Flipping through a recent issue of “Time” magazine, I discovered a wildly popular phenomenon that has somehow existed under my radar: CrossFit and similar extreme workout programs.
The hyperintensive exercise sessions weed out a high percentage of the merely curious, but are almost a religion for those dedicated enough to stick with the demanding regimen.
Last year 138,000 people registered to compete in the annual CrossFit Games broadcast on ESPN. Even more would have signed up; but they were preoccupied, either taking turns holding Rambo down and making him holler “Uncle!” or bypassing the traditional 98-pound weaklings and kicking sand in the face(s) of Mount Rushmore.
Me? I would love to turn over a new page and participate in the strenuous workouts, but I seem to have lost the batteries to my page-turner remote somewhere here in the sofa. Darn.
Many participants appreciate the tribal mentality of CrossFit because the standard gym experience can be so isolated and lonely; they like having “misery loves company” cheerleaders around. (The premium package further recreates the high school experience by including cheerleaders AND juvenile delinquents who hang around the boys’ room AND the lunchroom lady with the hairy mole that she really ought to get checked out.)
Members are buoyed by mantras such as “No pain, no gain,” “Take it to the limit,” “A sound mind in a sound body” and “Whatever doesn’t kill me only makes me more rabid about boring everyone on Facebook with my anecdotes.”
According to the “Time” article, CrossFit has developed methods that “work for cops, couch potatoes and Olympic-level athletes alike.” Worldwide, CrossFit expects to open the 10,000th gym (or “box,” as they call it) this year.
Unsubstantiated rumors claim that they’re looking to branch out even further, building up pets (“Get me a Royal Family for my little aquarium castle - NOW!”) and advertising mascots. (Sure, the Energizer Bunny can handle a drum, but I’ll bet he would keep going and going and going right out the back door if you handed him a medicine ball. And some of the more sadistic trainers are reportedly salivating over getting their hands on the Pillsbury Doughboy.)
There’s even talk of recruiting zombies. Why settle for the Walking Dead when you can have the Drop And Give Me 50 Dead?
Many non-members admire the commitment of the workout crowd, but one lady expressed genuine concern about their alleged obsessive behavior. (“All the vibrations from the gym next door nearly shattered my 5,374 subtly different porcelain meerkat figurines!”)
Some health officials raise serious (potentially slanderous) concerns about CrossFit. (“I can’t endorse this movement unless the scientific evidence becomes more conclusive, unless gym owners develop more unified rules, unless a drug company rep takes me out to lunch and assures me that picking up the barbells is as easy as his picking up the check...”)
As long as people know the potential dangers of fatigue-producing exercise and can honestly assess their own capabilities, more power to ‘em.
Perhaps CrossFit needs one really good PR stunt to win at least grudging admiration from its most vocal detractors. Maybe a regimen such as “Five crunches, five minutes on the rowing machine, eight pushups, drop-kick Justin Bieber back to Canada...”
Hmm. A workout that just might work out.
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.