Meet Myron Cossitt.
Myron was once your average joe blow office worker bee. He started CrossFit three years ago and became one of the most athletic people I know. Just about a year ago he quit his office job to coach full-time at Rock Jungle CrossFit and he’s loving his new life.
CrossFit has become a worldwide movement with affiliate gyms popping up everywhere. While the CrossFit Games showcase some damn impressive athletes, the sport overall has gained a reputation for being risky. Myron was happy to sit down with me and answer some questions about CrossFit, why it’s so successful, and why it’s perceived the way it is.
(CircoFit) What is CrossFit?
(Myron) The tagline of CrossFit is “constantly varied, high intensity functional movement.” In layman’s terms, we take training methodologies from lots of different physical thought processes (rowing, running, gymnastics, lifting) and put them together into a non-specialized fitness lifestyle.
One of the things that attracts people to CrossFit and keeps them there is because unlike many gym environments, there is an amazing community aspect.
What can beginners expect?
When you start CrossFit you see a lot of gains in the first year. You see a lot of positive results in the form of losing fat, gaining muscle, body recomposition. If you couple CrossFit with a diet change of clean eating, not even paleo or anything extreme, just clean eating, your body is going to change and it’s going to be awesome.
CrossFit is a big part of you life. What attracted you to CrossFit?
The reason I found CrossFit was actually because of some negative stuff. I was married, my wife left me, and I decided that I needed to do something that scared me, something that “Old Myron” would never do. So I signed up for the thing that scared me the most which was going to a gym. I fell in love with it as it changed my life.
What do you think is the best aspect of CrossFit? Community?
Not quite. The joke about CrossFit is it’s the opposite of Fight Club, so...the #1 rule about CrossFit is you always have to tell everyone about CrossFit, ha ha! That’s because people get really excited about it, and the community aspect kind of wraps it all together, but then it becomes a lifestyle.
When I was still at my office job and I’d just started CrossFit, while I was on the phone with a client I’d be against the wall stretching my shoulders out at the same time. I’d be thinking “what’s my breathing like today,” “how’s my pelvis?” CrossFit created an awareness for me of the things that we do everyday in life that make us suboptimal. CrossFit is not perfect, but it kind of opens your eyes to a lot of things that can make your life better.
It’s also done a lot for some very specialized, individualized things like olympic lifting and gymnastics. It’s brought a lot of these fitness aspects to the general public that were previously inaccessible.
Do the coaches make their own plans, or do they follow the gym’s program?
One of the words used to describe CrossFit is “constantly varied;” it’s not random. I wouldn’t work at a gym that didn’t do purposeful programming with longevity.
We want everyone showing up daily, getting stronger, doing it safely, and to be doing it next year and the year after and again when they’re 50, 60, 70.
Our head coach programs for both gyms. The other coaches make their own warm-up and they bring their coaching style to the general programming, but everyone follows the same program.
Any sport can be dangerous. Things that make them safer include hiring a coach, using proper equipment, learning the technique before ramping up intensity. That said, why do you think that CrossFit has a particularly strong reputation for being dangerous?
CrossFit is dangerous because there is inherent risk in physical activity, even when you’re taking precautions.
I think that it is perpetuated by people filming stuff; a person makes a YouTube video and it’s a combination of 50 horrible form lifts by 50 different people in 50 different circumstances, and then people see that and that’s their exposure to CrossFit.
Right, social media displays some scary stuff out there in the aerial world as well!
Exactly! Another thing: all day we sit in poor positions with shortened hamstrings and hip flexors, rolled forward shoulders, collapsed wrists. So we spend 8-10 hours like that (at work) and then we go home and spend another 2 hours watching Netflix doing it, and then we expect 1 hour at the gym - which is actually only about 35 minutes of work - to undo all of that. We suddenly ask our hamstrings to be not only full length but under intensity with full load, and our shoulders to hold weight over our heads with a neutral spine and a braced core, and our bodies are like, “hold on!”
So CrossFit is dangerous because of what we do with our bodies. It’s supposed to undo that, but often people want to see as much progress as possible without doing the mobility work to get there.
Is there any standard or typical CrossFit exercise that you actually think should be taken out because it’s too dangerous for most people?
Yes. Box jumps, but I’d like to add a caveat, though:
Jumping is a great way to build explosive power, build body awareness, and train your central nervous system to move your body quickly. Box jumps though - the way they’re taught to be done fast - is really hard on the achilles (and feet, shins, knees and ankles). I think box jumps should be modified to take out the dangerous part (speed) but leave the beneficial part.
There’s a case for every other movement as to how it could be dangerous, but then there’s also a case for how to prevent that danger from being present. Proper scaling, proper training, proper mobility work: it’s all going to take away that danger.
This is the only sport I’ve ever heard of that’s associated with rhabdomyolysis, should this actually be a concern?
I want to say yes. If you’re a Type-A personality, extrovert, driven, you’re going to thrive and excel in this community. You’ll see your body change, feel more confident, stronger, better.
But if I’m a Type-A person who shows up at a CrossFit gym where the gym’s mentality is “go faster, do it harder, giv’er giv’er giv’er,” and everyone’s standing around cheering, then I’m going to push and push and push until I put that bar down and then go either puke, pee blood, or pass out or whatever...and then people are going to high five me for it. Rhabdo is dangerous, absolutely, but I see it happening in that type of situation.
How do gyms combat that now?
By getting to know the participants, like we do, and learning about their movement history (ex. 10 years behind a desk). Also, if you think of a scale of low to high intensity, there’s this red zone of high intensity to max intensity. We want people operating at the bottom of that red zone, not the top. If you’re saying to people that they need to be maximum intensity to see results, that’s when injuries and in some extreme cases rhabdo happen.
Is there a CrossFit personality?
Ye-----s?...There are CrossFit personalities, like, plural. The scariest one is one I mentioned for the question about rhabdo. The “push through the pain, don’t stop don’t stop” mentality. “When I pass out, puke, or die, make sure to write my time on the board!” That personality is pretty prevalent in CrossFit and it is very scary to see in action.
The people that stick with CrossFit for a period of time are consistently are the type of people who get powered up a little bit by the community aspect. Anyone can go and do CrossFit on their own, but people come and stay for two reasons: someone writes the programming for them and for the community.
Good gyms vs. unsafe gyms? What should people look out for when picking a gym?
Have a conversation with the owner or one of the coaches: who does their programming, what’s the thought process behind when and how they employ the olympic lifts, that’s a really big indicator. They should be able to articulate what the purposes of the different lifts are and what their longevity strategy is. If they can’t, that’s a red flag.
Also if the gym is dirty. The general consensus from everyone that I talk to is that when they go to a gym, and the gym is dirty, that is an outward reflection of what happens internally. That’s something I watch out for...or that could just be me because I’m anal.
Why do you think that people find CrossFit intimidating?
So...social media again. They see the videos of the dangerous stuff or they see the videos of the high level stuff or they see the compilation of like 19-y-o kids who are like 300lbs of solid muscle lifting 600lbs over their head - that’s intimidating to anybody.
What’s your advice for someone who’s curious about CrossFit?
Talk to your friends that do CrossFit - you’ll know who they are because they’ll always talk about it - and see what they recommend for a gym.
Try a free class and see if you like it. With that, another caveat, be careful. Go in with a reserved mentality and don’t let anybody push you out of your comfort zone. Even just walk into a gym and talk to the coach and go based on your gut feeling.