Why I dislike fitness subcultures – Reason #10,001

I turn 42 at the end of the week.  I’m way too old to waste my time dealing with the pissing contests between and within the various fitness subcultures.  

There are assholes everywhere, and the downside of social media is that it makes it that much easier to find them.  I get it.  People at OT should get it too.  Sam Wilkinson addressed the dickishness of distance runners a couple of years ago.

It’s one thing to read the comments section of a Facebook post and watch power lifters question the manhood of bodybuilders and bodybuilders responding by calling power lifters giant-sized tubs of lard.  It’s a whole other ballgame when someone in one group attempts to explain why the people in the other group don’t like them.  When it’s done in the form of “serious analysis”, hilarity ensues.  I think this is the only way I can describe this article.  Consider this the fitness equivalent of the idiotic liberal-libertarian comments at OT.  Seriously, it’s just about as ridiculous:

Bodybuilders don’t hate CrossFit, they hate intensity.

Think about most bodybuilding workouts. Typically low repetition workouts, between 1-10 reps, with the occasional super-set or burnout while eating safe legal alternatives for muscle gain.

What is cardio for most bodybuilders? 20 minutes on the treadmill or the bike.  

They don’t like it when you are grunting in the gym or slamming weights (typically occurs in a high intensity workout).  

You can still look (and smell) good after a bodybuilding workout.

I have nothing against CrossFit at all, but people in that community are prone to making very cringe-worthy statements about unimportant things like butt toning exercises and the effects of whey protein. I thought about writing a full-length post as a response, but at this point, all I can do is laugh, especially at the part where he tells bodybuilders to “man up” or they will end up using the top trampolines.  If he wants to think he’s better than everyone else, he can have that satisfaction.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

64 thoughts on “Why I dislike fitness subcultures – Reason #10,001

  1. The only people I know that do Crossfit are just insane about it.

    They’re basically hard-core nerds, in the old parlance. It’s just instead of sci-fi or math or computers or games, they’re into fitness.

    It’s the same obsessive focus, the same ‘talk about it all the time’, the same competitive ‘my sub-genre is better than yours, which is derivative and sucks and doesn’t count because reasons’. Complete with conventions, in fact.

    I swear, the only thing that keeps them from hitting the singularity of obsession is the human body can’t take it for too long, and they have to stop. (Which sadly just means they post to facebook about it. A LOT.). It recalls to mind jokes about Everquest players and poop socks.

    Report

    • Oh, piss bottles! (I literally played a minigame which had a girl pissing into a bottle as part of it… By the end of the game, I wanted to say whyyy did you make me play that)

      Report

      • I keep forgetting not everyone’s a gamer. Suffice it to say, “poopsocking” is the term hard-core gamers use for people THEY think spend way too much time playing games.

        It refers to not even stopping to take care of biological needs.

        Report

      • The funny thing is that I used to be a pretty hardcore gamer, although by hardcore, I was playing IL-2 1946 for anywhere between 2-5 hours a day plus. These days, it’s console gaming.

        Hopefully, my Last of Us download will be ready for me this evening.

        Report

      • @morat20

        I am wondering if I should do an essay about how I more or less de-geeked myself. Some of it was just a matter of time, part of it was purposeful action and work.

        Report

      • Everyone has their hobbies. And some people get really into their hobbies.

        I play a lot of games, although not nearly what I used to. But even then, I put in less hours than a friend of mine does brewing beer. Or my father-in-law does doing woodworking projects.

        It’s when the rest of your life suffers — like you don’t go to work or ignore the crying child or soil yourself or spend your rent money — that becomes a serious problem.

        There are people out there who have bankrupted themselves with collecting…whatever they collect, for instance.

        Report

    • The people that I know and do CrossFit and are the least bit fanatical about it are the women in their 40s. They’ve been able to demonstrate a good amount of common sense and can separate the value in doing CrossFit as exercise vs. the competitive component of trying to beat one’s time in a given workout, something that has more in common with sports performance than basic exercise.

      They’re basically hard-core nerds, in the old parlance. It’s just instead of sci-fi or math or computers or games, they’re into fitness.

      If they’re into fitness, they’re into their own kind. It’s the classic case of goalpost moving. They have their own brand and their own definition of what constitutes fitness (high intensity constantly varied movements in order to increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains) and I’ve seen more than my fair share of people attempt to apply that definition to compare all forms of fitness to it.

      If there’s a reason why I would question the nerd label, it’s because I’ve read so many counterarguments against CrossFit criticisms and they all sound so much alike that it’s almost as if they’re reading from an index card of talking points than making any substantive arguments. There’s a whole lot of closure going on in that world.

      When the standard response to concerns about injuries in CrossFit becomes “you can get injured doing anything”, it shows either an inability or an unwillingness to engage in the more substantive concerns about designing programs that require people who aren’t top-level athletes to execute technically complicated moves at high repetitions in a state of physical and mental fatigue.

      They’ll come back with a response about scalability and proper coaching, but I’ll come back and mention that there’s a difference in programs that are BY DESIGN meant to prevent injury as best as possible and programs that mitigate risk by having a trainer decide how to scale the workout, a trainer that may know anything about the person he/she is coaching and may have very little coaching experience.

      The worst for me is when I see people who six months ago wouldn’t have known a push up from a pull up tell the rest of us that it’s up to us to find a CrossFit coach that works best for what we want, like they had any freaking idea when they started out.

      It’s the same obsessive focus, the same ‘talk about it all the time’, the same competitive ‘my sub-genre is better than yours, which is derivative and sucks and doesn’t count because reasons’. Complete with conventions, in fact.

      Of course, but they aren’t the only ones doing it. Even if my corner of the fitness world, high volume calisthenics, there are pissing contests between the sets and reps crowd (mine) and the people that think street workouts means doing as many gymnastics tricks as possible without paying attention to gymnastics-type form.

      I don’t worry about what CrossFitters think of what we do. When they start coming into the places where my friends and I work out and start kicking our asses in push up or pull up contests (they won’t), maybe I’ll see the light of day. What I do isn’t that much different from what they do. I choose to go about it a different way (i.e. no olympic lifts for time).

      Report

      • *sigh*. I’m just trying to get to doing 2.5 miles in 30 minutes, three times a week. On a treadmill. That now squeaks. I’m gonna have to disassemble it and see what’s rubbing. Not to mention the belt heats up, despite lubricating it, which means I probably have to tighten it again.

        But I’m not going outside and running. There’s no TV. And I’m not joining a gym, because I won’t go.

        At the moment I’m at like 2 miles in 30 minutes, which is not the best pace. But I’m slowly actually jogging tiny increments more of that distance.

        And that’s my “not quite 40” hard workout. I’d like to add a pool to it.

        Report

      • My simplistic view is that anything is better than nothing and everyone’s efforts should be commended. So long as people aren’t pushing themselves to injury, it’s all good. That you’re adding distance slowly shows that you’re adapting to what you’re doing.

        The first time I managed to run 3 miles on a treadmill, I was heart rate targeting at 140 bpm. It took me 51 minutes to finish. That was something like a 4:20:00 half marathon pace. I was a bit freaked out by that.

        Report

      • Dave,

        I still can’t jog a quarter mile. My shins and feet are like “Dude, you’re a couch potato. We hurt”. So I do a jog/walk/jog/walk.

        Problem is I keep futzing with distance and speed, which keeps setting me back because I’m not 25 anymore.

        I’ve sorta settled on 3.7/5.7 (walk/jog) for 2 to 2.5 miles, which runs me between 25 minutes and 40 minutes depending on how much I can jog. That’s pretty recent, and I still get…shin cramps, for lack of a better word. (not shin splits). I can feel the muscles get tight and not want to release, and have to slow to the 3.7 walk and let them relax before I can jog again.

        Generally only happens once, though. Once they get tight and then relax, I’m okay. No soreness the next day or anything. I have no idea what it is.

        Report

      • I remember going out to try running after a few years of doing nothing but studying or working in an office and just assuming it would be like it was when I was 18 and active. I started at a not-very-smart pace and after a few blocks I realized that my goddamn *heart* was the limiting factor. Not “my legs are tired” or “I’m breathing too hard and it hurts.” Instead it was, “there isn’t enough blood getting to my arms, legs and head and I need to stop now or I will pass out in the street.” That was an important learning experience.

        But with a sensible plan and easing into it, it came back pretty quickly.

        Report

      • Frog,

        These days, it’s my legs and feet. No knee problems yet, but I’m watching them.

        I’m also unwilling to push too hard — I’ve had foot surgery before, and don’t have the urge to have it again. So if I’m getting cramps or pains, I’ll ease back rather than push through.

        Report

      • I’ve sorta settled on 3.7/5.7 (walk/jog) for 2 to 2.5 miles, which runs me between 25 minutes and 40 minutes depending on how much I can jog. That’s pretty recent, and I still get…shin cramps, for lack of a better word. (not shin splits). I can feel the muscles get tight and not want to release, and have to slow to the 3.7 walk and let them relax before I can jog again.

        Two quick questions. First, are you wearing decent shoes? Second, have you considered adjusting the incline on the treadmill as opposed to the speed? You’ll shins should feel ok and if the incline isn’t too crazy, you’ll feel yourself putting in that effort, especially after walking for 20 minutes or so.

        https://www.t-nation.com/training/get-ripped-get-walking

        There are a few programs towards the end of the article. You don’t have to follow any of them. I’ve done a few of the walks in the early part of the intermediate program. The heart rate goes up and it’s very low impact. Heck, if someone can work up to a burn rate of 8 to 10 calories a minute walking, I think that’s pretty damn good.

        Report

      • Dave,
        Yep. Good shoes. I get all my tennis shoes from a local running store, because I had surgery — plantar fasciitis — several years ago, and wear custom inserts. And I want shoes that work with my inserts, so I go to a running shop where they’re very, very good about that.

        I have the incline at 1%. I’d like to get it to 3% (I was considering 5%) but I’m honestly aiming for the ability to jog that long, more than the workout. Most of my speed futzing was finding a pace I liked. A walk that wasn’t too fast or too slow, and a jog that had a steady pace that fit my stride.

        Like I said, it really appears to be cramps. I can’t think of anything else that feels like tight muscles that won’t relax, and then…relaxes and goes away if I just walk it out (and then can often jog without the problem reappearing that same session).

        I think it’s just conditioning, or lack thereof.

        Report

      • tf,
        I’ve only ever known one guy who collapsed after running (fittingly, it was running up Cardiac Hill). School cops found him and dragged him off to the hospital, where he woke up and fled (I assume, having a do not treat order on file, that fleeing was the appropriate response).

        Report

  2. I agree with Morat20’s observation. The same people also liked to talk about doing extreme endurance races with obstacles. The kind that last 12, 14, 18, 20, hours.

    One of the reasons I think Planet Fitness does so well is through their “no judgment zone” mantra.

    I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder or a crossfitter, I don’t want to do 2 hours of bicep isolation. I would like to be in better shape than I am now but this does not mean I want to do a Tough Mudder or a long-distance challenge one day. I am not interested in that level of jock hood.

    I would like some more muscles and to loose about 13-20 pounds. I still hate doing ab exercises.

    What I’ve noticed about the internet is that it seems like a lot of people can do their one true way of things.

    Report

    • One of the reasons I think Planet Fitness does so well is through their “no judgment zone” mantra.

      They are a no judgement zone yet will not hesitate to kick someone out for exerting themselves to the point where it makes other people uncomfortable. Heck, you’ve read my Facebook feed. I’m making a joke about setting off the Lunk Alarm just by walking past the place once a month or so. ;)

      Seriously though, the “judgement free” zone works for a lot of people because it plays into their own perceptions about how they’d be made to feel if they went to say a Lifetime Fitness, LA Fitness, etc. etc. I never encountered that when I first started working out there and I’ve never seen anyone made to feel unwelcome. I for one wouldn’t put up with it.

      The other benefit in Planet Fitness’ favor is the cost. It’s almost unbeatable for what people get.

      I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder or a crossfitter, I don’t want to do 2 hours of bicep isolation. I would like to be in better shape than I am now but this does not mean I want to do a Tough Mudder or a long-distance challenge one day. I am not interested in that level of jock hood.

      If you exclude the CrossFit games athletes (who do far more than CrossFit to prepare), I’d say that the average CrossFitter doesn’t look any different than other people on the street aside from being a bit leaner and more cut. They achieve it through focus on the diet and workouts that typically range between 15 and 20 minutes or so a few times a week. Add the short brutal nature of the workouts and the social appeal and it’s no wonder it does as well as it does. I do a lot of interval workouts.

      For what it’s worth, I still don’t consider myself a jock.

      Report

      • I go to my law school’s university gym because I get a great alumni rate. 68 dollars a month is not bad. SF has a problem where all the gyms tend to be in really weird areas unless they are just small little outfits. You can find a trillion yoga studios in every neighborhood but finding a decent gym is much tougher.

        Many of the gyms are concentrated in the downtown commercial area it seems.

        Report

      • Many of the gyms are concentrated in the downtown commercial area it seems.

        That’s not unlike Midtown. I have an equinox up the street on Lex and there’s a 24-hour fitness at Citigroup Center. There are a few other places around too.

        Report

      • Maybe but I know there is an Equinox in Greenwich Village and a YMCA on 14th Street, also a 24 hour fitness (I used to go before classes in grad school). There are several gyms in Williamsburg where Lee lives. My former Brooklyn neighborhood had a YMCA and another big gym.

        I don’t know the layout in the rest of NYC but it seemed like there were more neighborhood gyms.

        Report

    • The best aspect of Planet Fitness is the incredibly cheap price. Its a basic gym with a nice ad campaign. I don’t see anybody different or different behavior in there then other gyms i been to. If people are going to feel judged they will feel that way in any gym. That is more about the person then the gym.

      They are terrible at retaining customers based on my experience. They don’t track membership well or follow up when you need to renew. Those don’t matter to me so i still use them when i want a gym. In 2013 i was going to the local PF for about 2 months after my membership expired until one of the staff told me it had. I hadn’t kept track and assumed i’d get an e-mail or they would tell me when it was time to renew.

      Report

    • Planet Fitness is actually plenty judgmental; they just point their judgment in the direction of people who take fitness too seriously. They have an alarm that goes off if you work too hard.

      Report

      • You can work really hard at a PF. They just don’t like loud grunting or some such. I’ve heard the lunk alarm thingee go off but i’ve never been able to figure out what set it off. Plenty of people they do hard core work outs or hard runs on the treadmills.

        Report

      • I have a few friends that work out there, and they think it’s fine. I don’t know if they have the equipment I like to use (a good pull up bar) and I don’t think they’d like it if I moved the squat bar to the highest setting and hung off of it (as I do in hotels), but I can’t see myself getting a hard time doing sprints on the treadmills.

        The lunk head commercials are a bit silly if only because I don’t think they have enough weights for the “bros” (don’t the dumbbells max out at 65 lbs?)

        Report

      • I’m sure that Planet Fitness is a serviceable gym and probably well worth the price.

        My point is only that their whole “no judgments” motto works in one direction, which is fine; that’s their marketing. I get it. If you look at their commercials, however, you see plenty of judgments; their just judgments of too-skinny women and too-big men.

        Report


    • “…this does not mean I want to do a Tough Mudder or a long-distance challenge one day. I am not interested in that level of jock hood.”

      What level of “jockhood” is that? I’ve done two TMs, two half-marathons, and am looking to do more. What level of “jockhood” have I attained?

      Report

      • @saul-degraw

        Personally, I think to the extent there’s “jockhood”, it’s more associated with participation in sports rather than just plain old exercising. Granted, someone can point to the “bros” and say that they’re exercising, but I’d argue that people that are genuinely trying to build themselves up doing bodybuilding type workouts aren’t exercising at all but rather training for that goal. Looking at it that way, bodybuilding has more in common with sports participation.

        I think if one has the knees to handle distance running, training for a long distance race is one of the easiest things people can do given that most of the time training is spent in lower heart rate zones. If one follows a progressive program, he or she will be working up to 20 plus miles a week of running without suffering any significant wear and tear on the body.

        For the last three weeks of my half marathon training, I was logging over 30 miles a week of running. I had no physical issues to speak of although I’d say I was burned out.

        Tough Mudder training can be very intense if you want it to be, but it doesn’t have to be. You may want to build some strength and muscular endurance to be able to navigate some of the obstacles, but a lot of people don’t do it. My coworker did the Mudder in NJ and it consisted of a bunch of half-mile jogs followed by a not-so-short wait to get through an obstacle.

        Report

      • I just bristle at the labels being tossed around so wantonly. Not that I think there is anything wrong with being a ‘jock’ or a ‘bro’… whatever those terms mean. I just don’t see the reason to label in the first place.

        Report

  3. There is a point where I do find listening to people talk about their workouts as being annoying especially when seemingly done to pick-up girls. Like talking about your two hour bicep isolation workout (yes I have heard this).

    Report

    • Must have been a bodybuilder. I can’t imagine anyone else spending two hours on biceps unless it’s part of a push up and pull up workout. I haven’t done arm curls in well over a year.

      Report

      • He was a bro and that is all you need to know.

        I honestly think my aversion to being labeled a jock or a bro is partially why I stick to cardio more than weights. But I realize I should do more weights…

        Report

      • Would you really adjust your workout regimen to avoid certain labels? And, if so, why are “bro” or “jock” so distasteful?

        How would you feel if I said I wanted to be more aware of “high culture” and recognized the theater as a way to do so but refused to go because I didn’t want to get labeled a dork or theater dweeb?

        Report

      • Case in point…

        Yesterday, I pulled into the overcrowded parking lot, spotted a soon-to-be-vacated spot, and popped my blinker on. Another car lapped around in front of me and stopped, ultimately holding up traffic. I started to get angry. Then the driver jumped out of the car and asked if I was waiting for a spot even further up. “No no, I signaled. This one here!” He gave a thumbs up and took that spot himself. But he had the presence of mind and conscientiousness to check with me first as I had been waiting longer. And this is one of the tatted out, ripped-to-the-point-of-being cartoonish guys. As I walked by his car, I nodded and waved thank you. He rolled his window down and we had a friendly little exchange. Never would have pegged him as that kind of dude based on watching him in the gym. But that would be like assuming a lawyer who is a bulldog in the courtroom can’t be totally friendly outside of it.

        Report

    • CrossFit-ers are bad about never shutting up about their workouts. Bodybuilders can be bad as well.

      Although, I’d have to nominate yuppie cyclists as being up there in the constant need to talk about their hobby category.

      Report

  4. They don’t like it when you are grunting in the gym or slamming weights (typically occurs in a high intensity workout).

    You can still look (and smell) good after a bodybuilding workout.

    Well, this is just stupid. There are lots of people who go into the gym and work a few beach muscles in between staring at themselves in the mirror and making rounds of the gym holding invisible luggage. To define bodybuilding by those people is pretty stupid.

    I guess it’s easy for CrossFit types to make these sorts of generalizations, because people who make the monetary and time commitment to belong to a CrossFit gym are a pretty homogeneous bunch, while bodybuilding covers a whole range of people pursuing a whole range of different outcomes.

    What’s also silly about this is that CrossFit athletes – the people who actually compete in CrossFit games – have a training regimen that includes a lot more than just doing CrossFit WODs. They do more endurance. They do more lifting. And probably a lot more warming up and stretching as well.

    Report

    • What’s also silly about this is that CrossFit athletes – the people who actually compete in CrossFit games – have a training regimen that includes a lot more than just doing CrossFit WODs. They do more endurance. They do more lifting. And probably a lot more warming up and stretching as well.

      Every time I see someone post a picture of Rich Froning when they argue about the kind of physique CrossFit produces, I have to remind them of this very thing. The Games athletes are doing much more traditional strength and conditioning than the folks at CrossFit may care to admit to, especially since that would run counter to a number of claims made by CrossFit’s founder about its effectiveness.

      No program of general physical preparedness by itself will ever produce elite level athletes, even if the sport is fitness.

      Report

  5. One of the big things I remember from reading various interviews with Doctor Drew (yeah, I know) is his description of truly addicted people and the stuff he says he’s seen help them. He said something to the effect of how the people who were the worst off had one of two things happen: 1) they had a religious conversion and got better 2) they died

    Now I suspect that this is the couch potato/junk food/sedentary version of that.

    It’s just that sedentary living takes a looooong time to kill you and you still have the faculties to, say, work at a decent job and make a decent living and have a decent marriage with decent kids.

    But the worst of the worst will have one of two things happen to them. Crossfit is a manifestation of one of those options.

    Report

  6. Dave,
    This post falls into the greater “why do other people annoy me” series. Seriously, who the hell cares what they say. Ignore it. Just discount their comments/opinions as not being worthy of your attention. I get through A LOT of days doing that. And you know, I’m always right… :)

    Report

Comments are closed.