An Outside Assessment of Quality

By Tanner | In Training | on April 5, 2012

How do you gauge the quality of a CrossFit Gym?  In a program that uses almost all the fitness disciplines to create the most well rounded athletes, there are bound to be trade offs and compromises.  Some critics contend CrossFit doesn’t take a person to max strength or max speed or max… anything.  CrossFitters know that.  We accept that to be really good at everything, you cannot be the best at anything.  That is what CrossFit is at its core…  a program designed to create the most balanced fitness.  We know a CrossFitter will not be a world champion powerlifter or record holding marathoner.  But we know we are bounds faster than the first and way stronger than the second.  That is CrossFit.

But the critism of CrossFit doesn’t stop at specificity.  Compromises in form, technique, and the disregard for mobility have led to most of the criticism of the CrossFit model. The most popular over the years has centered around Olympic Lifts and how CrossFit has incorporated them into workouts.  Critics contend the poor instruction by inexperienced CrossFit “coaches” were, at least, misusing the lifts and at worst, increasing the potential of injury with little gain from what the lifts true stimuli are.  The misuse and inability to teach the Olympic lifts are only one of such arguments.  But almost all of them originate with the lack of quality instruction from many affiliates.

“As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it.” – Dick Cavett 

I agree with the critics on many of their arguments, especially about poor instruction.  It is that criticism of CrossFit that has fueled myendeavor to ensure the instruction presented at CFW is, and always will be, beyond the critics’ reproach.

Over the past four years, we have painfully witnessed first hand the results of a CrossFit with lacking instruction.  Somehow, the word on CrossFit in Wilmington was, and may still be, a person interested in starting CrossFit should join the other CF before coming to CrossFit Wilmington.  It almost sounds like a good idea… go to the “easy CF” and then switch to CrossFit Wilmington once you are “in shape enough”.  The problem is, once you’ve learned something the wrong way, it is more difficult to learn the correct.  No problem though…  we fix them right up and get them moving properly and efficiently.  They immediately reach PRs.

“Quality is no accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution.  It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” – William A. Foster 

I’ve always looked beyond CrossFit for instruction in the specific disciplines of conditioning.  As part of our pursuit of mastering CrossFit (an endless one, no doubt!), we recognized you must master the sports that comprise it as a whole.  If the 2011 Games competitors had known there would be a ball toss in the competition, the smart ones would have hired a pitching coach to improve their throw.  That’s what we’ve been doing since our beginning.  We invite experts in their fields to come teach at CrossFit Wilmington.  CFW members and instructors learn from specialists, not just generalists.  Seemingly, we are the only affiliate in the area that considers this important.  That’s ok, I guess.

But I am not ok with being ok.

The latest of these outsourced clinics we hosted were two sold out POSE Running Clinics with Ed Bugarin.  Having Ed in our house was an opportunity we couldn’t miss out on.  If you were unable to attend, don’t worry, Ed will be back in April for POSE running and cycling clinics.

So is it meaningful if experts outside of the CrossFit community weigh in with criticism and positive words on CrossFit?  I think so.  Only because there is an opposite bias in their assessment.  It is easy to look only to the CrossFit community to qualify our program’s worth.  Many in the CrossFit community say “any CrossFit is better than no CrossFit”.  I don’t know about that.  I do know Wilmington has a choice.

It’s no secret I’m a Coach Charles Poliquin fan.  I have followed his training methods numerous times.  One of those times was during the rehab following fracturing my L4 vertebrae.  The tempo work we Rx at CFW is directly linked to what I learned from Poliquin’s books and articles.  A few years ago, Coach Poliquin weighed in on CrossFit and expresses his opinions on CrossFit’s downsides in this article, “The Case Against CrossFit”.  Obviously, it wasn’t very well received in the CrossFit community.

CrossFit was still in its infancy.  At that time, anyone who said anything bad about CrossFit was lashed out at, many times in ignorant language that made our CrossFit community sound like uneducated, emotional fools simply repeating what they read in the CrossFit Journal.  Rightly so… many CrossFitters were exactly that.

In the last few years, CrossFit has, for the most part, matured quite a bit as a whole.  Most affiliates understand you can’t pull programming out of your a**, train your clients at 100% effort everyday, or not learn tried and true strength conditioning techniques.  I think the improvements being made in CrossFit is reflected in Poliquin’s latest, “Getting the Most Out of CrossFit”, where he discusses his take on the good side of CrossFit.  Funny, but CrossFit Wilmington hits all five points he lists.

Before the purist CrossFitter reading this gets upset because they think I’m bashing our own, let me clarify… I value outside points of view on what we are doing and how we are doing it because the points are not biased in favor of CrossFit.  The value I place in it comes from my desire to make CrossFit Wilmington and CrossFit generally, the best it can be.  You cannot improve if you believe you are perfect.

Seeking criticism is better than just being open to it.  We ask all our members to give us feedback.  When I meet our new members, I stress to them how important their feedback is to me.  I want to know what we can improve and new members bring new perspectives on what we’re doing.  Their new eyes offer a fresh review.  When a member switches from the other affiliate, we make sure to ask why they came to CFW.  We don’t want to make any of their mistakes for sure.

Having said all that…  I think the best gauge of an affiliate is its membership.  The core of CrossFit Wilmington’s successes are you, our members.  Most of you do not know we use a combination of techniques learned from Glassman, Poliquin, Wilkes, Mackenzie, McCarroll, and Kuenzel and probably don’t even care.  It matters only we give you the highest quality training for your investment in a professional, supportive environment.  As it is with the other affiliate, once the word is out that there is a better gym for a better price just down the road, members leave.

“The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything.” – Mark Twain

CFW is not perfect, but we’re doing something right.  Looking for and considering feedback from outside sources and from our members is the best way to make sure we’re doing the right thing.

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