Question from Amy via Facebook: Have you written about CrossFit anywhere? I know walking is king, and stretching his queen, but I just...just... I want to flip the tires. Just curious about your thoughts on this movement, since it's gained popularity so fast and seems in line, at least philosophically, with a natural movement lifestyle. As payment, a limerick:
I am free of the guilt of not running,
And cycling, too, I'm now shunning.
Now my eye's on the tire,
Which I'll flip and perspire,
Why work out when you could be out funning?
Sometimes, when you’re good, you get your own blog post.
And you know, I’m answering this because you wrote a limerick, and that’s the only reason. No, just kidding. I get a lot of emails about CrossFit, including, in a strange coincidence, this media inquiry today:
“It seems like CrossFit is still a trend and it helps a lot of people get in shape. It also seems like a lot of people get injured from this. If you've been a part of Crossfit, we want to know if it has helped you get in shape or if it's injured you. If you got injured, please tell us why you think that happened. Was it the training, the exercises, the instruction?”
Here are my thoughts:
1. Walking is only the "king" of movement because it’s biologically required. There are other requirements too. Like having a upper and lower body strength-to-weight ratio of 1:1. Meaning, you can get up out of a squat position (or a chair) without momentum. You can haul your body up to something you’re hanging from. You have joint ranges of motion needed to use all of these positions, whenever you feel like it and without whining after 4 minutes. These are equally King. There are many kings in natural movement. It’s not just walking.
2. Stretching is not really Queen, nor is it a “natural” thing to do in the way we do it. WE are stretching to help restore function based on years of lost function. We are stretching because we are trying to fix a problem. We are stretching in all these crazy ways because we don’t do anything else with our body and it has become kind of “fixed” in position. The mind has also become fixed it her habits. Undoing the damage to our body has just as much to do with changing the way we think about movement, think about our body and how we think in general.
3. CrossFit is a very cool idea. CrossFit will Kick Your A$$. But CrossFit is exercise. It is not natural movement. Just because something isn’t the 8-pound weight lifting, 200 crunches, Step Aerobics (whoo hoo!), Kick Boxing, the 4-minute workout machine, a treadmill, a stepmill, the StairMaster, or a Thigh Master doesn’t make it Natural Movement. Don’t confuse workouts with large, whole-body motions and varying patterns of intensity with biologically natural motion. There are many (many) variables to natural movement that these programs are neglecting. Throwing around a Kettle Ball (not picked off a Kettle tree), doing high loads of a squat in squatting shoes (not picked off of a squatting shoe tree), or multiple repetitions of anything, for that matter, is not “natural,” as in, found in nature. Not too many Monster-truck tires being flipped out there on the Serengeti, if you know what I mean (though a monster-truck tire tree sounds like a cool art project).
But putting all of that natural talk aside, let’s look at CrossFit and the workout it is. And P.S. Flipping Tires sounds like fun. Here’s the deal though. The single greatest “natural” movement program is one that has been utilized over a lifetime. It is not physiologically sound to go from pushing your pencil or lifting your hefty purse to lifting a 50 pound weight. Over your head. There are years of necessary-yet-neglected steps in between these scenarios that people are not addressing. People are taking jacked up bodies (Jacked Up: A clinical term for hamstrings that don’t lengthen correctly, computer-frozen shoulders, hip and glute muscles that don’t stabilize the pelvis, lumbar vertebrae frozen in flexion) and loading them with a ton of weight, in new planes of motion. You’ll get fit, for sure, but fitness has nothing to do with long-term health variables. A lot of really fit people take their fit bodies in for shoulder impingement surgery. And through their ACL rehab can cycle and stay fit. FIT is not FUNCTIONAL.
Amy, if you’re really into this whole-body optimization thang, don’t try to fill your workout time with the “best” type of movement. There is no best type of movement that goes into your workout time. Having “a workout time” is the problem. There is only living in a dynamic body, all the time, slowly restoring lost strength and mobility, to keep years of movement in your future. I don’t know how to say it any clearer than this: Animals, including humans, do not “work out” in a nature. They do not need to “work out” because the way they live their life keeps them in shape. They have the perfect amount of strength and endurance for their needs. Not too little, not too much, but just the right amount. You should be evaluating your areas of known weakness and work on correcting them, then please, move forward to something that looks more CrossFit. Only dialed down to something that considers the long-term effects of its prescriptions.
The desire to flip a tire is likely a desire to exert. Exertion is good for the human and we haven't been exerting at the correct levels riding on our gas-powered machines or pushing our kids around in wheel-chairs or shopping at the store for our food or sitting at work most of the day. Jumping into movements that require a lifetime’s accumulation of strength and skill will just set you up for an injury that will inevitably lead to a decrease in movement over time. You can’t fake out Nature. She’s more clever than you.
If you’ve a hankering for a “tire flip,” start with a walk to the grocery store. Don’t use a cart, but carry the food you’re going to eat around in the store with you. If you need to walk there every day, then that's even better. Then carry your bags home. Already sounds tiring, right? Already sounds like, Oh, Katy, you're crazy. If I had to walk to the grocery store every day and carry my bags around and carry them home I wouldn't have time to take a walk or lift weights. Or tires. You know, for exercise.
And, P.P.S., When those much-lighter-than-a-tire groceries get too heavy, set them down, rest, and pick them up again. Then do it carrying a kid. This, my friend, is how you can practice “natural movement” and work harder than "walking and stretching."
The point of "exercising" is to keep up your functionality - so you can move in the future. People are confused though and think that any type of exercise will improve the necessary health variables for longevity of tissues. They are mistaken. In order to affect nature, you have to play Nature's way. She's savvy that one.
Personal Story: I used to crave the intensity from a good workout. One day, on my second mile carrying my 25-pound baby in my arms, I found myself saying “this sucks and is too hard.” But then I realized what I was saying. It wasn’t the intensity or the difficulty I’d been missing. I just wanted the physically hard parts of my life to be limited to one hour, three times a week. I want my physical labor to be controlled, with a watch, and then I want it to be over. I wanted to check the box, so I could justify the other 23 hours of non-movement. But we can't think like this if we want our movement to benefit our life. If you just move through your life, slowly eliminating the conveniences, you will see that it’s all tough. It’s all intense. And it requires strength and endurance all. day. long.
CrossFit’s slogan is Your Workout is Our Warm Up!
There are no fluffy chairs (nor chairs at all for that matter) in my living room or “8-hour sitting breaks” in my office. The office of life.
This is my slogan: All-Day Movement: Humans Wanted.
Ok. I’m going a bit crazy here.
Must. Turn off. Computer.
But not exercise. Exercise is what we do in lieu of these other things.
P.P.P.S. CrossFit does look like a lot of fun, right? I’m sure I’d love it.
P.P.P.P.S. No, your CrossFit loving-friends will not want to read this post. Do not forward it to them. Just go climb a tree and take a walk and get out of that chair.