CrossFit is for everyone — and yes, I do mean everyone. It looks intimidating from the outside, but at heart, we’re just a group of people who like to learn new skills and get sweaty in under an hour. From fitness novices to competitive athletes, a busy CrossFit class often spans all experience levels and abilities.
But most CrossFitters don’t have the opportunity to meet or work out with elite athletes in their everyday box. When they post a training session on Instagram or put up scores on an Open leaderboard, it’s easy to think, “wow, those people are superhuman.” Athletes who dedicate their lives to fitness can achieve some amazing feats; but really, they’re just people like everyone else. Here are five common myths about elite CrossFit athletes, and why I believe they’re misconceptions.
1. Elite athletes are always super motivated to work out
Nope! We’re just like you – we feel good on some days, and not so good on others. While most professional CrossFit athletes likely DO enjoy working out more than the average person (I mean we HAVE to love it in order to train 4-7 hours per day, 5-6 days per week), it’s just like any other job.
There are some days when we just aren’t feeling up to it. But for elite CrossFitters, training is a habit. The question isn’t IF we’re going to work out that day, but rather “how hard.” We know that it’s essential to put in the work regardless, especially on days when we don’t feel like it. Personal growth as an athlete doesn’t happen on the days when everything feels “on” and awesome – it arises out of the days when we fail and are forced outside of the comfort zone. Plus, that sense of achievement and hit of endorphins pretty much always makes me feel better once I’m done!
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[Related: “I’m a CrossFit Games Champion. Here’s what happened after I retired.”]
2. Elite athletes never eat junk food
Life is all about balance folks – even for athletes! Some or most athletes probably eat clean most of the time, but macro’d meals of chicken, rice, sweet potato, and vegetables can only be tolerated for so long, no matter how well you cook. I have one, sometimes one and a half, “open” days each week that I don’t track food and eat whatever I like. I do try to stick with healthier options during competition season (when the quality of the fuel matters most), but I let my sweet tooth run free on at least one day. I find that when I restrict myself on “bad foods” for long periods of time, it eventually ends in a junk food binge. Balance, people…it’s all about balance.
[Related: Curious about intermittent fasting?]
3. Elite athletes were born with muscles and abs
I’m calling part fact, part fiction on this one. While it is true that there are some genetic factors that contribute to athleticism (such as muscle fiber quantity, type, VO2max, body composition), not all athletes are naturally lean and ripped. Muscle building takes time, dedication, and consistency on a program. Similarly, developing a low percentage of body fat requires patience and consistency with a good diet that’s tailored to your specific needs. Many elite athletes look the way they do because they train for several hours a day and eat well, and have probably been doing so for awhile.
4. Elite athletes are superhuman
This is the natural assumption, especially when you compare your Open 21.2 score to that of a Games athlete. (“What round was I on at 9:00, when they were almost done??”) We’ve all thought that, at one point or another. But elite athletes ARE human, and that’s why they’re so inspirational to the CrossFit community!
Most had pretty humble beginnings and needed to build a foundation just like everyone else. Speaking from personal experience: I didn’t know how to hold a barbell properly when I started, and it took me YEARS to string double-unders together! I also couldn’t consistently do ring muscle-ups when I started (yes, I was a former gymnast, but rings is not a women’s event!) and I’m STILL working on improving that movement.
Those lightning-fast times you see in competition reflect years of boring cardio, PVC practice, weakness work, and showing up even though they didn’t feel like it. All of that less-than-glamorous, behind-the-scenes stuff is how you build the fitness level and tolerance to excel in competition.
5. Elite athletes are experts on health and fitness
Partially fact, some fiction. There’s a spectrum here, ranging from internet coach to professionals with exercise physiology degrees and years of coaching experience. It’s important to realize that not ALL athletes are experts in health and fitness; they’re just great at what they do because they’re experts in what works best for themselves.
However, what works well for your favorite elite athlete might not work best for you. If you’re interested in achieving a specific goal, my best advice is to find a coach who has dedicated their career to learning about various types of training methodologies and strategies for coaching different people. This type of coach will design a program to specifically address your weaknesses and strengths, instead of a one-size-fits-all program or a copy of their own training.
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A true expert will help you to find the best training methodology or nutrition/lifestyle that works best for YOU, likely trying multiple strategies to optimize your plan along the way. Internet coaches can provide great inspiration, but if you want to make progress in your fitness, be sure to seek out an experienced coach who can help you maximize your potential!
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.