[This was originally published on May 19, 2009.]
This isn’t dangerous. Wrestling lions is dangerous. Climbing mountains is dangerous.
This is a walk in the park.
You can stand there and scream, loading a thousand YouTube videos, a thousand screenshots of undereducated idiots throwing around barbells and calling it CrossFit. It doesn’t make you right. It makes you a YouTube-watching naysayer.
What you’re lacking is honest proof. Statistics. A spreadsheet, a number, a definitive outcome, an analysis of variance showing that what we’re doing carries an outsized risk of injury.
Of course, you’ll never find it, because it doesn’t exist. Instead, you’ll type hate mail on the nearest message board, insisting that thrusters break wrists and burpees break backs, that the clean and jerk is an abomination, the kipping pull-up an affront to humanity.
Good luck. While you hold forth from the mountaintops, we’ll be pressing on, recognizing a singular truth that has escaped your narrow worldview: risk and reward go hand-in-hand.
If you want the world’s safest fitness program, you’ll have to forego fitness. You’ll strap into a lever-controlled, pulley-modulated padded seat, moving through a predetermined range of motion, and you’ll stay fat. If you want to get fit, you’ll have to stand up, and the second you do, you’ll be subject to gravity.
Gravity is a risk, and it would just as soon have you on your ass as on your feet. It would just as soon snap you in two as leave you whole, twisting your ligaments from their tenuous foundations or leaving them intact.
Fortunately, gravity is also the supreme creator of athletes, the silent resistance that makes bones dense and muscles strong. It rewards every second of fight, every moment we refuse to succumb to its pull. The more advantage we give it through increased loads and coordinated movements, the more it gives back.
Of course, the risks grow in lockstep, the hundred pound injury a mere trifle to the tragedy of its three hundred pound cousin. With every fight, there is the spectre of failure, insignificant or catastrophic.
However compelling, these possibilities pale in comparison to the risk of stopping. Frailty, immobility, and disease are not the result of working too hard, of waging war against a barbell. They are the result of a padded seat. They are the result of refusing to stand, of allowing fear to dictate the bounds of fitness.
The true danger lies in non-participation.
Load your videos, and cite the miniscule incidence of rhabdomyolysis. Write letters to your constituency, warning them of the dangers of CrossFit, of our singular drive to massacre, maim, and kill. Yell and parade, and make as much noise as you can, and hope that the volume hides your lack of evidence. Time will prove you an idiot, fighting a force as inexorable as gravity.
Jon Gilson is the founder of Again Faster and former member of CrossFit’s Level I Seminar staff.