Its been described as a cult, a fad or a passing craze – among many other things.
But is CrossFit actually a Cult?
CrossFit is a systematic approach to training that is highly inclusive and extremely diverse. It follows a methodology that any person ages 3 to 93 can follow, the aim of which is to create a fitter more rounded human. There is no one figure of veneration which is worshipped, and there is no open religious and/or dogmatic agenda being asserted upon its members. Therefore, in a religious sense, CrossFit is not a cult.
What Is The Definition Of A ‘Cult’?
According to the Oxford dictionary, a cult is a system of religious beliefs and devotions directed towards a particular figure or object. Merriam-Websters‘ formal meaning is something very similar.
The second meaning in the Oxford dictionary is noted to be a person or something that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society.
This however does not mean that something which is popular means that it’s a de facto cult.
Another more simpler way of viewing this is a cult being newer age religion.
A religion is a worship of something metaphysical, or omnipotent for example, chiefly a God or set of gods. This is underpinned or working in tandem with faith.
So What Exactly Is CrossFit, If Its Not a Cult?
Simply put, CrossFit is just a training methodology which seeks to make you fitter working within 10 domains of fitness.
Using constantly varied movements over broad time domains, the main goal of CrossFit is to help you be a fitter human.
There is nothing religious or dogmatic in its approach, however, it does have a linchpin philosophy which is administered throughout its training.
Pretty culty, huh?
Guidance not gospel
All affiliate owners have some loose guidelines to follow such as what logos to put on the website the name of your CrossFit gym, expectations and qualifications for coaches etc.
On balance, it’s not the same as a traditional franchise, whereby they carry much tighter restrictions on how the business is perceived by following a set of non-negotiable parameters.
Nor does CrossFit meddle in how it’s run, or how it’s managed.
CrossFit affiliate owners have freedom of choice to do what they like with their gym, so it is far more generous in its freedom than I traditional franchise.
This article breaks down data from our affiliates as to why our members train with us.
Elements that can resemble a cult
There is founding – according to the dictionary’s meaning of a movement or idea being a cult phenomenon – that parts of CrossFit fall into those realms.
Similar to the cult of Star Trek or cult of celebrity.
Used loosely, the term cult could be applied with regard to the new way of doing things, i.e. it’s a movement within the fitness industry.
What Other Reasons Show That CrossFit Is Not A Religious Cult?
There are a large number of markers when trying to identify a religious cult.
Here is a list of reasons which CrossFit falls outside of qualifying it as a cult:
- There is no indoctrination process, only inductions.
- It does not contain codes of strict behaviour and ethical practice. Unless you’re that clown not using collars on a barbell
- There is no uniform dress. Gentlemen, wear knee-high pink socks and sweatpants if you want
- There is no brainwashing or mind control around the kettle bell rack
- Generally speaking, members do not make unwarranted massive donations of their life savings to the brand
No Different To Other Sports
When looking at CrossFit on a level playing field with other sports such as basketball, yoga, swimming or golf, none of those are considered to be cult.
The culture within CrossFit is unique compared with other sports. It’s unique in its ability to draw huge arrays of different people into the room to exercise.
You do not get this in other sports quite so pronounced, or pluralistic and diverse.
For example, if you wanted to attend your local five-a-side football club the general demographic will be predominantly male and between age 20 and 35.
Or maybe your local boxfit is of interest? There would be a slight bias on men, aged between 18 – 45.
Typical class appearance
In a CrossFit gym a normal class would be people from ages 22 to 62 on any given evening of the week.
If you’re wondering if CrossFit is for you, consider the question: do I like team sports and exercise?
If the answer is yes to both, it’s likely a good indicator of being a good fit.
Greg Glassman – The Illustrious Leader and Founder?
Some people state CrossFit is a cult due to Greg Glassman.
Glassman is (was) a polarising figure who founded the Sport over 20 years ago.
He recently stepped down from his role as CEO and sold the company to Eric Roza in a high-profile fall from grace.
You can read more about this in this Best Gym Hacks article here.
Indications of a cult
One prevalent indicator of a cult is that there’s one character of veneration to which its members are subservient and support.
Said character that could fit that charge – Greg Glassman – no longer exists in within the realms of the brand, sport and community. In fact, he was largely disliked by a huge portion of the community, following his fall from grace.
Yet the sport is still thriving to this day without its so-called cult-like illustrious leader.
Ousting the leader by boycott
This element alone helps remove any suspicion that CrossFit is a religious cult.
I.e. if CrossFit was a cult, with the sudden evaporation of Glassman, the cult should disappear with him, into a wisp of smoke; or disintegrate into a million pieces.
Admittedly, many people did look up to Greg Glassman is some form of genius, creating some uncomfortable god-like insinuations.
However, he is more so a maverick – a disruptor of the norm – which is completely different the leader of a cult.
He had contrarian views on fitness that disrupted the scene, giving birth to a multi-billion dollar beast.
He is clearly a clever man, taking a simple methodology and philosophy from $0 to a $4 billion turnover in approximately 20 years.
There’s not many people in the world that can lay claim to founding a unicorn company in a reasonably short space of time such as Glassman.
Is There Anything Cult-like about CrossFit?
Some things can appear cult-like from the outside.
Things like the bubbly non-stop talker of CrossFit and how it’s amazing and for everyone.
Or dude that looks like WIT Fitness threw up on him. The wearing of all the latest and greatest NoBull, Nike Training, Reebok Nanos or Rogue gear.
Merch is merch
But again, this is no different than someone enjoying Formula One wearing a Red Bull T-shirt, a Ferrari cap and encouraging their friends to watch the Grand Prix on Sunday ‘cos its amazing’.
It’s easy to see how people would get frustrated listening to CrossFit confabbing if they don’t do it themselves.
I’m also acutely aware that CrossFit is not everyone’s cup of tea.
I’d get annoyed with someone going on about football every day at work because I’m not into football particularly.
Football itself has been likened to being cult-like, come to think of it…
What Can I Expect In A CrossFit Gym?
There are many things we could talk about in what to expect when you go to a CrossFit gym.
However, here is a list of some of the most standout things to be aware of:
- Members between 18 to 68 in adult classes working out in harmony (with no inaudible chants).
- Sweaty-looking people following a workout – tick.
- A loud environment with banging workout tunes and rumbly basslines
- Barbells been lifted overhead and dropped on a regular basis, plus grunts in all hertz of the spectrum.
- People doing unusual movements (not karma sutra or anything weird).
- Doing exercises you’ve not done since being at primary school – such as handstands.
What Are The Common Objections To CrossFit?
To those who label it a cult (on Reddit and Quora) and generally have no time for it, here are some objections commonly heard:
- You need to be fit to do it
- It’s for young people only
- It’s really dangerous and bad for you
- You must do what’s on the board or you get in trouble
- It’s full of sweaty men with their tops off
- It’s too expensive
Too unfit and too old?
All of these objections are worthy of challenge, and many just incorrect conjecture.
This article here shows you that you do not need to be fit to try CrossFit, and you can be any age.
The two CrossFit affiliate’s that I co-own has ages 5 to 75 on the membership books. All adult classes have a huge range of ages.
It’s not more dangerous
Studies have shown that CrossFit is no more dangerous than a conventional gym.
There are many other sports out there which are also more dangerous when reviewing the statistics.
Scale the WOD
You can scale any movement you would not like to do or cannot do due to injury. The board has a strength and work out for the day.
You can substitute anything and everything should you need to. This article breaks down what that means.
Topless CrossFit men
There is no arguing that yes topless men do frequent sweaty CrossFit gyms. This is part of the culture and is more prevalent in some CrossFit gyms and others.
What this demonstrates is that CrossFit gyms are more laid-back than mainstream gyms.
It’s actually a place to let your hair down, and grind out exercise that you don’t hate doing.
Topless men equals men enjoying themselves…and the women probably are too.
Generally speaking, yes, a CrossFit gym is more expensive than a conventional gym.
The difference is that every class is coached by certified trainer, and akin to semi personal-training.
Furthermore, all the programming is done for every class, from start to finish – warm up to cool down.
So you do not need to figure out what to do how to do it or when.
The programming is based upon building blocks and is always entirely driven by improvement of all the exercises you are carrying out, be that a Snatch, Kettlebell Swings, Ring Dips, Running or Back Squats.
Attending CrossFit, Religiously.
You can become addicted and attend ‘religiously’ and this is something you need to keep in check.
Do not idolise the sport.
But remember, the devil makes work for idol thumbs. Balance is key.
Everything good in moderation.
You can easily over-train which invariably can end up with an injury. There are worse addictions out there. One’s such as the 40-a-day fag habit.
CrossFit is known for its addiction and high retention rates in part due to the social and physiological improvements, not to mention mental health benefits.
So if you’re going to work out at CrossFit 4 to 5 times per week – which many do – ensure you do this safely, and not just for the sake of it.
It is well known that CrossFit is the ‘best out of someone’s day’ after a horrible day at work.
It provides stress relief, anxiety reduction, and friendships.
Just be sure to use CrossFit in the right way, and to make sure you’re enjoying it at all times.
If you stop having fun or you’re finding it is having a negative impact on your life take a break and come back to it.
CrossFit And Christianity
Most CrossFit gyms reside in America.
America is a hugely Christian nation, with some states more concentrated than others.
For instance, Bible Belt towns and cities). Therefore, inevitably there is a strong Christian presence within CrossFit gyms.
Many of the worlds best CrossFit athletes are open about their faith in following Christianity. Most notably is 4x Fittest on Earth Rich Froning Jr who openly proclaims his sole reliance on his faith in Jesus Christ.
With a notable populous of Christian membership in the US and throughout the world, this further debunks the myth that CrossFit is a cult.
The law of non-contradiction states one cannot be a follower of two opposing views; or that two things to opposing things cannot both be right.
To that end, you could not be a true follower of the Christian faith, as well as a follower of any other religion or cult.
To read Froning’s book you can grab it here.