As many T-Nation readers may remember, I also trained in the Crossfit style for two years. In Tyler Hass's famous interview with Crossfit's founder, Greg Glassman, I saw another interesting promise:
"If you come to us with a four-minute mile, six months into it you are going to be 30 seconds slower but a whole hell of a lot fitter. Similarly, if you come to us with a 900-pound squat, in six months it's going to be 750 pounds, but you, too, will be much fitter. A four-minute mile and a 900-pound squat are both clear and compelling evidence of a lack of balance in your program. This doesn't reflect the limitations of our program but the inherent nature of flesh and blood. But here's the fascinating part. We can take you from a 200-pound max deadlift to a 500-750 pound max deadlift in two years while only pulling max singles four or five times a year."
The same issue emerges here: a four-minute mile is a world-class time which would/should/could/probab ly provide this athlete with a salary, or at least a free education. A 4:30 mile isn't unusual in a high school state meet. Certainly, there are lots of examples of students running these times well before their junior year. So, here's the rub: we're recommending a program that literally takes one from world class to solid high school performer?
The point about the 750 pound max deadlift can only be demonstrated by the platform, but I've been around the game a long time and a 750 deadlifter is a rarity with any program anywhere. In my only powerlifting contest, I was the last successful deadlifter that night (3:00 AM, deadlifting 628; hard on the nerves, by the way) and any program that can get me to 750 with minimal deadlifting is worth a serious study.
In this example, we see another issue. The Crossfit community took on the definition of fitness credited to Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax, who market an excellent medicine ball. The Crawley/Evans definition includes ten components that all of us would recognize in a moment, including strength, speed, and power.
However, I've always used Doctor Phil Maffetone's original definition that fitness is the "ability to do a task." In his more recent works, he's changed the definition to "the ability to be physically active." I like the original.
Why do I love the original definition? Maffetone's great insight was that he separated "health" from "fitness." Health is the "harmony" of the organs to operate "optimally." Fitness is task-based. I think fitness is throwing the discus far. I could set up an entire website that has this single definition.
Now, I recognize the limitations, but most fitness professionals don't. We tend to coach from our life experiences, a lesson that's absolutely correct. The problem is that we sometimes forget that "my goals" might not be "your goals."
By doing something as simple as changing or grasping on to a single definition of fitness, one can completely miss the point of training. Sending a discus thrower to train with elite bodybuilders is as mad as sending elite bodybuilders to train with me.
Recently, in a telephone discussion with Mark Reifkind, an elite coach, bodybuilder, powerlifter, and author, he made a point so obvious that I simply have nearly stopped thinking since he mentioned it. "If you want to know about fat loss or muscle building, ask top level bodybuilders. These guys know it."
In other words, quit buying fat loss devices off of the late night TV ads from former sitcom actors, quit buying "fat loss" stuff that grandma tried when her cribbage partner mentioned it, and quit trying fad diets. Instead, listen to the best of the best.