CrossFit Transference

By Chris Cavallerano

In Rest Day/Theory

November 23, 2012

PDF Article

Chris Cavallerano looks at how the benefits of the box extend to the rest of your life.

According to CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman, the psychology and emotional benefits of CrossFit are “hard to measure and difficult if not impossible to prove.”

That’s certainly true, but the field of psychology suggests several reasons why the things that happen during a CrossFit workout have such an effect on life outside the gym.

People join CrossFit for fitness and health benefits. Yet, in that pursuit people experience a holistic transformation that extends beyond the physical. Coach Glassman has described this as the “transference effect.” Traditionally, this psychological phenomenon has been defined as unconsciously redirecting feelings from one thing to another. You have a bad day at work, you go home and kick the cat.

Conversely, in the unique case of what we’ll term “CrossFit transference,” the same effect occurs but with a positive outcome. The stories are endless: the mom who says she makes partner in her law firm because of the determination she experiences doing CrossFit, the addict who finds an outlet to overcome his demons, etc.

To better understand the “how” behind CrossFit transference, take a closer look at the relatedness between CrossFit and motivational psychology.

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7 Comments on “CrossFit Transference”


wrote …

Brilliant work my friend. Thank you Chris for this excellent contribution to the CrossFit community.


wrote …

Great article, Chris - you nailed it!


wrote …

Is that Stacie in the photo?


wrote …

Chris, great work man. This is one of the most well-thought pieces on this topic yet. Good on ya. Keep up the great work ... I loved reading it!



wrote …

Yes, what is the name of the girl on the right?
Amazing legs lady.
Fantastic article, thank you.


wrote …

This was a very nice article on defining and explaining the importance of exercising and fitness as it relates to psychological well-being. There have been studies of this relationship over the years. I recall coming across them when I was getting my undergraduate degree in psychology back in the day.

However, it should be pointed out that this relationship between exercise and fitness with a healthier psychological well-being is not exclusive to CrossFit. As a CrossFittter, I, and all of you know of the inherit benefits of CrossFit. We all especially know the greater benefits of CrossFit as a training program when compared to other modalities, such as the standard Globo Gym routine for example. Even still, I trained at Globo Gyms in my dark days before CrossFit and I did feel good after workouts and I did have more focus and motivation because of it. Plus, I saw camaraderie all over the Globo Gym. My one friend was an expert at making friends and having social hour at the gym. I always felt that there was too much camaraderie and not enough work being done at the old Globo gyms I trained at
I think many people who are able to get out exercise will feel better overall psychologically. Whether it be at Globo Gym where the do isolation movements on machines and then spend 45 minutes on a treadmill or say the person who is just a runner or bike rider, the need to go and be physical will also invariably lead to meeting new people and making friends. These things can be achieved not only through CrossFit, but simply by people (Americans in particular) as long as they get off their buts and do something physical. Not everyone will be into CrossFit, but they are still able to experience much of benefits mentioned in the article.

Again, if the discussion would turn into which modality or method will get people the fitness, then hands down it is CrossFit. In that way CrossFit may lead even in greater increases psychological well-being. That would be a great follow-up study: Compare and measure the psychological well-being (Self Determination Theory as the article states) of CrossFitters to other individuals who train with different programs and such.


wrote …

Great article, bro.

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