Travis Stevens Could Definitely Kick My Ass… but…

Last week I saw an article shared on Facebook. It was an interview with a World Champion Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & Judo practitioner Travis Stevens and was focused on his thoughts on CrossFit. The article was shared with the following quote from Travis: “It’s like trying to get and education by going to the library to read a few books.” and then the poster comment, “Best metaphor I ever heard on the subject.”

I saw this & thought to myself, “Yeah, I like that. Looking to better yourself in a way that is psuedo-self-guided while having access to many resources that you can vet and consider whether or not you want to incorporate. Sounds like what I like about CF!” So I clicked the link and… Turns out Travis is not a fan of libraries. The article was titled, “Travis Stevens: ‘I’m an Olympian, and I will never do CrossFit’.”

Now before I continue, Travis Stevens is an amazing athlete who has accomplished feats few other people will. His dedication to and achievements in the sports of BJJ and Judo are undeniable. I am not implying… I CAN NOT imply that I have anything to offer near what he can in these pursuits. However… I wouldn’t ask my carpenter to fix my car… especially if he’s Amish. I use this analogy since it seems clear to me that Travis has never been in a CF Box, but simply speaks on what he’s heard about them. Here’s the article and it’s not a long read, judge for yourself.

My reply to the poster was, ” I think as fitness pros, we should look to teach people how to identify when things are done right. Saying, “I’ve heard stories of broken backs, pulled muscles, and other injuries.” can be said about any method, and is truly ignorantly opined. Honestly, when someone diminishes another’s method (without saying why/how theirs is better) they lose credibility in my eyes.” A few agreed with my comment, but most went on to criticize CF for many different reasons. 

So here’s my replies to all the internet commenters…

“So you’re saying Travis should do CrossFit?” No. Travis does not need Crossfit. Would it beneficial to him? Probably if he had a good coach, but it looks like we’ll never know. But no one “needs” CrossFit. No one “needs” Judo, or BJJ, or bodybuilding, or strongman, or any particular method of health and fitness programming that exists today. But they all are useful for getting people moving. And they all become dangerous when the ego gets involved. Especially when it’s the instructors ego. Here’s a list of world class athletes who do use CF and tout its benefits. There’s also all the games competitors. Yes, they follow a progressive strength program. But their conditioning is obviously CF. “Well they’re all on PEDs!” Some are, but all sports at the world class level will have PEDs. All of them. No, that sport is not an exception. Neither is that one. All of them.

“Why do you love CrossFit when the injury rate is so high?” First off, I love my wife, my family, and my friends… and my dog(s) (depending on when you read this, I may have 1 or more). My love is reserved for living things, not brands. I enjoy incorporating CFs methods in an intelligent way to get me in and out of the gym as quickly as possible so I can enjoy as much as life has to offer me. I believe the idea of a high injury rate exists since CF grew in popularity in the same timeframe as social media. And let’s face it, people are much more likely to share a “fail” post. If social media were around in the 80s & 90s (when I was coming up in gyms) I feel you would have seen the same phenomenon in the name of bodybuilding; Ego driven people “exercising” past the point of diminishing return is NOT a new thing. And it’s egotistical to think you’ll stop it.

“It’s primary principle it randomness.” This is not true. What people are referring to is the concept of “constantly varied”; This is not random. Constantly varied should be planned.

  • Random: ran·dom /randəm/ – adjective – chosen without method.
  • Varied: var·ied –ˈ/verēd/ – adjective – incorporating a number of different types or elements.

Randomness is however rampant in gyms. In my almost 2 decades as a Fitness Pro, when a gym goer would explain to me why they were doing an exercise far too many times the reason would be, “I saw (insert hot person’s name) doing it.” Let’s assume “hot person” knew what they were doing; In most cases, even if the exercise purpose was understood by the gym goer, scaling or redesign was the best course. Even still, “constantly varied” is not the primary principle. The first thing taught in the Level 1 Certification is as follows: MCI. Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity. Learn the pattern, practice it to perform it well repeatedly, then add appropriate intensity. This is a great outline for practicing any fitness method intelligently.

“CrossFit is a sport, not a training modality.” This is not true either. Yes, the games do exist, but the training method came first, still exists, has evolved since its inception, and will continue to evolve. Also, and this purely my opinion; I don’t follow the games. When I express this, most CrossFitters look at me like I have two heads. If they’re on I’ll watch. The athletic display is impressive. But I really prefer boxing and MMA. But to be clear, the sport and the training method are different.

So…

Is CrossFit perfect? Nope, but the perfect fitness plan doesn’t exist. But its as good as any method out there and better that most for general health. It’s strengths are that its community based, has an emphasis on eating intelligently (promoting food as more important than exercise), focuses on abilities over aesthetics, and encourages the pushing and highlighting of small wins, not egomaniacaly driving people everyday. This is an important difference between good and bad coaching.

Do not quote this next sentence unless you quote the whole paragraph. You can show me bad CF coaches, bad boxes, and people who were injured following ego; But for every one of those there are countless boxes that have had a marked improvement on the health of their community, people who have gone from being obese to being fit and maintained it for years, senior citizens that can outperform the average 20 year old (not that outperforming the average 20 is impressive nowadays.) And you can look to any brand… in any industry and point out “what’s wrong”. Do it too long and that’s all you’ll tend to see.

-B

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