build their own workouts, which has sparked a Web-based following who post their workouts for all to see and try (the site is at

One such workout calls for exercisers to perform the following five times: 400-metre run, 15 handstand push-ups followed by 15 pull-ups.

According to the CrossFit website, the workout is popular with firefighters, soldiers, U.S. navy seals and regular Joes and Jills.

Sylvain Randier is one such regular Joe. A 27-year-old Toronto resident, he joined Toronto's only gym devoted to CrossFit.

"I like the fact that the workout is efficient, functional and doesn't take much time," Randier said. He also likes the sense of achievement he gets.

But CrossFit has also had some bad press.

In an article titled "Getting fit, even if it kills you," the New York Times recounted the experience of a CrossFit novice who attempted to swing a 20-kilogram steel ball over his head and between his legs 50 times, then rest and repeat. After 30 minutes, he left the gym with back pain so severe he had to lie in the driveway before climbing into his car. That night, he went to the hospital emergency room, where he was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which the muscles break down and release a toxic substance in the bloodstream that damages the kidneys. He was in intensive care for six days.

Even if the story reported in the New York Times is atypical, you have to wonder how safe it is to follow workouts posted on the CrossFit website - programs created by individuals with no training in exercise design or safety.

Even if do you work out at an official CrossFit facility (there are two in Canada - Toronto's plus one in Vancouver), there is no guarantee you're getting appropriate training or supervision. John Vivian, owner of CrossFit Toronto, was certified as an instructor after taking a three-day seminar given by Glassman in California. Formerly employed in the information technology field, he now leads workouts so intense the average participant "has enough energy to curse my name and that's about it."

"This isn't a workout where you can jog on a treadmill, talk on the cellphone and watch TV," said Vivian.

And while he admits that CrossFit workouts need to be scaled down to suit less-experienced exercisers, Vivian says the program is designed for those who are "willing to put in the effort required."

To be fair, CrossFit isn't the only workout that borders on the extreme. Triathlete Caron's weekly exercise regime would be regarded by most as excessive, yet he refers to himself as "dedicated." Four years ago that dedication led to a herniated disc, which he attributes to overuse. And while the injury slowed him down temporarily, he's back up to speed, albeit with a new preventative stretching program.

And who is in better shape - an athlete like Caron, who has the stamina to endure long bouts of exercise, or the CrossFit participant, who can tolerate short, punishing workouts that focus on speed, strength, power and agility?

The question is moot. Both improve fitness and have the potential to get you in the best shape of your life. That is if you can realize your goals without putting yourself in the hospital.

So think twice before swinging a 20-kilogram steel ball over your head or putting in so many miles you find yourself nursing a sore back. Exercise doesn't have to be done to the extreme to be effective.
The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
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Old 02-15-2006, 06:03 PM   #2
Travis Hall
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.. and i just got my crossfit sweater and wore it to school today... not even knowing i was being trendy and so on top of pop culture!:rofl:
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Old 02-16-2006, 06:07 AM   #3
Larry Lindenman
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Crossfit...DANGEROUS. Oh ya, it also protects you from disease, overuse injury, and helps you preform better in your job.
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Old 02-16-2006, 08:42 AM   #4
Jamila Bey
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But shoving flourescent-colored, cheese-flavored snacks down your throat and making a fork the heaviest thing you routinely lift is A-Ok by most North American standards.

Let's all die of diabetes, hypertension and smoke until our lungs give out! 'Cause that's safe!
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Old 02-16-2006, 09:48 AM   #5
dave ojeda
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I think the article was pretty balanced. We had an article in Chicago recently that was more towards the NYT article bias. Even though, I recieved many inquiries about what we were doing here. The old adage is true "All publicity is good publicity"

Jamila - I can't stop looking at your picture, very funny and hypnotic.
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Old 02-16-2006, 10:04 AM   #6
Peter Queen
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Dave is right. It is funny that even so-called bad articles can sometimes work to someones advantage depending on the circumstances of course. Anyway, Travis I also have a CF t-shirt. As long as we keep getting press and the rest of us advertise via word-of-mouth or clothing then I guess the better.

We are helping to make America fitter one couch potato at a time.:rofl:

Hey Jamila, I like your avatar also.
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:05 AM   #7
Chris Jordan
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Where was the Chicago article? I guess I missed that.

I like the part where the writer says, "there is no guarantee you're getting appropriate training or supervision." That makes several amusing assumptions all in one. Maybe that should be on a t-shirt.
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Old 02-16-2006, 11:53 AM   #8
Brian Nesmith
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Maybe a little better than some articles but it still makes the same bad calls!

Rhabdo happens to triathletes. Probably far more cases than we've seen reported here.

The article spends time saying that we make up our own workouts without professional experience. That is untrue, extremely misleading, even dangerous.

The people I've met with here and in person at HQ are the most professional I've met in the business. Coach writes the WODs on the main site. I've put together my own WODs like everybody probably has sooner or later, but with great attention to the formulas and exercise technique taught by CrossFit.

I still must agree that we will probably get some great new converts from the article though.

Now, somebody please tell me why Pikachu never evolved into Raichu.
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Old 02-16-2006, 03:00 PM   #9
Larry Lindenman
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An article that said "Crossfit is easy and everyone could do it" wouldn't attract the type of psycho...I mean people we're looking for. I want the guy who reads that and says "Sounds like torture, where do I sign up?" People who are interested when they hear "Crossfit could kill you" are the exact people we want to attract...basically.
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Old 02-16-2006, 03:14 PM   #10
Karl Steadman
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Spot on.

That is all.
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