In CrossFit

March 24, 2011

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Mike Warkentin ventures into the savage heart of the Arnold Sports Festival.

People are lined up for the Arnold Fitness Expo long before it opens.

The line stretches almost from one end of the Columbus Convention Center to the other. It passes the gymnastics hall, the powerlifting and Oly platforms, the boxing and MMA rings, as well as the CrossFit Kids station and the Grand Ballroom that’s home to the CrossFit competition.

Further away are the fencers, the cheerleaders, the table-tennis players and the dancers. At other venues are the skateboaders, the track and field athletes and the hockey players.

They’re all here under Arnold’s banner—but the hub of the whole weekend is the Fitness Expo freak show in the main concourse.



27 Comments on “Fear and Loathing at the Arnold ”


wrote …

"...perfume and chicken..."

It sounds like the last time I stepped inside a Good Life!


wrote …

Well said interesting dichotomy going on there, wish I could have seen it in person.


wrote …

This was my second year at the Arnold with CrossFit Kids and once again it was an adventure. I know that in places, Mike's article can seem derisive of the "fitness" culture that comes along at events like this. The funny thing is that I have read maybe four other articles describing the event from sports and cultures other than CrossFit and they all look at the Expo about the same. For me, it was amazing to see parents from seemingly all walks of life come into the Kids booth and recognize one thing, which happens to be the over arching point of the CrossFit Kids program: "this looks like fun!" We saw dozens of kids returning from last years event and their parents either told us that this was the only reason that they came back or often that they had finally gotten their kids into a program and that the kids loved it. Freak shows and imaginary lat syndrome aside, The Arnold is a phenomenal event that everyone should try to get to at some point. It is a great reminder of the facade that most of us have distanced ourselves from and a bit of exposure to the things that we as humans can accomplish with some hard work. Great article Mike, hope to see you again soon.


wrote …

Thanks, John.

I agree with you 100 percent.

It was amazing to see the collection of elite athletes gathered together in one place, from the gymnasts to the CrossFitters to the Olympians. I got was exposed to more sports in one day than ever before, and I met so many great athletes over the weekend. I'd definitely follow your lead in recommending the Arnold to anyone, and it was great to have CrossFit and CrossFit Kids in the heart of the whole thing.

I'd go back next year, but I'd probably bypass the expo on my way to watch 10-year-olds doing backflips and powerlifters squatting 800!


Gerard Mcauliffe wrote …

The expo sounds horrendous but it serves as a reminder of what CrossFit is up against in the 'fitness industry'. When you immerse yourself in the CrossFit world you can forget that the majority of people still think fitness is bicep curls or marathon running.
I believe this is the reason why Greg Glassman is right in allowing Reebok on board. Reebok's marketing power and knowledge can only be of benefit in spreading the CrossFit word throught the globe. Crossfitters seem to be sceptical of the partnership and that is a good thing, it will keep Reebok honest.
As regard for the skinny, tanned models handing out flyers, surely anyone with even half decent eyesight could see that the CrossFitters both male and female look much better! especially Camille:)


wrote …

"... a model whose skin is the color of BBQ sauce."

Great article, but it destroys my business plan for an affiliate with tanning booths in the back.


wrote …

ok, this is ridiculous. i love cf and i love the community, but as a community we need to get off our high horses. is cf a great way to stay healthy and in good shape? yes. but some people don't care about that. i know plenty of competitive body builders and they love it just as much as we love crossfit. having a preference for one event or training style over another is not a bad thing. in fact, it's a good thing. it's called variety. do crossfitters know about variety?

there's a reason why so many people think crossfitters are arrogant asses. lately, our community is ostracizing anything and anyone that is not like us. don't claim to be constantly varied but stay a consistent jackass. a baseball player doesn't mock the basketball player as if one is better than the other. we need to be a fitness community rather than the so-called island of arrogance that we seem to be currently on.


replied to comment from Drew Temple

Drew, please re-read the article.

I'm saying all the sports at the Arnold Sports Festival are amazing--from fencing to table tennis to gymnastics to hockey to running. Where is the arrogance in that?

The festival is a collection of great athletes from all genres, and CrossFit fits right in the middle of it as a GPP program designed to produce great all-around athletes. As a CrossFitter, you could literally walk through the Arnold and improve your own athleticism just by observing top specialists competing in their given sports. You'd learn a lot. I did.

You can even add bodybuilding into that statement. Bodybuilding protocols are often used in training with great success and are no less valid than any other training systems if they suit your goals and provide results.

I'm not criticizing the Arnold and its athletes. I'm criticizing the part of the fitness industry that creates quick-fix products, questionable supplements and definitions of fitness based on the color of your tan--anything based on something other than hard training for any sports application.


Unless you have experienced the expo, it is hard to understand. Mike does a great job describing what it is like, all I can add is that I felt like I needed to take a shower after being in there. That had nothing to do with the competitors, and everything to do with the wares on the tables.

As a kids trainer I come in contact with young ladies who are starving themselves and young men who take steroids, simply to achieve a look. Bodybuilding as a training method has some validity, Bodybuilding as sport feeds these problems in kids. CrossFit trains our kids to define themselves by what they can do, not what they see in the mirror. I believe this is a healthier way to live.


wrote …

Drew is right.

Whether I attended the expo or not, the first half of the article is arrogant, pretentious and rude. You act like everyone in line is a bunch of idiotic lemmings, shamelessly lining up for free stuff. Are you an expert on powerlifting because you met Louie Simmons?! Do you really think that guy got hurt in less than a week?! And criticizing the fitness industry that creates "quick-fix products, questionable supplements and definitions of fitness based on the color of your tan"? What the F, bro. You called some of them schmucks. And freaks. Good cover informing us about how you briefly mentioned the table-tennis.

One aspect of Crossfit is defined by what someone can do, as Jeff Martin nicely puts it, but Crossfit certainly hasn't limited itself to that.

Quick-fix products and questionable supplements?!? What about pushing the Progenex brand?? Did that happen because of their irrefutable science or because they are now a sponsor? Should we start looking at quotes from their website about what the products offer? Ditto for Reebok. What about all the photos and videos of dude's with no shirt and girls in minimal clothing? Obviously those people care about their looks. So much so, that they proudly show off their body in action. I'm fine with that, but it's so hypocritical to mock others for it.

I also don't think anyone defined fitness by color, but I understand the point you were making. I also contend that a lot of people don't do Crossfit or even workout (in any style) for "sports application". For many people, doing a workout is their only activity because they enjoy it and/or want to become (or remain) healthy.

And saying that bodybuilders are the definition of sickness? Come on. Sure, maybe those people don't have a broad work capacity, but sick?! The fitness industry's enemies are apathy and general laziness. 300+ lbs diabetic blobs fill hospitals. They are un-healthy. Focusing on arms, abs and chest isn't even the same ballpark. (Steroids and unhealthy body image issues -especially for teen girls/young women - is a serious issue, but most bodybuilders don't juice up, so don't knock the whole club. But saying roids are bad might make Louie Simmons spits fire too...)

As an aside, don't expect me to be uber-polite when CrossFit prides itself on allowing free speech and FUCK-bombs (with a view-it-at-your-own risk attitude).

You have different views on fitness, looks and ways to spend your free time. Don't be a prick about it.

At least Mikko thinks it's awesome.


replied to comment from Michael Warkentin

Mike, I am not criticizing you or your article. I'm jealous I didn't get to go to the expo. My complaint is to those in the crossfit community who claim fitness superiority and bash other training methodologies, and then get all butt-hurt when someone says something negative about crossfit.

and you could be right, and I am misinterpreting the purpose of your article. but as I read it, you have a clear viewpoint on those who are promoting their passions. What strikes me is how fickle the crossfit community can be at times. Something I love about crossfit is the inclusion of new training methods. Who's to say the next ad-on to the crossfit playbook wasn't in one of those long lines you mentioned. Have ya ever done a zumba class? way fun and effective.


wrote …

I approached this article with some apprehension based on the title, fearing an arrogant and demeaning tone. I wasn't wrong. Perhaps if the article was contributed by someone other than the managing editor of this journal, I might not be so concerned. But it is. And I am.

The tone of this article is that of a small-time, insecure organization with a chip on it's shoulder (I have to make fun of those different from me and reinforce the superiority of my own convictions). It smacks of some of the same attitude that some in the bodybuilding community have toward Crossfit. I see no need to stoop to that level. Referring to expo attentendees as schmucks and making similar demeaning references is in poor taste, but coming from the editor of this journal is simply unprofessional. I expect better of an organization that now has over two thousand affiliates and over twenty thousand competitors in this year's games.

Mr. Warkentin, if the tone of your article were a little more like that in your comments (#4 & #8) above, it would have been the better for it. If you had simply begun the article with the sentiment you express in comment #4, it would have changed it dramatically (and probably encouraged you to form a different title). Unfortunately, your defense of your own article rings hollow in light of the way you treated some of the subject matter.

I would prefer that the CrossFit organization stick to staying above the fray by engaging in thoughtful, factual and rigorous debate and refrain from demeaning others that currently pursue other avenues of fitness.

The organization has been maturing quite nicely, but apparently still has a way to go.


wrote …

man...there is a lot of anger raining down on this article. As with anything, take it with a grain of salt. You paid the $25 subscription and you read the articles...


wrote …

"Christy Phillips called the Expo "overwhelming" even though her Again Faster teammates warned her ahead of time about what she’d encounter."

I thought CP was a Rogue athlete.


Jonathan Bundy wrote …

It will be interesting when: someone who works at/with the Arnold found out about Crossfit and wound up here. I'm sure they'll be impressed...about as impressed at the terrible ROM demonstrated in the Fran video.

I love Crossfit but let the results speak for themselves--someone or something else does not necessarily have to be pushed lower for Crossfit to be pushed higher (the world is not a gigantic screwed up Games leaderboard).


wrote …

Wow, great comment from Matt Solomon. Raises some valid points. 5 stars there.

No one likes cocky assholes, god complexes or people putting others down. Not saying anyone here is. But no program is without flaw, CF included.

We all know CF is not for everyone.

I use to rip on bodybuilders all the time, all I learned is that people dont change and not everyone is going to share my views on health and well being (and want to be awesome and do CrossFit :] ).

Some people want to be scrote taint coloured massive dudes. Let em.

That is their business and we should stick with ours.

This is simply a matter of tolerance.


wrote …

Though I agree with the negative comments about the tone of this article, you can't deny it brings up some extremely valid points about the fitness industry and strikes at an area of nutrition/fitness that lacks oversight, sufficient trial periods, and takes advantage of the average person's desire to be better (without really working at it).

Ten or so years ago, one of my good friends became the model for a new type of protein drink. This included before and after pictures. He gained a bit of weight for the before picture, had moderate workouts, and looked so pale you'd have thought he was sleeping in a coffin. Then, on the company's dime, he got a trainer, quickly ramped-up to two-a-days, and leaned out with a strict zone-based diet. If you're a scientist, you know that this is a terribly designed experiment (being that every single variable was changed), but if you're a marketer, it's exactly what you want. The extremely valid point that this article is making is that a lot of supplement companies tout the "science" behind their product (i.e. "proven results), but for them, it's really just a buzzword invented by their marketing team.

Know what happens in the pharma industry when you cook scientific data? Richard Kimball comes after you and your one-arm lackey to prove that he didn't kill his wife.


Dale Saran wrote …

Wow, talk about getting your panties up in a wad. Mike, I thought it was an excellent article. Well-written.

People can't believe that an article on the "CrossFit Journal" touts CrossFit as being a better form of fitness, than say, oh, I don't know, a protocol that is all about aesthetic and at the competitive levels involves copious amounts of illicit substances to produce its best effects? Yes, how rotten of and unprofessional of the "CrossFit" Journal to imply that its mission of better capacity across all 10 facets of fitness is a better standard.

We all know and have friends who are bodybuilders or we have even tried the Weider method at one point in our lives (I have 2 close friends who were competitive bodybuilders and a family member who was a runner-up in Mr. New England a while back). I cannot believe the discipline they have on their diets - sipping only cap-fulls of water in the days leading up to a competition in order to achieve that striated look. I confess, I don't think I could do it - even in the days when I was a young buck and sipped only limited water while on patrol to prove I was worthy of being a Marine.

But, I see nothing "elitist", arrogant, or pompous about a claim that what we do is a better method to "fitness" and is a better overall lifestyle. It's a claim, an assertion, and why aren't we entitled to make that claim and enjoy a little tongue-in-cheek chuckle at the hawkers and side-show like atmosphere that pervades at some of these kinds of events? It's not "holier-than-thou" any more than claiming the title of "Mr. Universe" is. And people get all wound up about our "Fittest Man on earth" claims - at least we kept our claim in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Rippetoe has a following of devotees who make daily jokes about his quotes regarding "dudes wearing banana hammocks and oil posing for each other in front of other dudes" and we all get a laugh. Don't take yourselves so seriously. You're looking for offense and waiting to pounce.

And no one's "hawking" Progenex here, either. You won't find a single advertisement for it on Show me one. Now go to T-Nation and check out their site. Now re-grip and try again.


wrote …

WOW, That was a horrible article, The guy is a schmuck because he wants to take a picture with a athlete, So are crosfitters schmucks when they take a pic with Spealer or any other elite athlete. When did we start thinking crossfit was the end all of fitness, Its great but its not the only thing out there.


wrote …

In the immortal words of Charlie Sheen, "I'm tired of pretending we're not special!" Crossfit is in the category of being special in that there is no price to enter. If you have internet access and the ability to read, you can understand every bit of it. No one is asking you for a penny here.

I get the Hunter S. Thompson reference and I can picture you walking through and viewing all of these booths. From the real fitness to the "perfume and chicken" crowd. Great article and great writing.


wrote …

Mike, I enjoyed that very much. There is to date something different about CrossFit, and I don't think we should pretend to feel otherwise. I don't want to spend a lot of time feeling superior - what a waste of life - and I don't aspire to feeling like there's anything wrong with folks who choose things different that what I choose. But there's a difference. CF is not like bodybuilding. It could become like bodybuilding, or even roid-powered powerlifting, but it isn't like that now and I'm glad.

There's too much compromise (to me) in chasing an activity that is over-focused on appearance, and under-focused on performance. There's also too much compromise in chasing an activity which is over-focused on performance without consideration of risk - the torn muscles and tendons/broken vertebra of roid-driven powerlifting and the seemingly ubiquitous brain injury of professional football, as two examples of my prejudice. I think there's room for enjoying a focus on the best ideals of CF without necessarily being demeaning to others who choose differently. I think you did that, Mike.

How CF will stay out of those black holes going forward I don't know. Perhaps for some it won't, in fact, it seems inevitable that it won't if the money keeps getting bigger. But in the boxes, in the garage gyms, it's still about performance at a level that is at least life enhancing and for some transformational. I think it's worth celebrating that value as long as it is true. That others will choose different values is obvious, but we don't have to either ignore it or deplore it as we celebrate the values we/I/you choose doing CrossFit.

IOW - what Matt W stole from the Sheen.


replied to comment from Drew Temple

right on point


wrote …

What a great article!

Fine writing that captures the spirit of the event...but still fair-minded.

Should be reprinted in anthologies and studied in journalism schools.


wrote …

Great article! Was at the Arnold myself and couldn't agree more with your " findings" funny....


wrote …

Mike clearly outlines that the arnold is mainly based on the way you look, this is not good, nor is it what crossfit is about. a good article. i too am tired of pretending were not special. crossfit is something that could change the fitness world for the better, we have to promote it an beleive in it.


wrote …

Some people will love this article and others it will rub the wrong way. Personally it rubbed me the wrong way. The expo is a marketing tool for companies that literally support the athletes and let them live their dream. Trust me, Crossfit and their athletes are going down a similar road because it is entering the the realm of Professional Athletics. This is not a bad thing but you will have some that will think this is selling out. Personally I like the hot tanned girls...chicken smell just got hotter!


Paul Southern wrote …

Mike, I love this article. Its like a page ripped from my cranium.

It's funny how many people have it backwards when they compare CrossFit and commercial fitness. To them we CrossFitters are the freaks. Here you beautifully illustrate the perversion of health & fitness.

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