How To Break Up With CrossFit

What to Do When CrossFit No Longer Fits Your Needs

It's Not Me, It's You

CrossFit has become immensely popular by filling a large gap in the fitness industry – it gives ordinary people access to intense workouts performed by a supportive community of like-minded people. The CrossFit community is much like the experience of many collegiate athletes, in which a team has access to amazing equipment and gets whipped into shape on a daily basis for four years. Then, when graduation hits, everything changes.

So maybe you fell in love with CrossFit, but you've decided that it's no longer the best thing for you. The reasons for your breakup, however, may play a large role in determining what comes next. Let's talk about common breakup reasons and then discuss what your options are moving forward.

CrossFit, I Don't Love You Anymore Because...

You're expensive.

CrossFit is an expensive girlfriend. Compared to a commercial gym membership ($10-$80 per month), a CrossFit membership ($100-$180 per month) is a good deal more expensive. It may be a great bargain considering the results, but that's beside the point. If it becomes too big a financial burden, you may have to break up.

I got hurt.

Like other intense forms of exercise, CrossFit invites injuries, and group environments aren't great for those with injuries. In my facility, we constantly have athletes who are suffering from some sort of ailment or limitation, and it takes a lot of program adjustments to keep them healthy and training without pain. They don't train with the rest of the herd because they simply can't. And CrossFit scaling just can't help every case, especially in a class with a dozen or more people all doing the same WOD.

I want more options and freedom.

CrossFit has a bank of standard exercises that are incorporated into a lot of workouts, among them box jumps, burpees, wall-balls, thrusters, kipping pull-ups, etc. Who decided that these exercises are important or relevant to you? Well, CrossFit did. Maybe you hate throwing a big, dumb medicine ball up at the wall over and over. Maybe you're just totally over doing burpees, which is understandable. We get it. Luckily, you can walk out the door and never do any of those exercises again.

I want to specialize.

CrossFit prides itself on not specializing, but if you want to be really good at one thing, or want to focus your training on a particular aesthetic goal, then non-specialization may no longer be right for you. If you've fallen in love with getting big, then shifting to bodybuilding full-time is probably a good decision. Many traditional hypertrophy training methods are ignored by CrossFit.

Likewise, if you're getting really good at Olympic lifting and want to compete, maybe it's time to stop spending so much time doing burpees and jump-rope. (Some boxes do offer O-lifting specialty classes with good coaches; others not so much.) CrossFit may have developed your passion for weight training, but it may not be the best choice for meeting goals as your skill, fitness, and interests progress.

Say Goodbye to the Fun Things, Too

CrossFit allowed you to do many things that you won't find or be able to do in most other gyms. Commercial gyms are starting to adapt and add more barbells, bumpers, and open space, but for the time being, things you'll miss, regardless of your reason for leaving, will include:

  • Olympic lifts
  • Dropping weights
  • Use of bumper plates in general
  • Box jumps
  • Chalk
  • Roomy, open spaces
  • Sleds
  • Fancy squat racks and rigs
  • Glute ham raise machines
  • A big selection of other cool stuff: med balls, kettlebells, bands, ropes, rings, good rowers, etc.

The reality is that commercial gyms aren't geared toward Olympic lifters or the needs of big, strong athletes.

How to Find Something Better for You

CrossFit and specialty gyms – catering to Olympic lifters, powerlifters, and other specific athletes – are on one end of the continuum. Commercial gyms (including Planet Fitness and its Lunk Alarm) are on the other. Here's the problem: If you give up the CrossFit lifestyle, there isn't an easily found good alternative. No worries, though. Here are some ideas based on the reason you had to dump CrossFit to begin with.

Break-Up Reason – Money

If you need to downgrade your financial commitment, well, you're in trouble.

Main Training Alternatives:

  • Commercial gym
  • The great outdoors
  • Cheaper specialty memberships like rock-climbing gyms

What You'll Lose:

  • Direction and pre-programmed workouts
  • Community atmosphere
  • Accountability and motivation

Bridge the Gap:

  • Learn how to train yourself. Spend $100 on strength and conditioning books, DVDs, etc.
  • Read more articles from sites like T Nation.
  • Find recreational hobbies that replace the community with another community, like cycling, running, climbing, tennis, etc.

Break-Up Reason – Injury

If money isn't the biggest issue, then spend that same amount of dough on another facility that will give you more customized care. Many facilities that train athletes will also be selling either personal training or a similar group environment, but often with customized programs for each individual. This will keep you under expert guidance without forcing you into someone else's mold.

Main Training Alternatives:

  • Personal training
  • Athletic performance facility that offers customized programs
  • Anything that fits within the confines of your rehab or goals

What You'll Lose:

  • Competitive, against the clock, as-many-as-possible reps format
  • Community atmosphere (maybe)
  • Accountability and motivation

Bridge the Gap:

  • Learn about your injury and the rehab process. Spend some money on educational materials to help you understand what you'll need to prevent re-injury.
  • Find a trainer and facility that fits your needs for community, accountability, etc.
  • Find recreational hobbies that replace the community.

Break-Up Reason – Variety and Freedom

Three words: No. More. Burpees. If you're tired of doing workouts pulled from the same bingo card of exercises, then you're probably not alone. You can move on to a brand new, exciting world of workouts.

Main Training Alternatives:

  • Personal training
  • Commercial gym
  • A new specialty gym
  • Your own garage gym

What You'll Lose:

  • Community atmosphere
  • Pre-programmed workouts
  • Against-the-clock workouts

Bridge the Gap:

  • If you want true freedom, consider building a garage gym. An initial investment of a few thousand dollars will pay for itself in a few years.
  • Find a trainer who can help you get started on a new workout plan, or who can help you devise your own workouts.
  • Buy and try different published workout plans and start discovering what does and doesn't work for you.
  • Buy some small, specialized equipment that you can take to your commercial gym and keep you excited about training.

Break-Up Reason – Specialization

It's still pretty great to be a specialist. Major League Baseball players seem pleased with their life choices, and they're certainly well paid for doing just one thing. If you want to become world-class in anything, you'll have to specialize. Or, if you just have a specific goal and want to accomplish it faster, then performing more targeted workouts will be a sound choice.

Main Training Alternatives:

  • Personal training
  • Commercial gym
  • A new specialty gym
  • Your own garage gym

What You'll Lose:

  • Pre-programmed workouts
  • Working out with your community of friends
  • Competitive workout atmosphere

Bridge the Gap:

  • Find a trainer who specializes in your specific goal or type of training.
  • Read, learn, and map out a plan for yourself.
  • Find recreational hobbies that support the goal, like hiking if you're trying to lose weight, or spinning if you're interested in running a triathlon.


Bonus: How To Write Your Own CrossFit-Style Workouts

Here are some quick and dirty templates you can use to build more balanced, CrossFit -style workouts. Plus, you can perform these workouts in most any commercial gym. Choose one exercise from each category below and circuit all of them together with little or no rest and you'll get your heart rate up, perform a large amount of work in a short time, and get a balanced workout.

Hip-Dominant: An exercise that primarily uses the posterior chain (the lower back, glutes and hamstrings). These are most easily characterized as hip-hinging movements. Examples: Deadlifts, hip thrusts, leg curl, glute ham raises.

Quad-Dominant: An exercise that chiefly stresses the quads and is characterized by deep knee bends. Examples: Squats, lunges.

Push: Exercises that press weight away from the body, or the body from a weight. Examples: Push-ups, bench presses, overhead presses.

Pull: Exercises that pull weight toward the body, or the body toward the weight. Examples: Chin-ups, pull-ups, all varieties of rowing exercises.

Conditioning: Something that gets the heart rate up quickly and keeps it there for a minute or two without undue risk for injury. Examples: Mountain climbers, squat jumps, farmer's walks, battling ropes, kettlebell swings.

Specialty: Exercises that target a specific body part or goal, while resting other parts of the body. Examples: Biceps curls, deltoid exercises, rotator cuff exercises, general bodybuilding exercises.

Here are two examples:

Workout A

Perform the exercise as quickly as possible with good form, then move to the next exercise with as little rest as possible. Rest for 90 seconds between circuits. Repeat 4-8 times.

A1  Barbell RDL (Hip)  15 reps, 95 pounds
A2  Barbell Push Press (Push)  10 reps, 95 pounds
A3  Reverse Barbell Lunge (Quad)  10 reps per leg, 95 pounds
A4  Barbell Row (Pull)  10 reps, 95 pounds
A5  Dumbbell Triceps Extension (Specialty)  15 reps, 40 pounds
A6  Mountain Climber (Conditioning)  60 seconds

Workout B

Perform the exercise as quickly as possible with good form, then move to the next exercise with as little rest as possible. Rest for 60 seconds between circuits. Repeat 6-10 times.

A1  Goblet Squat (Quad)  12 reps, 75 pounds
A2  Push-Up (Push)  As many reps as possible
A3  Cable Machine Pull Through (Hip)  12 reps
A4  Cable Machine Row (Pull)  12 reps
A5  Band Face Pull (Specialty)  12 reps
A6  Split Squat Jump (Conditioning)  60 seconds

It's easy to get creative by choosing exercises based on the configuration of the gym and the equipment that's available to you. Hopefully you're not monopolizing so much equipment that will draw the ire of your fellow gym-goers, but if you do, tough. That's simply a part of life.

You probably noticed that Olympic lifts, deadlifts, and heavy squats, among others, aren't included in these circuits. They aren't safe when performed in a maximum-rep, as-fast-as-you-can format. It'd be difficult to do those movements in that format in a commercial gym anyway, which is something you'll either love or grow to regret as you realize that maybe ol' CrossFit wasn't as bad as you thought.

Dan Blewett is the founder of sports performance facility Warbird Training Academy. Dan currently lives a dual life, spending half his year playing professional baseball, and the other half training the next generation.  Follow Dan Blewett on Facebook