Jason Khalipa explains CrossFit's biggest misconception

CrossFit is a cult. Everyone who does CrossFit gets hurt. They're all on the Paleo diet. It's just a fitness fad. Who wants to look like a damn bodybuilder anyway?

Anyone who participates in CrossFit hears these criticisms over and over, but they aren't true.

What is CrossFit? It's a form of fitness that incorporates Olympic weightlifting, interval training and gymnastics, combined with experienced coaches to create a community that helps people reach their health goals. 

(Disclosure: I’ve been doing CrossFit for, oh, less than three months now, so I thought it'd be appropriate if I talked to someone with a bit more knowledge on the subject.)

Jason Khalipa has been doing CrossFit since 2006. He won the 2008 CrossFit Games and opened his own box (CrossFit lingo for “gym”) the same year. He successfully turned his passion into a business by running 20-plus boxes, serving as an ambassador for Dollamur Sports Surfaces and becoming one of the sport's most well-known faces.

So what’s the biggest misconception about CrossFit?

"It’s that CrossFit is crazy," Khalipa told Sporting News. "It’s just not the truth. The bottom line is we have millions of people doing it and if you find a good coach and affiliate, you’re going to get the best results ever. It’s a great program and people love it. The biggest misconception is that people watch it on TV and they think that’s CrossFit. That’s not CrossFit in its roots."

The CrossFit Games, which aired on ESPN at the end of July, might be the most visible aspect of the sport to an average person, but it doesn’t necessarily embody the whole community.

When you watch LeBron James play in the NBA Finals, you know that’s not how the game will be played in your weekly five-on-five pickup down at the rec center. When you see Peyton Manning masterfully pick apart NFL defenses, it doesn't look the same as when you’re tossing the ol’ pigskin around with your buddies. The same goes for CrossFit. The competitors you see at the CrossFit Games are some of the best athletes in the world. Yes, I frequent a box on a regular basis, but no, I still can’t do a handstand push up, climb a rope or do half the things real competitors do — and that’s fine.

CrossFit was created for everyday people. Khalipa said it best, "CrossFit, in its roots, is the mom and dad or the grandma and grandpa that get in the best shape of their life. That’s what CrossFit is."

While it's true Khalipa was once crowned the "Fittest Man on Earth," he's also a great example of how CrossFit is just one aspect of an athlete's life. After competing individually for years, Khalipa decided to make the switch to team competition during the 2015 Games. The change allowed him to create a better balance and spend more time with his family while focusing on his growing business. And it's been growing fast.

As a whole, the CrossFit organization saw exponential growth from the early 2000s to now and it boasts over 10,000 affiliates worldwide today. Khalipa believes CrossFit's popularity is no fluke.

"I think it’s just a new way to look at fitness," Khalipa said. "I think it’s the community aspect. The fact that when people get into it, they really get into it and they want to share it with all their friends. That’s why I think it’s grown so quickly. It’s innovative. It’s organic. It’s raw. It’s not just a bunch of machines"

It's true that the coaching and the camaraderie of CrossFit provide an atmosphere no conventional gym can match. Imagine working out your nearest GloboGym and a stranger walks up to you yelling words of encouragement as you complete a particularly grueling workout. It'd be weird, uncomfortable and probably a bit frightening. But at CrossFit it's normal and what's even more, it helps. Competition is a powerful motivator, but so is feeling the support from a whole community as you reach your fitness goals. CrossFit gives you both.

It's normal for any popular movement to have detractors, but it's clear CrossFit isn't going anywhere. Twelve weeks after joining a box, I can confirm I'm not in a cult. I try to eat healthier, but I still get spotted in a fast food drive-thru. And I haven't gotten hurt — mostly because there are small children who can lift heavier weights than me. Maybe it's time for you to give it a try.

By  Caroline Sikes

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