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.