Coming Of Age: CrossFit And Haters

By on September 26, 2013
*The author of this article is a regularly-attending member of a CrossFit box*

Congratulations, CrossFit-you’ve gotten big.

So big, in fact, that you’ve earned the honor of having attracted the ‘haters’.

Go through the course of a week, and you’ll find it: “CrossFit Can Cause Rhabdo”.  “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret”.  “Doing CrossFit Causes Baldness” (OK, the last example’s  made up, but for reasons I’ll explain shortly, not much different than the first two).

In 2000, the sport that never even existed has now grown to the mega-popular movement of having established over 5000 boxes (crossFit’s name for work-out centers) worldwide, and has been doubling every two years for quite some time.

And at a time when our growing obesity epidemic threatens our U.S. economy and inadvertently tears away at the relationships most important to us, CrossFit is providing new awareness of physical fitness that the Western world desperately could use.

Crossfit and hatersNow found at in-school programs, football facilities, military training locations, and virtually every U.S. metropolitan area, the subject of physical fitness is becoming a table-discussion topic.

And as that growth occurs, a very predictable event is also happening: the insurgents of the haters. With often-alarming headlines, and widely-shared social media posts, the haters are causing some to question CrossFit.

Should the CrossFit community be worried by the haters?

I’ve seen the backlash from many of my Facebook contacts regarding recent articles by haters.  And many in the CrossFit community are angry.

But let’s look a little closer…

On September 24, 2013, one article written by an assistant professor named Eric Robertson published an article in the Huffington Post titled “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret“, and asserted the impending doom CrossFit faces from the risk of rhabdomyolysis.  In it, he produced a few frightening anecdotal stories (the same types of stories that can be found in many major sports) related to CrossFit. What he failed to mention, however, is that he provided zero amount of peer-reviewed scientific literature to back up his implication that the two are associated.  

On December 22, 2005, another article, written by Stephanie Cooperman and published by the New York Times came with the catchy headline “Getting Fit, Even If It Kills You“.  In it, she raised the fear of deadly consequences of going to CrossFit.  This article was again, supplied with a few anecdotal stories.  Once again, peer-reviewed scientific research to back up her sensationalism? Zero.

In fact, a simple PubMed search (the highly regarded database of scientifically-sound literature) reveals 2 actual references to CrossFit; both of them favorable.

In other words, the haters providing anecdotal evidence have no scientifically sound evidence to substantiate their claims. These people are akin to a sweet Grandmother who advises against it because she knew a friend’s brother’s uncle’s friend who got hurt doing it.

Just who do haters appeal to?

Indeed, their articles are being read and shared.  But by whom?

  • Well-intentioned people who, unfortunately ‘buy into’ what the author is saying  With the age of the internet, information that once was reserved only for a small few is now easily accessible with the click of a finger-tip.  Many of these people will see through the reasoning of the ‘haters’ and continue on their way, while some, sadly, will accept their new opinion.
  • Those who don’t accept personal responsibility for much in their lives They commonly say things like “my life is messed up because of (pick name of past-friend, or family member they choose to blame here)”.  They feel that everyone has done them wrong, and society owes something to them.  Reading an article from the haters will unfortunately justify their inaction to take care of themselves as they continue stuffing down Doritos and Krispy Kremes while laying on their sofa. They’ll quip in self-justification “I knew that CrossFit gimmick was a bad thing”.

What do the haters stand to gain?

  • Publicity, publicity, publicity  Any writer’s dream is to have their article go viral.  By finding a large (but growing) movement and criticizing it, they can accomplish their goals of publicity.  Tomatoes, of increasing European use in the late 1800’s, were quite the hot topic after being thought of as poisonous for many centuries.  Automobiles faced their share of irrational fears, and the reporters who exploited them.  CrossFit is no different, and the same drive writers had a century-and-a half-ago is still there.
  • Outlet for personal emotions  Whether they admit it or not, every writer has a ‘slant’.  These slants are often based on personal experience, or experience of someone very close to them.  Maybe the writer did indeed know someone who, like in most physically demanding sports, was legitimately injured in CrossFit.  In turn, that writer wants to find every possible damning piece of evidence against that subject, even if that evidence is not based on anything but a few anecdotes. Then again, there’s always the possibility that the writer was simply jealous of someone else who excelled in the sport.
  • The mis-informed belief that they are in fact, doing a public service These writers, often well-meaning, have browsed several references across the available information, came up with an opinion, and done some eloquent writing to support that opinion, whether it’s based on science or not.  A nice attribute to these writers, however, is that as they find research that supports the other point of view (the one they’re originally criticizing), they eventually change their positions.

Why should CrossFit embrace haters?

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer  once stated that truths go through three phases: First, they are ridiculed, second, they are opposed, and third, accepted as truth.  The haters let CrossFit know it’s on the right track.

In addition, the haters will:

  • Inspire more research about CrossFit For those who support the sport, and those who are skeptical of the sport, both sides will want to support their opinions.  What better way to drive that than through the increased request for research into this sport?
  • Increase the fervor for the CrossFit followers CrossFit members are a very close group.  They work out together, achieve new goals together, and create lifelong friendship together.  What better way to make them more bonded than attacking them as a group?  Through their attacks, haters are unknowingly push the movement that is CrossFit even farther into public consciousness.
  • Promote self-education about CrossFit  Yes, some readers will be swayed when they see a sensationalist article criticizing the sport.  However,  many will still want to know more.  The principles of CrossFit are great enough that with even a small amount of open-mindedness, the average lay-person can see the beauty of what it truly is.

The future of CrossFit:

CrossFit is not perfect.  Like any sport, there are inherent injury risks if done improperly.  But coaches are there to help.  It is the inherent job of each athlete to utilize those coaches, persist in wise workout choices, and take responsibility for his/her own health. No one else can do it for them.

But like it or not, CrossFit is here to stay. Like similar growing movements, it will continue that growth, eventually level off, and perhaps after some of the ‘fad’ participants leave, decrease a small degree as well.  But it will stay.

On a more personal level, it is changing the lives of countless individuals who are accomplishing feats they never thought they could accomplish.  It’s strengthening friendships, mending families, and promoting a new consciousness of physical fitness.

It’s not going anywhere. And should you have any questions, the chances are that your local box is fairly close by.

BTW-Love this article? Think it’s off-base? Please leave your thoughts below!

About Michael Tremba

Dr. Michael Tremba, once severely overweight himself, has studied to distinguish the truth about weight loss, and the shocking mis-information that's taught to us by many "trusted" groups. Through the techniques that have helped him regain his health, he shares uncommon tools to help anyone else desiring to lose weight to live the life they're meant to. He enjoys reading, exercising, travelling, and spending time with his wife, Shari in Mobile, Alabama Find me on Twitter, Google+ and let's connect on LinkedIn.


  1. Darlene Wilson

    September 27, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Bring the haters. Put you guys on one side and put us on the other and see who comes out better for it. All the way around. Crossfit is awesome and gulf shores crossfit is the neatest group of people and coach and trainers in this area!!! It’s about getting healthy. At whatever pace is good for to begin at!!! Check them out on Facebook!!! Gulf shores crossfit!!! Brand new facilities or box as us crossfitters call it!!! Love the upbeat attitudes and those lime green walls. Wow!!! Get you pumped up and ready to do something !! Call and ask for Jim or Alicia !!

  2. Mona

    May 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    This whole labeling folks “haters” is really not necessary. There is more than one game in town, why must someone be a “hater” because they don’t feel the need to crossfit or don’t think the type of programming you use is for them? Why must you label folks in such a negative way. You want to be seen positively, rise above the tit for tat conversation, push and publish your good points and let your programs and the success people have from them speak for themselves.

    • Michael Tremba

      May 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Thanks for your response, Mona. I’m all about someone choosing not to do Crossfit as a personal choice. But when they make a blanket judgement over the entire movement based on poorly-presented evidence and pretend that it’s science, I take issue.
      “Hater” is not used here as a derogatory term- simply more of a factual one.

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