You've probably heard the story a million times. How CrossFit came into being. "Some dude called Greg Glassman came up with this methodology of training that has inevitably earned him tonnes of money and become one of the biggest fitness trends of the millenium".
While technically, CrossFit as a company may have been born in 2000, its roots were actually planted years earlier, when founder Greg Glassman was a teenage gymnast. Like many other teenage athletes, Glassman wanted to be stronger. He discovered that through the use of dumbbells and a barbell, he could get stronger than any other gymnast he knew who was working with bodyweight only.
And like most teenage athletes, Glassman didn’t have one single outlet for his athleticism — in particular, he spent a lot of time bicycling with a group of friends. Competitive natures being what they are, Glassman realised that he could crush his gymnast-only friends in weightlifting or bicycling and out-tumble his bicycling friends. In short, he could find a person who was better than him in one arena but not in all arenas. This realisation prompted Glassman to ask a serious question: “What price are you paying for a certain expertise?”
JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF NONE
CrossFit's approach defines the strategy it uses to achieve fitness. Glassman’s early athletic experiences directly influenced CrossFit’s goal of achieving “greater work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” In CrossFit’s view, the goal is not to achieve specialised abilities and fitness that applies to one particular set of movements. The goal is general physical preparedness.
The CrossFit ethos holds that adherents train to enhance 10 key physical qualities: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.
BUT DID YOU KNOW that it’s borrowed from Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax, makers of the medicine balls found in boxes across the nation?!
Nevertheless, early CrossFitters understood that they could build these skills by incorporating movements from a variety of disciplines: gymnastics, weightlifting and sprinting or high-intensity work in various forms, among them. In addition, CrossFit also emphasises repeatable, measurable results. There is heavy emphasis on specific weights, specific distances and specific movements over specific times. This allows for a clear measurement of performance. (Speaking of which I have Fran coming up tomorrow...wish me luck, I wonder if I've gotten 'fitter')
WHAT'S IN THE BOX, IN THE BOX?
In 1995, Glassman established a gym in Santa Cruz, California, and that same year, he was hired to train the Santa Cruz Police Department. Most of his civilian work had involved private training with individual clients. But as he began to get overbooked, he started doubling up clients and found that not only could he make more money (charging a reduced rate to two clients still equaled more money per hour for him), but those clients also often enjoyed the group activity. Increasingly, studies are showing that individuals get more out of their workout (fitness wise and endorphin wise!) if they train with others! Glassman found that he could still offer enough individual attention to each client to ensure safe and effective training. Thus the CrossFit community was born.
CrossFit was formally established in 2000. The company’s first affiliate was CrossFit North in Seattle. By 2005, there were 13 affiliates. In 2012, a mere dozen years after the company started, there are 3,400 affiliates worldwide.
DID YOU KNOW that the first affiliated box EVER in Australia is in Townsville? Yep. It's called CrossFit North Queensland and the owner continues to pay a measly $500 a year to remain affiliated. If you wanted to start a box today you're looking at upwards of $1000 per year. And the cost just keeps getting higher the longer you wait...uh oh...
THE HISTORY OF THE WORKOUTS
From its early days, CrossFit sought to create workouts that simulated the feelings athletes and fighters felt during real competition. As Glassman described in a 2009 discussion, coming off a two-minute gymnastics routine in front of judges, you felt spent but had to look solid and strong or points were deducted. The short-duration, high-intensity workouts of CrossFit achieved that goal. Athletes often say that the workouts simulate the feeling at the end of a competitive event. Law-enforcement officers will describe a CrossFit workout as similar to a foot pursuit and fight with a suspect. Fighters will tell you that Workouts of the Day are similar to the feeling of being in a fight.
DID YOU KNOW the WOD “Fight Gone Bad” was named when that particular routine was developed for mixed-martial arts fighter B.J. Penn.
The WOD known as “Fran” (21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups) is an example of this intensity. Glassman has described developing this workout in his garage as a teenager. He did the workout and promptly threw up. As soon as he was able, he jumped up and ran to his neighbour, brought him over and put him through the same routine. Charming eh!
WHY THE GIRLS?
As all CrossFitters know (Unfortunately), Fran is not the only WOD with a girl’s name. There are other names, including the Hero WODs, named for those — whether military, police or firefighter — who lost their lives in the line of duty. But girl-named WODs tend to be benchmark workouts designed to measure improvement through repeated, regular appearance in your medium- and long-term regimen. They first appeared officially in the CrossFit Journal in September 2003, and that early list included Angie, Elizabeth, Barbara, Chelsea, Diane and Fran. The motivation for naming them, as Glassman said in December 2009 discussion, was simple: He wanted to be able to explain the workout once to his group, give it a name, and then refer to the name next time the workout came up. It’s easier to say “Fran” than to say “a front squat into push press followed by pull-ups.”
Why give them female names? Glassman has said that Fran leaves you crushed and exhausted and joked that “any workout that leaves you flat on your back, staring up at the sky, wondering what the hell happened, deserves a girl’s name.” However, it is also said that the more recent girl's name workouts are named after the first ladies of CrossFit and their favourite styles of workout.
The CrossFit Games have taken place every summer since 2007. At the initial games in 2007, the first prize was $500 and the male and female winners were James Fitzgerald and Jolie Gentry. In 2010, with a sponsorship from Progenix, the first prize was $25,000. In 2011, with Reebok as the sponsor, the games went online and the Open round debuted. This was also the first year that athletes actually got kitted out. For the first time, the CrossFit world was divided into various regions, and athletes posted times to narrow down the field, with the best competitors (based on their online scores) moving on to the Regionals, where they competed head-to-head in an effort to move on to the finals. In 2011, the top prize was $250,000, and the games were televised on ESPN. In 2017, the prize purse totalled $1 million, and thousands of hopefuls entered the Open.
So it begs the question...have you drunk the koolaid yet?!