The 2014 CrossFit Games this past weekend earned a Reebok sponsorship and the full ESPN treatment, rife with flashy graphics, expert analysts, and instant replays.
But last night, before the winner’s lactic acid could simmer down, the investigative arm of the sports media empire published a highly critical article on the workout craze that spurred the event they just covered wall to wall.
The piece, from Outside the Lines, titled “CrossFit’s Big Growth Fuels Concerns” earned a 7-minute video feature and 3,500 words, with a focus on a reported uptick in injuries and the ease in which one can open a box, the CrossFit-affiliated gym.
“Prospective box owners first sign up through headquarters, or HQ, for a two-day certification class – known as the Level 1 Cert – that costs $1,000 and introduces the 'methodology and foundational movements' of CrossFit. At the end of the two days, there's a 55-question, multiple-choice test.
'We joke all the time that a CrossFit certification only certifies that you have a valid credit card,' said Greg Everett, who was a partner in the fourth affiliate, which opened in 2003, and worked closely with HQ before an ugly and personal dispute led to HQ pulling his affiliation in 2009.”
After passing the test, all you need is a suitable essay and $3,000 a year in annual affiliate fees to become a certified owner of a box. Sources in the article expressed concern about the proliferation of boxes, 10,000 to date, and their apparent lack of consistent quality training.
“Indeed, if you look at that affiliate map now, it's not unusual to find one CrossFit box actually right down the block from another, in some cases barely more than a 10th of a mile apart.
'I think that's the biggest complaint,' Jenai said, 'that there's no territory, that you could have some a--h--- who just got his Level 1, has no certified trainers and no extra credentials offering their training super cheap, when you have a legitimate gym 400 meters away.'"
The video feature paired with the written piece also includes brutal video of two injuries; a broken spine for Denver-based Kevin Ogar, which spawned an “Ogar Strong” campaign by CrossFitters around the country, and a fractured skull for another CrossFitter, which happened while he attempted to break a personal best on the toes-to-bar exercise.
Both recovering athletes defend CrossFit and the article does highlight a devoted following of members committed to improving their health. Still the debate rages on, as seen in the personal stories published in our feature CrossFit Confessions, and the often vitriolic Facebook comments accompanying each piece.