Since when was ‘pain’ an acceptable outcome in the fitness (Crossfit) industry

You aren’t ‘going to war’, or entering ‘beast mode’. You don’t need to ‘suck it up now’, you can eat junk food every now and then, if people are calling you obsessed then you may just be and if ‘you’re already in pain’ then you should probably just stop.

As the fitness industry continues to evolve into a sprawling online community, the culture of ‘pain’ is becoming more and more prevalent.

Whereas logic would dictate that, once injured you stop exercising, we are consistently being bombarded with people telling us that we should persevere and push through the pain in order to reap the life affirming results.

And what for?

We all act like professional athletes, without salaries, fans, agents, insurance policies or anything that matters.

The dirty little secret every one seems to forget is that nobody cares if you hoisted more weight for more reps, or completed a WOD in less time than expected.

You may get a high five, or a moment of internet stardom as the video of you painstakingly completing  ‘Fran’ with a torn rotator cuff canvasses the internet, but the next day you’ll still need to wake up and get dressed, which may be hard with that torn rotator cuff, and go to work where they won’t give a damn if you hurt yourself exercising if you can’t get those reports on Johnson’s desk by 10am.

(Yes, every boss in the history of business is called Johnson… deal with it.)

When LeBron James played in the Capital Classic All-Star game in 2003, as a High School student, he was insured for $10 million dollars.

Even if his knee exploded, forcing him to become a dentist instead of a future Hall of Fame NBA player, he would still have $10 million dollars sitting in the bank.

If you blew out your knee completing Cindy, or Elizabeth, your gym wouldn’t give you a dime. Work would tolerate your absence for a time, but once your sick leave dissipates you’ll either need to limp back into work, or suffer unemployment.

They won’t care that you did it completing an epic Chelsea, smashing your PB before realising your tibia was protruding from your shin.

A recent study(1) of 132 people showed that Crossfitters are actually no more prone to injury than Olympic weight lifters, Power Lifters and Gymnastics, with an injury occurring in approximately 74% of participants, 7% of those requiring surgical intervention.

I would expect that if this study was extrapolated, accounting for those Crossfitters who train, headphones blaring, in their own commercial gym, the rate of injury would increase due to the culture of train through the pain that the fitness movement perpetuates.

Kevin Oger now finds himself in the most awful of predicaments.

As a Crossfit coach and an amateur competitor, he faces medical bills that may reach up into the hundreds of thousands, the likely loss of his career, his livelihood and his passion, Crossfit, yet all that pales when we consider that he may never walk again.

And what for?

A better finishing time than the person next to him? A pseudo-macho display of his testicular fortitude? Because he didn’t want to ‘let down’ those people cheering him on? So that he could smash his chest at the end and declare himself the best in an event that nobody really cares about? Did he want the privilege of having his name inscribed on a board, only to be erased months later when his time was beaten? Or the right to boast about it on social media so a few people could ‘like’ his post?

You aren’t a pro athlete, so stop acting like it

Richard Froning could perform a handstand pushup, whilst sculling a beer, beating you in a game of darts and doing a leg press all at the same time.

If he retired tomorrow, due to injury or disinterest, he could also live comfortably for the remainder of his life thanks to sponsorship deals, prize winnings and a coaching career that would no doubt be booming.

LeBron James could blow out his knee tomorrow and have all the athleticism of Charles Barkley when he gets schooled by those kids in Space Jam when the Monstars steal his basketball skillz, and still his children’s children would never have to work again.

At the end of March, Kevin Ware, a basketball player at the University of Louisville, suffered what may be the most horrific injury in college basketball history as his shin bone broke the skin, forcing paramedics to cover it with a blanket and players, coaches and spectators started throwing up at the sight of the injury.

He was uninsured, as was Kevin Oger, and millions of other ‘athletes’ who are enduring injuries for the sake of ‘their sport’, and now will need to live with the realisation that his pro career will never happen.

A final thought

You’re standing in your backyard, your young child/nephew/niece/grandchild/god child/cousin/random kid from next door that sneaks into your yard to eat the apricots off your tree is looking up at you, all big and doe eyed, wanting to play ‘rocket ship’- you know, that game where you toss them up into the air, then catch them on the way down…

…but you can’t, because you just finished Angie and, midway through, you felt something tear in your lower back but kept going anyway because you didn’t want to let down those people on social media who don’t really care anyway…

…so now you need to look at the kid’s innocent face, and say no…

… all because you needed to ‘go beast mode on that workout’ and ‘suck it up, so you could benefit later’.

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24276294

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5 Responses to Since when was ‘pain’ an acceptable outcome in the fitness (Crossfit) industry

  1. snatchymcsnatchersonisntanydouchierthandeadliftdungeon says:

    it’s encouraging to learn that an ‘english teacher’ didn’t read my reply because it was ‘too long’ (btw- total cop-out) so i’ll try to be simpler: you’re acting like a hypocrite.

    what do you suggest? that people stop trying so hard? that they settle for less than their best?

    it’s painful to tear muscle tissue to make it stronger. it’s painful to double-over from being winded. it’s painful to try to beat a personal best and come up short. and yet we beat on, boats against the current.

    please allow a few people who are actually excited about fitness and strength training the ability to beat personal bests and gain a sense of accomplishment. and maybe even looking good naked. yeah…some people don’t know when they are getting ahead of themselves an they hurt themselves and that is a matter of personal responsibility, not for the fitness police to judge.

    please answer me this: what kind of fitness blogger badmouths people getting excited about fitness?

    and why isn’t crossfit a sport? you still haven’t explained why, except to say that it isn’t.

    • jonoprecel says:

      Ok, fine I’ve got a minute so I’ll humour you.

      Yes, in fact that is exactly what I am insinuating. In the fitness world there is a sub-culture of ‘pain’ that is permeating every facet of the industry.

      I stated that this sub-culture filters through every annal of the fitness industry and is not exclusive just to Crossfit, however, it is more prevalent within Crossfit due to the verbose vocality of it’s members and cultures.

      What you have failed to do is differentiate between levels of pain. Whilst I concur that one should indeed create micro-tears within the muscle so that, once protein synthesis occurs, the muscle becomes stronger, this is a very different thing that saying ‘tear muscle tissue to make it stronger’. Your statement could be construed as you saying ‘you should tear your pec muscle to the degree of requiring surgery, in an attempt to become fitter’. Also, had you a client who was complaining of a sore shoulder, would you not have them stop the exercise when they started complaining of a shoulder impingement?

      Similarly, if the reason why you are doubled over, winded during a workout is due to being short of breath, then yes, I would expect your trainer/coach to allow you to catch your breath and ensure there is no actual damage before allowing you to continue. For example, had you an asthmatic in your class, yet the subculture within your box is strong and perpetuates a hardcore ‘finish at all costs’ attitude towards exercise, then they could risk serious injury at the expense of continuing when ‘winded’. Your example of it being painful to try and beat a PB has no correlation to the contention of the article, that, if injured, or performing an exercise that puts you at the risk of injury, one should stop.

      If you debate that point, then you have no business advising people, or coaching, within the fitness industry and, if you do, I wish you all the best and hope that you are not one day sued for negligence.

      The creed of any trainer should be ‘do no harm’. You are showing your inability to differentiate between pain leading to injury and pain due to mental weakness.

      Trust me, nobody could be more excited about fitness and health than me, hence why I have done everything from Crossfit, to Pilates/Yoga, to Power Lifting, Oly Lifting, Bodybuilding and yes, even a Step/Zumba class once before as well. I find it contradictory to say that you love fitness if you are unable to critically evaluate a movement, placing your personal prejudices aside, and see if for it’s positives and negatives.

      The three advantages of CF that you mentioned, beating PB’s, gaining a sense of accomplishment and looking good naked, are in no way exclusive to CF, and CF did not create these either.

      Your statement that some people don’t know when they are getting ahead of themselves begs the question ‘why are they allowed to do it then?’

      We could discuss that some boxes scale their workouts, but one only has to look at the Crossfit main pages workout for Sunday to see a poor case of programming that a lot of people will scrawl down on a piece of scrap paper, take to their gym, and blindly perform because they are told that it is the way to become ‘elite’.

      To say that it is a ‘matter of personal responsibility’ is false. CF is seen as an expert, and we, as humans are psychologically programmed to accept authority, hence Stanley Milgrims experiment with the electric shocks. You average person will look at the main site, associate that with fitness/eliteness and understand that it is a safe thing for them to do.

      To answer your question re: what kind of fitness blogger… the kind that cares about people. Can you answer me this?

      What type of person tries to defend the concept of ‘pain’ within the fitness industry and advocates a fitness movement that has an underlying culture of injury? Furthermore, it has been shown that programs that do not follow linear or undulating periodisation are significantly less beneficial than those that do. It is impossible to make the claim that CF is periodised training. The top performers as well have never followed the main CF site, instead periodising their own training.

      Therefore, what type of person would advocate a training program that still has sketchy results and a poorly designed management structure?

      What is the goal of a sport? To etch your names in the record books and be remembered forever. There is no Hall of Fame for Crossfitters. Furthermore, CF’s official goal is “The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness. We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.”

      Therefore, the aim of Crossfit is not to excel at a sport. Ie. I’ll practice my jump shot to be a better basketball shooter, throw a ball to throw a more accurate pitch etc… The aim of Crossfit is to be prepared for everything and nothing.

      CF as a ‘sport’ has only existed for a very short period of time, and yet, there is no aim except to be the best at exercising.

  2. Matt says:

    I ran a 2 mile PR yesterday.

  3. Am I the only one who thinks the women in those ‘active inspiration’ photos look more emaciated than fit?
    LOL look at the manicure on that hardcore basketball player.

    Thanks for the interesting blog.

  4. I agree with you on this one. You can push yourself without destroying yourself.

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