What Can We Learn from CrossFit?

by / Friday, 20 February 2015 / Published in Feldenkrais Practitioners

The waves we create meet with others' waves to combine into more that we can create by ourselves.

The waves we create meet with others’ waves to combine into more than we can create by ourselves.

For Feldenkrais Practitioners

 

One evening, while riding home after teaching my ATM class, I overheard two young women on the street enthusiastically talking about their CrossFit (CF) class. They were excitedly detailing how sore they were after the last workout and what the toughest  “Workout of the Day” (WOD) was. Upon parting, one said to the other, “I’ll see you tomorrow in CF.” The other replied, “I can’t make it, but you can tell me how bad it was.”

I first asked myself, “How could anyone be so excited about CF?” I mean, I think CF to be the antithesis of the Feldenkrais Method. In CF, you try to do a standard WOD, published by CF headquarters. The workouts call for predetermined exercises to be done with a certain amount of repetitions during a given time period. There’s little time for, “slowing down,” “sensing how you move” and “stoping before feeling fatigue.” In fact, from what I can tell, those who exhaust themselves, even to the point of puking, are the heroes.

Does fitness mean doing something until you can't do anything more? How long would an animal survive in the wild?

Does fitness mean doing something until you can’t do any more? How long would an animal survive in the wild?

 

To be sure, I don’t shy away from strenuous physical activity and enjoy pushing myself hard, as long as I can continue to sense myself. I have participated in tough group workouts and found them to be rewarding, enjoyable and educational. However, what I’ve read about CF makes it seem very extreme and I understand that the injury rate is quite high. I also know that their are good coaches who look after their minions, creating conditions for a healthy and meaningful experience. The internet is full of CF debates and I do not want to turn this post into one of those.

 

One of the many things I’ve learned from the FM is to examine and challenge my own beliefs.

So, I decided to try and find out what made CF so popular. Their website states: http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/what-is-crossfit.html

CrossFit begins with a belief in fitness. The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness. We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable. After looking at all sport and physical tasks collectively, we asked what physical skills and adaptations would most universally lend themselves to performance advantage. Capacity culled from the intersection of all sports demands would quite logically lend itself well to all sport. In sum, our specialty is not specializing.

A noble cause indeed, even sounding reasonable. In some ways, the FM strives to do similar but in terms of learning. Still, the idea that you put yourself in danger just to complete the last few receptions of a movement someone else said you should do, didn’t sit well with me. So why so popular? Of course, you could just say that it’s a fad or marketing hype but I wanted to look further.

What I found is that CF does a particularly good job of creating a sense of community and this is what I think we might learn to do better. The common goal, to become fit for every situation and doing it with others builds bonds that may provide many with a much needed sense of belonging and motivation.

 

Sometimes doing it together can be more rewarding and motivating, but also punishing, because you don't want to quit.

Sometimes doing it together can be more rewarding and motivating, but also punishing, because you don’t want to quit.

Could you imagine those two young women talking about an ATM class that way? “Last night we did the Dead Bird lesson and I felt this incredible awareness in my thoracic spine and chest. Afterwards I could breathe much more easily and that made running this morning feel smooth and effortless.” “Wow, that sounds great, see you tomorrow at ATM class.” “Oh no, I can’t make it.” “OK, lets get together over the weekend and I’ll show you some of the movements we did.”

 

"Wow," lat night's ATM was great!"

“Wow,” last night’s ATM was great!”

Just for fun, lets adapt the CF mission statement to fit the FM.

The FM begins with a belief in learning. The aim of the FM is to forge a broad, general and inclusive ability to learn and grow. We seek to continue developing a Method that will best prepare students for any physical and mental contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable. Continuously looking at all sport, educational and artistic endeavors collectively, we ask what learning skills and adaptations will most universally lend themselves to health, well-being and performance advantage. Capacity culled from the intersection of all life’s demands would quite logically lend itself well to all of life. In sum, our specialty is not specializing, and learning to learn.

I know many of you, my esteemed colleagues, have done and are doing this kind of thing already. Nonetheless, we still have the sense that the FM is not as well recognized as it could/should be. If we could somehow find a way for people to identify with a greater purpose and talk about that with each other, we might find ourselves with fuller ATM classes and booked out FI schedules. I am not talking about reducing the FM to a series of movements or dumbing it down in any way, but rather embracing what it has to offer, living that ourselves, and inspiring others. If our students can find clearer connections to their environments, lives, and relationships, they will be eager to come to the next ATM class, or schedule the next FI.

Now I (oops, I mean) WE,  just have to figure out how to further this process. Any ideas?

 

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5 Responses to “What Can We Learn from CrossFit?”

  1. Betty says : Reply

    Interesting john

  2. Allison says : Reply

    Crossfit in the field… Feldenkraiskrais?

  3. Shona says : Reply

    The purpose is broadening your possibilities to allow you to do anything you want to; training for your recruitment patterns, automatic responses and how to approach an unfamiliar action / situation. Does cross fit bring everyday actions such as pushing or pulling and recontextualises it as a fitness class? If so, we do something similiar…..

    • John Tarr says : Reply

      My understanding of CrossFit is that they’re trying to prepare people for the unknowable and even the unimaginable. However, if trainees are completly exhausted, what would happen if the unkowable happened right after a workout that left particiapnts panting on the floor? Perhaps what we, As Feldenkrais Practitioners can do is bring our work closer to everyday actions. And most importantly, how our students approach their everyday situations.

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