The summer before I entered eighth grade, my dad made the executive decision to immerse our family in a cult.
Just kidding (kind-of).
Really, we just joined a CrossFit gym nearby, but after nearly seven years of involvement in CrossFit culture, I can’t help but be skeptical of its cult-like qualities.
The first red flag arose when my little brother, who was nine at the time, simply stated, “I believe we have just joined a cult,” after my parents signed the waivers for our membership in the CrossFit community. He wasn’t wrong.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “A CrossFitter talking about CrossFit, how original.” And yes, like many stereotyped CrossFitters, I think it is super fun and super cool and super awesome, and I do occasionally talk about it obsessively. However, after nearly seven years of experience, I have begun to realize how absolutely profound the culture surrounding CrossFit is.
For starters, most CrossFitters demonstrate rather sadistic qualities that are only considered “normal” within the realm of the CrossFit community. Not only do they get satisfaction from the intense pain they feel during workouts, but they will even go so far as to compare bruises and blister sizes after particularly grueling workouts as if it isn’t a total health hazard to repeatedly hit yourself with unnecessarily heavy weights.
At one point over the last seven years, I actually heard a guy claim that, “the bigger the bruise, the better,” as if that somehow indicated a correlation between bruise size and the amount of weight he could lift. Not only is that wildly inaccurate, but it is also, and quite unfortunately, not even close to the dumbest thing I have heard within the walls of that gym.
CrossFit is also probably the only place where you will witness someone getting congratulated for peeing their pants. Obviously, that’s a little out of context, but the idea is that if you’re pushing yourself so hard that you literally urinate, then apparently you’re doing something right. Or you just really had to go to the bathroom.
What’s worse is it that CrossFit doesn’t just dictate your workouts and your workout schedule—it also tries to control the foods you eat. When we first joined back in 2009, we had to complete a three-day “training” course. This course attempted to explain the structure of CrossFit, demonstrate the movements and Olympic lifts we would perform during any given workouts, and outline the “ideal” diet of a CrossFitter.
“Ideal diet” is a clearly subjective term, but, in the eyes of CrossFit, athletes should essentially eliminate all food groups that make life worth living: dairy, grains, legumes, and sugar. The elimination of legumes isn’t so bad, but when you try to tell a group of young kids that eliminating sugar and grains will be most beneficial to athletic performance, it was almost enough to make my brothers and me quit on the spot.
Now, if you choose not to conform to the CrossFit standards as a CrossFit member, you aren’t kicked out of the system. You’re just subjected to highly condescending lectures from those around you. Coaches will try to talk to you about your non-conforming behaviors, claiming that, really, you’re only hurting yourself by eating that Pop-Tart and skipping the seventh workout this week. And that if you just put 50 more pounds on the bar and struggle a lot harder, you’ll get so much better, even if you are just recovering from a minor neck surgery.
Overall, CrossFit claims to be a program designed to better one’s quality of life, and while, yes, I do believe that I have gained some strength and learned some techniques that have bettered my athletic performances, I do find it entirely bizarre that there are very few CrossFitters out there who willingly acknowledge or even recognize the many peculiar, and rather concerning, flaws in the community.