The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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Well it’s been sometime since I sat down and wrote an article and over the last year I have compiled an extensive list of topics to write about but one that keeps popping to the top of the list is the growth of CrossFit, the positives and negatives of CrossFit in Ireland. This is my opinion on what I have seen since I have been a part of the CrossFit community.

My introduction to CrossFit was when I lived in Brisbane Australia in 2007. I followed the main site as was the norm. On returning to Ireland I wanted to keep up CrossFit and decided to seek out any CrossFitters in Ireland. After a google search I found CrossFit Ireland on BEBO (I know that’s old but hey I did mention 2007)

When I arrived home to Ireland there was only one CrossFit that I knew of in Ireland so I contacted the guys at CFI and went out to meet Colm and Will in Tallaght which was their place before moving to Sandyford. If I recall right the boys were doing a power clean ladder and big Stephen was smashing it. I did one personal Training session with Colm before heading to Belgium for my Level 1 (Also just to mention I have been working in the fitness industry since 2002). When I returned, I called Colm and signed up as a member to CFI. It was a small facility but what made it stand-out from other gyms was the acceptance from this group of people who trained with limited equipment and just had fun. Within a few weeks I entered my First competition which was the only one in Ireland and to say it was hell is an understatement. Scott Jenkins won the comp and if anyone can remember him he was strong, fit and in-between work-outs was outside having a smoke.

More CrossFits started to open soon after, CrossFit Dublin, Northern Ireland, Ronin, Mallow and much more opened and brought the awareness to the masses. But just because they had facilities did not mean they were the only people doing it. Slowly but surely the CF community increased and continues to grow with the last count of 62 CrossFit from February 1st and projected 80 plus by the end of 2014.

This is not a history lesson on CrossFit in Ireland it is more of what I have seen over the 7 years after I was left in a pool on a floor in a hot Brisbane studio gym after a 20min AMRAP of box jump, thrusters, bear crawls and Burpees.

The Good:

The community has grown with 60 plus affiliates and non-affiliates a like training their version of CrossFit. The community is what makes CrossFit special and we can all agree on that. Along with the suffering of the WOD’s, the constant attack CrossFit coaches and the community took was one sure way to pull people together to defend what we did.

The growth of CF facilities and the jump in standards and ability of our male and female athletes has excelled over the years.Sure 30muscle-ups for time was done in singles when I first started CF and now it can be done unbroken. We have small, medium and large CF facilities all over Ireland with a common goal to help people achieve and perform movements they never taught possible. Each CF is similar and different; let me explain what I mean. We all want to help people but we have our own way of programmeing and teaching our clients, oh!! And YES there is more than one way to skin a cat, get clients fit and create athletes.

We have seen our guys & gals compete on an international level. We have had the games champions visit Ireland. But in my opinion the most important aspect of it all is the community. I have met a lot of great people through CrossFit and would consider a lot of them good friends, friends that have helped me and in return I have helped them when needed. We share a lot and are willing to help out in all regards to setting-up a facility, equipment, programmeing and giving a hand when needed.

There is uniqueness to who we are and what we do and the best part about the CF community is we except anyone that is willing to put the hard work in and become a better version of themselves. Even though we get a lot of flack we see a lot of other fitness communities mimic us in what we do.

Even better than all of that we see other S/C, weightlifting, powerlifting, personal training facilities except CrossFit for what it is and understand that it stands alone as a great fitness programme that can and does produce great athletes.

The Bad:

So you can’t do one without the other. When I say bad I don’t mean the end of the world crap. What I see is the Ego and arrogance of some not all CrossFit coaches, trainers and members. The Ego really pisses me off for the simple reason that people who CrossFit have fought against the naysayers for ages and now that CF has been accepted we turn around and do the same to others. There is a CF saying “leave your ego at the door”. This hierarchy of fitness people is sad to see and even more so watching it grow. Where is it coming from? It seems to me it stems from new coaches that only know CF and have never spent time in the other aspects of the fitness industry and are completely absorbed in the “CULT CrossFit”. To me it is a lack of education and willingness to understand other training methods, but hey that’s young trainers and we are all guilty of that at some point and therein lies the problem. A CrossFitter who only knows CrossFit, A bodybuilder who only knows bodybuilding, a powerlifter who only knows powerlifting will disregard other people methods and training protocols unless the person coaching them educates them on it.

Let’s look at a good example I personally witnessed like a lot of you reading this. Weightlifters like alot of others in Ireland did not like CrossFit in the beginning and to dispute that statement is laughable seen as I personally witnessed and received the slagging/banter regarding my own CF training. Some of the people that slagged off CrossFit now train CrossFit and even own a CrossFit. But the recent growth of weightlifting in Ireland has been in part down to the introduction of weightlifting through CrossFit. From 13 registered female lifters to over 100 in a year after the first weightlifting women’s open last year, which was held in a CrossFit. That’s not to say I am attacking weightlifting as I would weightlift more than CrossFit for my own training and I would have not found weightlifting if not for CrossFit. The same goes for Kettlebell companies, power lifters, endurance coaches and team sports. But what I see now is people that CrossFit and level 1 trainer’s on Facebook and other social media giving out about different training disciplines including the likes of Spinning, Zumba, Running and all the other fitness programmes out there. Not only that but the arrogance to call out other training methods and accredited teaching courses is just immature and a lack of understanding, not education in fitness, but understanding of what they are doing (Now do not mistake me here I fully understanding there are bad educators doing a disservice to new trainers). You then become no better than the people who slatted CrossFit for years. If you are a person that likes to help people feel better about themselves then come down off the pedestal and look at it objectively.

Ann does Zumba twice aweek and body pump twice a week, she loves both classes and is happy with her body.

John started weight watches, walks 40min every day and has lost 15kg. He is happier in himself and is thinking of running a 5k.

Peter has been a member of a CrossFit for 2 years and has decided to powerlift full time and leaves CrossFit.

Are they wrong in what they are doing because it’s not CrossFit? The answer you’re looking for is NO.

There are bad personal trainers, fitness instructors, weightlifting coaches, powerlifting coach’s nutritionist and YES CrossFit coaches.

Understand that as a coach/trainer you should constantly learn more and develop your skills and coaching ability this does not mean you were a bad coach/trainer. I have had endless conversation with different coaches, trainers athletes, general public and even my own business partner at the time (2008) trying to clear up the fact that as CF coaches/trainers we don’t want to hospitalize our clients, make them get sick or destroy our bodies for the sake of a good time or weight. It is also highly possible some of us would not teach the way we taught 5 years ago, that is not leaving me open for attack on my coaching but as James Fitzgerald said at his CCP seminar you are all good coaches but after this weekend you will look back at the coach you were before you did this course and see a different person “how deep is the rabbit hole”

Everything has its place and everyone is entitled to exercise, eat and be healthy in whatever suits them. My own mother trained with me for Boxing, Aerobics (again a long time ago) CrossFit and is currently doing Zumba (I don’t teach Zumba). Even though she seen results in CF she loved Zumba and that is what she prefers to do and more power to her.

The Ugly:

Well this is short and sweet but again I see it as something that can harm CrossFit in Ireland eventually and as one fitness marketing expect said to me. You can only grow so much before the bubble burst.

With the growth of CrossFit we have seen small facilities, large facilities and huge facilities open. Regardless of the facility you own or train in its down to the owner to keep humble and remember why they do what they do.

Like all aspect of the fitness industry there will at some point be a burst and with that a change for CrossFits and other S/C facilities. Anyone that CrossFits knows it does not come cheap and for good reason, we provide a top service for our clients. But if you are old enough to remember and worked in a globo gym you got paid extra for teaching a class be it aerobics or circuits. Then people decided they loved teaching so much you did not have to pay them extra which in a single swoop destroyed the occupation of the fitness instructor.

At some point cheaper CrossFits will be opened and the people running them will take 20 plus people per class. This is where the ugly stuff happens. Cheaper CrossFits mean undercutting which lead to overcrowding, which will inevitably cause a huge increase in injuries and bring CrossFit back to square one fighting to get a good reputation one that the older CF’s in Ireland have worked so hard to attain.

I have spoken to people regarding this many times and I always hear the same response. Each CrossFit will stand for itself and the cream will rise to the top. Unlike the globo gyms we all have something in common and that is the CrossFit Name over our doors.

I hope that this will resonate with a lot of you and if you feel I’m wrong in any way that is fine and I am always open for comments. But as I said at the top of this article this is my opinion on what I have seen over the last 7 years being a part of CrossFit in Ireland.

CrossFit is very important to me and has changed my perception on how to approach people when it comes to exercise and health. I hope to see CrossFit in Ireland grow and keep the sense of community it began with. Allowing anyone that’s willing to train, get fit, feel welcome and enjoy themselves


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