Why Erin Simmons Wants You to Know She Doesn’t Do CrossFit

321e72d0a45df71_612300

This post was written in response to Erin Simmon’s article “Why I Don’t Do CrossFit.” It was originally published here.

“ONE hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the things to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”

The media has gone crazy with CrossFit content. Websites often pay writers according to the number of clicks their articles generate. Here’s a formula for success: pair a trending and controversial brand such as CrossFit, with dramatic headlines. This click-bait formula has encouraged reporters to insinuate that people are dying in droves from participating in CrossFit. Is CrossFit Killing Us? Is CrossFit Destroying the World? Who wouldn’t want to read more to ensure that their friends and family were safe from such an ominous threat?

So when I first saw Erin Simmons’ article “Why I don’t do CrossFit,” I ignored it. The wave of dramatic CrossFit articles has already peaked, and frankly, no one is saying anything new. Those looking for an excuse to dislike CrossFit can find one, and the more discerning will continue to discover and benefit from our program.

But after Erin’s article began made the rounds on social media, a large number of people asked for my response. Unfortunately, Erin’s critiques of CrossFit aren’t worth responding to. They consist of a few demonstrably false claims, and a consistent appeal to authority. Her points are so obviously wrong that even legitimate critics of CrossFit disagreed with her article.

But I do think another kind of response is in order, one that might help readers to recognize this type of article for what it truly is. This article isn’t about CrossFit – it is a coping mechanism.

Erin Simmons is not a normal CrossFit client. She has spent years attempting to turn herself into a popular fitness personality and model, and has made a name for herself by offering training, ab photos, and nutritional advice on her personal blog.

Put yourself in Erin’s shoes. You have experience as a collegiate athlete. You believe this experience uniquely qualifies you to become a fitness celebrity, and you pursue this dream whole-heartedly.

Now another, incredibly successful, program comes along (CrossFit). This program advocates methods of training that contradict what you teach.

Where you believe that picking stuff off the ground (deadlifting) is dangerous, CrossFit teaches that it is essential for developing fitness and improving quality of life. Where you said that some movements should only be done in low-rep schemes, CrossFit advocates they be done in all rep-schemes, with a variety of loads, and for different amounts of time. Where you teach that fitness should be measured by correlates like body fat and V02max, CrossFit defines fitness by measuring an athlete’s ability to do work.

And where you promise results, CrossFit delivers them.

It began as an underground rebellion against the mainstream fitness industry, but in the past year something unexpected happened: CrossFit became the new leader of the fitness industry. It is more effective than its predecessors, and has swelled to a network of over 80,000 CrossFit L1 Trainers and over 10,000 of the most successful gyms in the world. And it all started with CrossFit giving its workouts away for free on a simple website. CrossFit is now ubiquitous, and even our harshest critics imitate our methods.

And who is responsible for this? A former high school gymnast from California who started a gym in a one-car garage and published a list of ways to get kicked out of health clubs.

Again, put yourself in Erin’s shoes, or the many others in the fitness industry like her. CrossFit is run by people who do not hold the industry-accepted “qualifications” that you spent time, effort, and money pursing, and yet suddenly these people have more influence in *your* industry than you do.

You’re behind the curve, and fewer and fewer people are taking your advice. You suddenly feel like a dying breed of fitness expert, and it’s just not fair.

Like the fox in Aesop’s fable, Erin Simmons has written an article that serves to protect for her own ego. The narrative she has crafted takes a few hollow jabs at CrossFit, but it primarily exhibits her own accomplishments. She is careful to note her ability to perform a muscle-up while others couldn’t. She is careful to transcribe her resume as a collegiate level athlete, and include the impressive accomplishments of the universities she has attended. She positions herself on the side of those she believes to be authorities in the fitness industry, and makes herself the victim of a dangerous and irresponsible program that we should all avoid.

The grapes are beyond Erin’s grasp, and someone else is taking them. So Erin, and those like her, must cry out to the world that they are sour. A cry that becomes shriller every year.

The moral of Aesop’s story of the fox and the grapes can be summarized as “Any fool can despise what he can not get.”  There are intelligent, and balanced critiques of CrossFit. While I don’t agree with most of them, these critiques can help highlight misconceptions about the CrossFit program, and thus help us refine how we teach that program. This is not one of them.

So what positive lessons can we glean from Erin’s article?

First, when you see a critique, look for, and assess the argument or evidence provided for that critique.

In Erin’s article, she makes a number of conclusive statements about CrossFit, and doesn’t provide evidence or rational arguments to defend those statements. The bulk of these claims come in the form of “CrossFit is dangerous.” Humorously, there are only two published studies that indicate a rate of injury for CrossFit. One indicates that it is just as safe as any other form of fitness training. The other found a higher injury rate, but it was based on falsified data and its authors have been sued for fraud. Do your homework, ask questions, and don’t believe something just because an “authority” suggests that it is true.

Finally, don’t get too worked up about everything published on the internet.

People feel strongly about CrossFit because it changes their lives. A combination of gratitude and allegiance drives the CrossFit community to defend their own against these types of articles. But the truth is, this type of article is symbolic of our success. No one is writing emotional manifestos against Blackberries, yet it’s hard to keep track of the number of commercials attempting to point out flaws with Apple products.

44 comments

  1. This is damn near exactly what I have been telling people for years in regard to bloggers. I normally win them over, but now I have somewhere to send them when I have a things to do. Thank Jehovah.

  2. MarkR

    Her logical fallacy was appeal to authority, and yours is ad hominem. Why bring up logical fallacies if you can’t stay away from them either? Stick to facts, or you’re just another waste of space blogger.

  3. Mark,
    An argument ad hominem is not a strict logical fallacy, and neither is the appeal to authority. These are rhetorical devices that can be legitimate or illegitimate depending on context. I suggest you do some more reading on the subject, it’s pretty interesting:

    “The ad hominem is a classic logical fallacy,[2] but it is not always fallacious. For in some instances questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue.” (http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Ad_hominem.html)

    “Although such attacks are usually fallacious, they can be legitimate when a character critique is directly or indirect­ly related to the point being articulated.” (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/character-attack/)

    “Similarly, not every ad hominem attack — an attack “against the man” or person — involves a fallacious ad hominem. “Attacking the man” can be entirely legitimate and sometimes even called for, even in an argumentative context, when it is precisely the man himself who is the problem.” (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/04/what-is-ad-hominem-fallacy.html)

    “If there is an ad hominem fallacy, as opposed to an argumentum ad hominem which is sometimes legitimate and sometimes not, it should according to this definition be a move in argument or reasoning. Further, it should be always mistaken; a move that is sometimes legitimate and sometimes mistaken is not a fallacy. ” (http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~hitchckd/adhominemissa.htm)

  4. I am of the opinion that Erin Simmons (and those like her) have to be addressed directly, and endlessly refuting their same hollow arguments all over the internet is ultimately a waste of time. I believe that given the context, my critique of Erin is completely legitimate.

      • Freedie

        So your attack on Erin Simmons is based on your assumptions as to her motivation. Got it. Did you reach out to Erin to try to get her side of the story before you concluded that her motivation was a sours grapes/buy-my-program-not-theirs?

        And please, don’t take this as a defense of her article. It’s shrill and highly uninformed. But Your response appears to be nothing more than your standard response to critics, which I have seen from you before, i.e. “what do you get when you mix one-part pseudo-expert, one-part blogger and one-part fame-chaser?”

      • Pat McCarty

        Apparently I can’t reply past 3rd level nested comments. Ergo:

        “How does the fact that you have seen this response before make it less accurate?”

        I never said it was accurate nor do I agree that it is. I think you simply make assumptions about bloggers that fit your needs. That’s cool, except CFHQ folks are very quick to admonish anyone who deigns to assume anything about anyone. “Check your assumptions” is nearly one of the HQ mantras. So, to assign intent, motivation or a fabricated back-story to someone who blogs about Crossfit is disingenuous at best, hypocritical at most. Refute the statements all you want. Assess the character based on assumptions, and you’re no better than the culprits in the first place. Stick to facts.

      • Pat, I’m sorry you don’t like my methods. If you can give some specific examples of whatever you think is hypocritical about this post, please do. Other than that I don’t really know what you’re looking for.

  5. Pingback: Summer: Life Gets Better | Live Fit and Sore

  6. Willie Booker

    You would have done better to break down point by point why all her points are wrong from sports mechanics perspective. Instead you launched into a character attack, making assumptions that she wrote her original piece because she was threatened by Crossfit. Both articles in that respect are pretty much just opinions. I’ll rather have someone with sound bio-mechanical and sports medicine background explain exactly the pros and cons of different moves performed in Crossfit. By the way, I’m joining a Crossfit gym soon and think they’re way better than conventional gyms mainly because the community aspect creates motivation. But because I’m joining I’m even more interested in informative pieces, and not just a character attack.

    • Willie,
      Of course this is just my opinion. It’s also my opinion that I am right in my assessment of Erin’s motivation for attacking CrossFit. Educating our affiliates as to the origin of this type of hollow attack on our brand is just as important as refuting critiques against the methodology. You can find the latter on this blog as well.

      • Willie Booker

        Russell,

        I know you are defending the Crossfit brand, that’s apparent from the article. I too would defend something I love. But my criticism (and it’s meant to be positive) is two fold.

        1) If someone makes a criticism of Crossfit and get demonized as a person as a result, then it’s actually bad for Crossfit. EVERY sport has changed over the years, because of criticism, new ideas, new methods and technology that showed the old wasn’t working. Take high jump for example. They used to hurdle over the bar, one leg before the other, then someone came along and jumped over back first. If the first person that came along and said there’s a better way to high jump was shot down as a person, then the sport would never have progressed. Criticism is great because it allows a sport to become even better.

        2) Mud slinging matches make everyone look bad. It’s much better to just pick apart someone’s argument if you really think they are wrong, than to start throwing accusations about their intentions. If I hadn’t made my mind up about Crossfit, and I see a mud slinging match going on, it’ll probably turn me off Crossfit, where as a good critique will help me make up my mind.

        Just saying, hope you take it positively.

      • Willie,

        1. Your example is of someone contributing to a sport by proving a superior method via competitive success. By contrast, Erin Simmons has criticized CrossFit’s methods based on nothing but her own experience, bias, and by appealing to “authorities” on the internet that misrepresent CrossFit by getting basic facts about our methodology wrong. This is at best a lazy, inaccurate jab at CrossFit, not a contribution to our methodology that we could test or improve from.

        2. My interest is not, and never will be, making everyone who reads this blog happy. This response wasn’t written for you, it was written for our affiliates, who have been around long enough to know that Erin’s arguments are stale and have been refuted by myself and others countless times.

  7. Alice

    Erin’s article title is why she doesn’t do crossfit not why people shouldn’t do crossfit, and it was based on her personal experience. We all have different experiences when it comes to crossfit and i don’t see anything wrong with what she wrote. Some people take things too personally and dedicate too much time into this. We are all fitness enthusiasts and should support each other one way or another. It shouldn’t be about who’s way of exercising is better because what works for one may not work for another.

    • Alice,
      I couldn’t disagree more. This was not an entry in Erin Simmon’s private journal. This was an inaccurate and misleading critique of CrossFit that she allowed major news outlets to republish. I also find it funny that you are calling for us to all just get along and not critique each other, when that is exactly what Erin set out to do in her original post.

      • Alice

        Russell,
        Her entry isn’t going to make decisions for other people she will try but she will be unsuccessful. She is getting exactly what she was hoping for, reactions. You’re right she did critique CrossFit however how many “crossfitters” make fun of “Global Gyms”? it’s silly. I’ve seen tons of videos and posts where people poke fun of someone on a treadmill or elliptical. These posts and comments are usually made by wannabe crossfitters not elite true CrossFit altheles. Don’t you think that too needs to be addressed?

  8. Brent P

    The sad thing is she has her own video showing her “workouts” and they are all “CrossFit style. Cleans, DL,Burpees, MU.. everything she talks bad about in her article she boast in her own video…

    • Alice

      Brent,
      People have been cross training for years but you’re right she does mock it and criticize it and then shows videos of her doing the exact same thing LOL.

  9. For someone that “Does not do Deadlifts” or “Do CrossFit,” it sure is weird to watch her do Deadlifts in a video taken at a CF gym…

    • She is a liar and a mediocre athlete. Those are not Ad Hominem attacks, those are simple facts, borne out in the video above. I don’t think it is unreasonable to speculate about the motivations of a mediocre liar who is claiming to be a superior trainer to everyone in every single CrossFit gym (literally).

      • sweet – Do you have an email address I could contact you at? I would like to set up your Gravatar on the post…We are also going to start promoting the authors with a section at the top in the sidebar and a featured authors page. You can email me directly at thewodchat@gmail.com

        We are also about to start giving featured authors military style challange coins when they are the featured article of the week.

        THANKS!!!

  10. bob

    Russell,

    I own my own personal training gym/sports performance facility. I’ve been a crossfit member before as well. I needed a little extra push. While I think there are good things about crossfit (atmosphere, getting barbells and weights in people’s hands that otherwise would never touch a weight, etc) I hope that you can see that crossfit has a ways to go still. To me, the most annoying things is talking to a crossfitter or crossfit owner who thinks crossfit is the best thing for everyone. There is a huge need for crossfit. There is also a huge need to up the standards of the workouts (working on correctives, core work, etc) and the need to see that not every person or situation is built for crossfit. my gym is actually right next to a box and i’ve seen the same guy for about two weeks now doing workouts in an arm sling. i hope crossfit continues to improve because i think it’s good.

    • Bob,
      CrossFit is an open source methodology. If there is a better way to achieve fitness, CrossFit affiliates will adopt it. If you have data that shows you have a better system for achieving fitness, you can share it here. Past that I can’t really respond to your claim that CrossFit needs to “up the standards of workouts” because you haven’t explained what that means or given any examples.

      • bob

        by “up the standards of the workouts” i mean including some sort of individualization. I understand the concept of crossfit but crossfit is not the “end all be all” of exercise and neither is the way i run my gym/programs. this back and forth arguing between crossfitters and non-crossfitters is ridiculous. At some point both sides need to realize that each have their place in people’s lives and instead of the constant bickering back and forth, maybe they should sit down and talk because they might just learn something from each other that could benefit both sides

  11. Our team was competing last weekend at a CF event for charity held by CrossFit Adrenaline in Cartersville, GA. The team chipper included 300 double unders. As I was doing my portion of the DUs someone screamed “heads up jump rope guy.” Someone playing in a softball game on a field just next to where our event was being held fouled off a pitch and it was headed straight for me. Thankfully they screamed, I moved, and the ball hit just next to me. So yes, CrossFit is definitely dangerous. #sarcasm

  12. Pingback: CrossFit Danville » Running sucks

  13. Pingback: Why Erin Simmons Wants You To Know She Doesn't Do CrossFit » Bacon and Barbells

  14. I think it is Ok to love something and want to defend the idea of something. But at the same time be open to failings that might lead to a critical fail..Or leave you open to unnecessary attacks.

    Eg….. I was Power Plates Product Manager. But its lack of discipline in engineering ( quality fade ) and its anything goes policy it its studios. Made me walk away.

    I still LOVE Vibration Training to the core.

    Cant you Love CF but loath the undisciplined element and anything goes mentality of Cf Media .

    Eg……. I know some very overweight people that loved Zumba. But got badly injured doing it.

    So do you blame dancing or the music No. You blame the 4th rate trainers and the greedy marketers who are off selling something else right now.

  15. I do not dislike CrossFit..

    I dislike lack of accountability.
    I dislike lack of foresight by leaders
    I dislike greed. .

    Because mark me, when thousands of boxes have closed in a few years time. And thousands of trainers are looking for work and wondering what the hell happened.

    Your “opinion” on the subject will be interesting to read about.

      • Lloyd, I would be glad to make a legally binding bet with you (I am glad to put the money in escrow if you will) for $1000 that in two years there will be at least 10,001 CrossFit Affiliates. I’ll even give you 2-1 if the number drops below 8000 as you suggest. I’m sure Dale will help us write up a contract and advise on how to do this.

        If you are not a big gambler we can make it for charity. I favor the Humane Society.

  16. I would be happy to do a bet. But on a much more directly measurable scale. That takes out the figures that can be artificially propped up by virgin territories ( to cover failings in pre-existing areas. )..

    Eg…. As Zumba collapsed in one country. It simply moved to another.I know someone who helped track this marketing trend as part of the team. It takes years to run that well dry.

    I propose this. …. We mark CrossFit affiliates numbers here in New Zealand. (As of this month … Mid July ) Affiliate Numbers are public and published so should be easy to agree upon. ( 105 as of today. But will get that clarified )

    In 2 years we come back. If the figures move up, by even one affiliate, you win the bet. $1000 USD

    If the figures move down, even one box, I win. ………… Nothing. As I do not want your money, or to even win. Give it to charity as you suggest.

    You game ?

  17. And to clarify why my bet idea is more relevant….

    My only concern is for box operators .Grass roots industry level, where leases have to be paid and mouths to be feed. And the boxes need to be open to help fight Obesity.

    I have zero interest in betting with a global accounting / marketing company who think the above are just numbers on a balance sheet to be shuffled around.

    • Lloyd what you are doing is called moving the goal posts. My original offer stands. I don’t know the first thing about New Zealand, and the microcosmic doings in one tiny country has nothing to do with your original argument. New Zealand has about the same number of people as San Francisco proper.

  18. No. The difference between by bet and yours is. Mine cant be cheated.

    What you just did was clarify to everyone you don’t give a shit about the individuals boxes. The individual affiliates ( “and the microcosmic doings ” ) Just the raw data.

    Just whats in CF HQs bank account.

    Zero respect mate.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: