A few summers ago I walked past an open air gym in D.C. and stopped dead in my tracks.  There were men and women swinging from ropes, throwing around weights, and puking in buckets. Yes, everyone had buckets by them and I witnessed a few people exerting themselves to the point of vomiting. What type of workout was this? Later that day I called a personal trainer friend and described what I saw, “Oh, yeah, that’s those crazy CrossFit motherf*ckers,” he said.

From that point on I was an obsessed CrossFit watcher.  And the operative word here is “watcher”.  Although I’ve always been a fan of anything that’s not cardio, I’m still not convinced CrossFit would be the right workout for me.

For those who are not familiar, CrossFit is a mix of aerobic exercise, gymnastics (body weight exercises), and Olympic weightlifting.  The workouts are usually short—30 minutes or less—and intense, demanding all-out physical exertion. Hence the puke buckets.  A typical CrossFit workout could include:  sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, flipping tires, weightlifting, carrying heavy objects, and many bodyweight exercises; equipment used includes barbells, dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, medicine balls, and boxes for box jumps.

Take a look at the video below:

Not only are there CrossFit classes popping up everywhere, there are now CrossFit competitions. People take this stuff quite seriously, but like everything it has its critics.  In 2008, a former Navy officer filed a lawsuit against a local gym in Virginia stating that CrossFit left him permanently disabled. Makimba Mimms said his quadriceps were repeatedly taxed without rest caused him to urinate blood and his legs to swell. He was also diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — or “rhabdo” — a medical disorder in which muscle fibers break down and release myoglobin into the bloodstream, which can cause kidney damage, and is occasionally an occurrence among  workout enthusiasts.

In all of my CrossFit watching one thing I did notice is the lack of black women in the classes.  Since I have several friends in fitness groups catering to black women, like Black Girls Run and Black Women Bike DC, I figured I’d ask about a Black Girls CrossFit group. And that’s when everyone went silent.  One friend said the workout wasn’t something she was interested in because of the higher possibility of injuries.  Another friend referred to it as a “fitness cult”, and she didn’t see the glamour in puking and throwing around weights.

Intensity is an understatement when it comes to a CrossFit workout, and it’s definitely not for everyone.  I may have to rethink my CrossFit endeavors and start out with something a little more simple. I wonder if there’s a child’s CrossFit group.

Clutchettes, have you ever tried CrossFit?

  • Kaeli

    I sure hope not. My brother is big into crossfit but knowing what I know about weight lifting it is dangerous. When lifting heavy weights form is VERY important to protect your joints and spine in the long term. It’s all great to look cute at 30 but I want to be able to walk in my 60s. I also don’t think it is a very supportive atmosphere. I work out for my physical and mental well-being and crossfit is a very competitive environment. All women should be lifting weights but crossfit isn’t the way. I know the free weights area of the gym can be intimidating but it’s worth it. Have a trainer show you good form and then go at it. Weight lifting is easily my favorite workout and the quickest way to get the perfect figure.

  • http://twitter.com/Kenesha_W K.Nicole Williams (@Kenesha_W)

    Crossfit is currently getting some other lawsuits because they push beginners to do exercises that they are not ready for. I think any excercise regimen that causes you to need a “puke bucket” isn’t healthy.

  • Mrs. Dunlop

    I’m a black girl …. and I CROSSFIT! I absolutely love it. It’s one of the most supportive exercise communities I’ve ever participated in and the coach to member ratio is low so that individual attention is given. I love that it’s measurable and all workouts can be scaled to suit individual fitness levels. Coaches constantly check for proper form and safety protocols. Contrary to what some people believe, I’ve encountered nothing but a healthy competitive environment that focuses on bettering yourself. Progression not perfection is a common mantra at our box. I’ve never worked out or participated in a sport that the person who finishes last receives the most cheers and people even jump in and finish with you. To each his own, but for me – I’m a #CrossfitChick

  • https://plus.google.com/101769527897365977281 phillipskification

    Crossfit is cult-like in a way. They encourage everyone to join but to be quite honest, those with little to no fitness experience should not try things like this.

  • http://www.nyashajunior.com/ Nyasha Junior

    I’m an African-American woman, and I CrossFit! I have been a CrossFitter for the past 4 years, and I’ve been a member at 3 different boxes. Every box is different. Some may have more PoC, more women, more active military, more endurance athletes, etc. I have never thrown up. I have never been injured. I’m in the best shape of my life. Black Girls CrossFit!

  • Michb

    Black girls do CrossFit….I am black and have been at CrossFit for over a year. I have never been in a gym that is more like family than a CrossFit Box. I have never been pushed beyond my limits and there are coaches that make sure you are not. Cult…HELL NO! Just a community of people that know total body fitness is the best way to go. YES BALCK GIRLS DO CROSSFIT!

  • Nic

    I don’t but definitly know black girls who do. Just like there are black girls who marathon.

  • https://www.facebook.com/noassimilationrequired Tonya Thomas

    I know a lot of Black women that Crossfit. The only thing that’s keeping me from doing it is the cost. It’s usually $100+ a month for a box membership.

  • http://gravatar.com/brit30 Brit

    I’m a crossfitter and love it. It does depend on the box and coach but I get great coaching on my form and I’m never pushed to do what is beyond my physical ability. I started as a beginner and they worked with me, so beginners can definitely crossfit. Its not a cult, its a great high intensity workout. It may not be for everyone, but hey im not an aerobics type girl-you’re never going to catch me at zumba. Instead of talking bad about it, just do the exercise that is best for you. Most people who degrade it have never actually done it.

  • Candice

    I do crossfit and I love it! I get a workout that tones my body in 20 mins.

  • memyselfandi

    I’m a black girl who Crossfits! I joined 4 years ago with no athletic experience or background – overweight, out of shape, and a couch potato. I found a great community of friends, learned the movements at my own pace, and am now 4 dress sizes smaller and loving my body as much for what it can do as what it looks like.

    Crossfit isn’t for everyone, and there are a few bad apples in any activity who will give it a bad name, but it’s the only thing that’s ever gotten me to work out and has gotten me healthy/in-shape, so I love it.

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Knotty Natural

    Black Girls do EVERYTHING!

  • Afrophunkie

    I’m an African girl and I CrossFit. I love it. In CrossFit I have found a great community, another family if you will. I have never thrown up and I’ve bee CF’ing for almost 3 years. CrossFit has taught me to be physically and mentally strong. I have also learnt a lot about nutrition and eating healthy from CrossFit. Every box is different. Just like any gym. You have good boxes and bad boxes. Beginners are always welcome. A good coach will never push you past your physical limitations. We have grand mothers at my gym who are doing just fine.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    “progession not perfection”

    this seems like an invitation to injury–more reps at the expense of form.

    Cross fit is dangerous and not a workout–it’s more akin to a sport.

    Since I can’t post links, google, “why I hate crossfit iron lotus” and read that guy’s point of view. Also, the amount of training (or lack thereof) people have to have before they open “boxes” is troubling to me.

  • blue-sunshine

    I am Black and I Crossfit and I LOVE IT! It is NO JOKE! When I saw this article I screamed!!! Actually, the owner of the gym who is not of color encourages diversity… The facility is super reasonable considering prices at other locations. But yes, I am a Black Girl that Crossfits!!!

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    No, and I am not interested. As mention watching it is one thing but I know you can get an intensive and effective workout without killing yourself or pushing your body to the brink of injuries so I pass. But if others love it, hey do you just be careful.

  • http://gravatar.com/imperfectlyheather Heather

    I have done Crossfit and I have every intention of going back. I was sore and my body hurt in that I-justed-killed-my-workout-damn-I’m-really-out of shape kind of way.

  • Laura Charles

    I do! It is amazing how much you can push yourself in these classes. I’ve never witnessed puke buckets. Other crossfitters are usually very encouraging and helpful. It is the ultimate full body workout and can be done in an hour or less.

  • Laura Charles

    “I also don’t think it is a very supportive atmosphere.”

    You couldn’t be more wrong. Any legit crossfit gym will not let you workout unless you take preliminary classes and your form is tested. It is very encouraging and supportive. Many women get the wrong idea and think they will look like man or turn into a bodybuilder over night. Squats, Deadlifts, Cleans, Box Jumps Kettlebell swings etc work many large muscle groups at once and are effective for burning fat as well as toning.

  • Laura Charles

    High Five to your entire comment!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kendra.onye Kendra Onye

    I love Crossfit, and so do many other black women that I know. In fact, there is a Crossfit gym near me that is owned by a black woman!

    The videos (like the one you posted) don’t show the real Crossfit experience. They show the ideal. Everyone works at his/her level. There are people of all ages, sizes, and abilities. I’m fortunate to have very good trainers who won’t let anyone stack on heavy weight until their form is just right.

    I’ve never seen anyone work to the point of puking. But if they did, it would be because they weren’t listening to their body, or because they just wanted to see how far they could push themselves.

  • http://olivevalley.wordpress.com OliveValley

    I like weight lifting, circuit training, and high intensity interval training (HIIT). I’ve always wanted to try Crossfit, but the gyms here don’t have a childcare facility like the normal gym I go to.

  • copelli

    For the record, they do have child’s Cross Fit programs. A friend took her son to the class and he loved it. He’s seven and just loves learning about fitness and exercising on his own now. So it ain’t all bad.

    I like the philosophy behind Cross-fit….that you should be fit enough to handle any situation. Let’s face it, alot of people are physically incapable of being able to even save themselves should the need arrive. Having to use your arms or legs to lift your own body weight, much less someone else’s is not limited to people who are overweight. This is not a fat or skinny issue, it’s a overall fitness issue and Cross Fit puts that to the test.

    I am in Arizona and see black women and men at the Crossfit gym I went to, so….I hope to see even more of us as the phenom spreads and grows.

  • SR

    I have and i LOVED it.. but it just got way too expensive to keep going. Sadly, i had to bow out

  • http://gravatar.com/missinformation7 Ms. Information

    I was pushed waaayyy to far my first class and over did it…my knee is killing me now..

  • MsBridget

    Deborah Cordner Carson and Elisabeth Akinwale two of the baddest women at the crossfit games that happen to be black.

    If there is actually a puke bucket for EVERYONE at a box (which I VERY highly doubt) I wouldn’t want to go to that gym.

    Responsible Crossfit coaches know about Rhabdo and we are taught about it in the certification class.

    I am a black woman, I Crossfit, I have my Crossfit Certification and I love it.

    Not everyone is in there flipping tires, climbing ropes, etc. Workouts are scaled down to what you can do with PROPER form so the athlete does not injure themselves.

    There are injuries in every sport. I have worked at a globo gyms and have seen more people puke, pass out, and have heart attacks than I ever have at a Crossfit gym (I’ve actually seen none of this at a CF Box).

  • JS

    I believe that you go to a good gym though. Since crossfit has become “all the rage” lots of inexperienced gyms are popping up. “Certified” doesn’t really mean anything these days as those come a dime a dozen. The important thing with crossfit, especially if a person is new to fitness in general is good form and knowing when enough is enough. NO ONE should ever be consistently working themselves to the point of puking or extreme exhaustion. Its a bad gym if they are encouraging that or not calling it out if they see it. Form is everything, even with proper coaches to correct you if you are too tired to hold form the risk of injury skyrockets. While this is pretty common sense, or should be, to most who work out, since cross fit is competition focused as well, many tend to forget this. So that is why even with good coaches crossfit can still be dangerous if a person isnt very self aware. Safe exercise is going at your own level which the competition side of cross-fit works against.

    I have done crossfit a few times but never without a heart-rate monitor (which you should have for all interval training), too dangerous without it as.

    I’m happy for you as it seems you go to a good gym where they know what they are doing and how to adjust for everyone’s needs however there are more gyms out there that don’t than do. I would see your situation as the ideal crossfit gym, not the most common however.

  • http://gravatar.com/squarebears squarebears

    Elizabeth Akinwale!!!!! She’s dope.

  • Holly P. Rivera

    Crossfit is dependent upon constantly shifted, high-power interim training (HIIT) Biggest Loser hopefuls are doing it, VIP coaches do it, NASCAR drivers do it, ace sports groups are joining it into their conditioning programs. It’s trendy yet effective…

  • Kelly

    Elisabeth Akinwale and Deborah Cordner Carson to name two. They both finished in the top 3 of the North Central Regionals this year and competed in the CrossFit Games. They are many more black females than those two that CrossFit. I am one and my box has several as does most of the boxes around me.
    Google Elisabeth Akinwale/CrossFit Games 2013 Cinco to see an amazing job done by her.

  • http://racingbassist.wordpress.com racingbassist

    If people hurt themselves….I hate to say this…. but it is largely in part their own fault. Yes, the prescribed workouts may be crazy hard, but if you can’t do them change them. There’s nothing wrong with saying you have to lessen the weight, shorten the distance, or decrease the number of reps. It’s up to the individual to determine what is appropriate for their fitness level. Maybe some gyms are better at protecting their clients health then others, I don’t know, but I’ve never encountered the issues you mention.

  • Jalesa Montez

    Because you haven’t, doesn’t mean no one else have.

    I tried CF for 2 weeks…and I’m a former athlete & military vet…needless to say, my dr. advised me not to continue.

    CF is a brand & shouldn’t be considered a lifestyle.

  • Nomfundo

    To answer your question, yes, Black girls do Crossfit! And as far afield as South Africa! I’ve been doing it for 4 months, 4 times a week and I haven’t puked once! My body is changing and I love the way I look naked. But ultimately it’s a matter of preference.

  • http://gravatar.com/cynthiambarnes Cynthia Barnes

    Yes, Black women do Crossfit and love every intense, life-changing minute.

  • http://twitter.com/0oIAMSHEo0 IAMSHE (@0oIAMSHEo0)

    The issue is that (by your own standard) there are so few “legitimate” crossfit gyms.

  • Ads

    My fat fingers >:/
    That should have been an up vote, not down

  • simplyme

    I honestly doubt there is a racial Crossfit disparity… there probably is a huge gender disparity though, and only 1 in 10 women are Black in this country to begin with . I totally respect women that are into that level of strength training, but its not a fitness priority for me. I prefer kickboxing, pilates, and yoga because I’m more so interested in being agile yet flexible rather than strong.

  • http://twitter.com/geebeelil Gee Lily (@geebeelil)

    There is a CrossFit kids group, actually many of them. You raise a good point with this article. There are a couple of elite black female CF athletes, and I think just as many elite black male athletes. By elite, I mean they’ve competed in the finals of the CF games. I think CF generally highlights the elite athletes, so we don’t often see or learn about all of the thousands of diverse groups outside of the elites.

  • Sam

    Ironically, I have a CF trainer who is a retired SEAL. He still runs marathons. Trains 3 days a week.

    Just like everything else, you have to condition yourself. Give 100% of what you can and go from there….no one says you have to do Fran like a pro your first week. Those that do are doing it wrong and setting themselves up for failure.

    What is fitness, if not a lifestyle?

  • AW1

    Yes we do! I think with more groups and social networks it is becoming more obvious that women of all races are now taking exercise more seriously and I am happy to see it. I participate in BGR! events even though I don’t love running and would easily welcome the opportunity to do CrossFit with other black women. We can ALL live better

  • Sam

    I completely disagree. I joined when my fastest mile time was 15 minutes….way out of shape. I have a pre-existing knee injury, and as a result can’t run very fast still, but my aerobic fitness level has skyrocketed. I can finish most 5 round body weight workouts in 10-12 minutes.

  • https://plus.google.com/109788419622724281287 Michelle Peña

    After about TWO WHOLE YEARS researching another form or exercising that incorporated facilitated instruction rather than being left to my own devices in some large conglomerate fitness center or JUST cardio, I decided on CrossFit… and I couldn’t be happier! I was taking a kettlebell class at my school and had exhausted all my available credits on this ONE available class and wasn’t going to be able to take it anymore. I was devastated because I liked the perpetual instruction. They come up with the workouts each day, and it’s up to you to push through it. I loved working with weights and the intensity of it. But I needed more than just some giant gym packed with a thousand stairmasters and wanted something that wasn’t geared toward learning how to fight, like boxing or MMA. CrossFit is everything I want in a workout. And though it can be cult-ish at some boxes, it’s simply a matter of research. The box I go to is amazing and encouraging but not aggressive. They recently split it into divisions for newbies and vetted Xfitters. Perfect for females like me who need to concentrate a little more on upper body mobility and strength, something that fails me when I’m in a class with a majority of men, who prevail in that area. Research. Preview (most boxes will let you come in and watch and even have on day a week that non-members can join to get a feel for CrossFit and a typical WOD.) You’ll find the box that’s right for you.

  • http://Www.crossfitsilverback.com Barbee

    I’m a black female CrossFitter. I started in 2011 coming from a semi-athletic background (sprinting and bodybuilding for fun). I was introduced to to it during Sheriff’s Academy. One of my instructors was CrossFit certified. Anyway I won a chipper style WOD and with my hyper competitive nature, was hooked. After graduation I found a box and after a few months grew the cajones to come in. I haven’t looked back since.

    CrossFit isnt cheap but I think the reason CrossFit doesn’t have a lot of black females in it is because, lets be real, most specified fitness programs don’t. Personally, I’ve never seen an all black female workout group. We are a minority in every gym I’ve ever been to. And as a CrossFitter, I am a superminority (i am currently on a Marine Corps base where I get “holy sh*t” comments/looks while performjng wods at a regular gym because I’m the only one.. you’ll get used to it). I don’t factor my race into any fitness program for the reason that I AM the token black chick. So hopefully my doing it alone helps another black chick come in who may not have.

    And all Crossfit boxes will have programs for newbs. One thing my box had that I loved was an all female class time.. Which allowed the perfect environment for a female to learn, grow, or thrive even if she wasn’t competitive or super fit. CrossFit is fun.. its a family.. Its a phenomenon. If you get the chance.. Take an on-boarding class. It is amazing. I hope to get my cert when I find a good box near my station.. Hopefully recruit more unsure females ;).
    http://Www.crossfitsilverback.com. My box <3 it has daily WOD posts..

  • KatB

    CrossFit certifications cost around $1000… People who open a box are very serious about it and the certification is required.

  • Carol Fernandez

    CrossFit Laurel. Come for a free class and break a sweat with other strong, beautiful black women.

  • Ann Marie

    Your gut reaction to crossfit is totally understandable! I would’ve never got into it if it wasn’t basically forced on me by a family member. Puking is actually pretty uncommon and in the almost 3 years I’ve been doing it, I’ve only witnessed it happening to someone once..during a competition scenario after terrible eating and hardly any sleep. If I saw that happening in a box, I wouldn’t go to that one because their programming probably sucks :)

    The great thing about crossfit is everything can be scaled. This means the work is always done at maximum intensity, but it’s only what you’re capable of doing! You can still get stronger and work to eventually be able to do the prescribed weight or full movement, but just scale it back to what you can do now. The reason I love it is you’re always being challenged and always getting better.

  • Ann Marie

    Oh and by the way…I’ve seen some black girls KICK ASS at crossfit ;)

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