Cults are not just reserved for religion anymore. Oh no, they are all encompassing. Crossfit has been met with a lot of criticism, with people calling out its intense regime for using dangerous movements, inappropriate levels of intensity, and allowing under qualified people to become trainers. That isn’t really just grounds to call it a cult now, is it? We sat down Dan Kennedy, a member of Crossfit to find out a bit more about Crossfit and the inner dealings of it.
Crossfit was started up by Greg Glassman who developed Crossfit to reach ‘That Feeling’. ‘That Feeling’ is a state of Nirvana that can only be reached by doing several intense workouts. You into it? Crossfit ‘Boxes’ have spread around the world with over 9,000 Boxes popping up. So chances are there could be one close to home.
Like we said, people who do Crossfit, love to talk about it. Dan knows all too well about this, ‘So, when I started I was like, “Oh my god, I’m absolutely not going to be one of those people”, but it’s really hard not to be one of those people.” And when you improve as quickly as you do, it is easy to see why you’d want to talk about it. But the need to talk about it doesn’t actually seem too weird once you start.
Dan put things into perspective for us, “I don’t really play other sports, but when people play football, they talk about football and the Premiership. Or when people play rugby, they talk about rugby and Leinster and all that stuff. That’s what Crossfit is for some people. So if it’s football, there are football players and the World Cup, for Crossfit, there are athletes and the Crossfit Games, it’s exactly the same thing. It’s no different, instead of talking about Manchester United, I talk about Richard Froning.”
When you put it like that, it is easy to see why members of Crossfit talk about it so readily. But it’s kinda got a bad rep for being talked about the whole time. Maybe it’s because it’s a relatively new sport. And make no mistake, Dan has assured us that it is a sport, ‘I’ve done other gyms, TRX and personal training and all of that, and you just sort of plod along. Whereas with Crossfit, you train and you're taught how to get better at all these things, like lifting weights and running. It’s really collaborative, it’s all about the team. And if you do good at something everyone cheers you on. There is a real community buzz about it and once you’re in it for about 6 months, you realise, “Oh my god I love this, I’ve got so much better.” And you have a team of people that you have the craic with.’ And think about it, if football had just been invented we would probably find the behaviour of their fans straight up insane.
Maybe it’s the community feel that has outsiders wondering if it is a cult, that and the amount people train for it. Take Dan, for example, ‘I think people can become obsessed. Like, I train 6-7 times a week now and that is ridiculous, but, I really enjoy it. Would I say I am obsessed with it? Maybe, but it doesn’t infringe on my life or anything. Like, I’d rather do Crossfit for an hour than watch TV for an hour, and that is a good thing.’ 6-7 times a week is a bit much for me to be honest, but, when you think about it, people watch TV more than 7 times a week and we don’t say they are obsessed.
So you’re training 6-7 times a week, that’s gotta hurt right? Surely. But Crossfit warriors take pride in their injuries. Not that they advocate them, but they do seem to take almost bizarre satisfaction in the welts on their hands. This is a trend that seems to be spreading it’s way about Instagram where people are almost turning it into art. Dan says, ‘People do have an odd sense of pride after they train really hard. But, there is a difference between “Oh I broke my leg. Deadly” and “Look I ripped my hands because I went that hard on a workout”.’ I mean, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else, right?
And, there is something similar to ripping your hands open and that of what the main man, JC, got on his hands. So combine the cult following, the dedication to the WOD (workout of the day), and the star quality that their athletes have and you do get the beginnings of a religion. And members of Crossfit, like Dan, have no problem calling out the religious elements of the sport: “It definitely has the same elements as a religion. There is your temple which is called a box. You’d have your leaders which are your trainers. There’s the vatican which is the amazing Crossfit athletes out there who are in the Crossfit Games. You’d have your disciples, the members. Everyone goes all the time you become absolutely obsessed with it. Everyone has the same goal which is to get fitter. So yeah, I suppose unintentionally they have positioned themselves as a religion. But it’s working because it's the fastest growing sport in the world.” That is a lot to take in.
So from it becoming the fastest growing sport in the world, to gathering a league of apostles. Call it a cult, call it a religion. Crossfit is taking over. I can feel it calling my name.
Photography by Calvin Freeman