Tip: Pros and Cons of CrossFit-Style Training

Does it push you to train harder, or does it end up being a competition that hurts you in the long run?

Lead Photo Credit: Lumber City CrossFit

Competition or Workout?

Competing with others in the gym can be beneficial or it can be detrimental. For example, is CrossFit training a friendly push or competitive nightmare?

Well, one of the best things that CrossFit brought to the table was a friendly community. Within that community, however, there are little mini-communities. Some are encouraging and help each other stay accountable, but some like to literally drive themselves into the ground. They will not be outdone by anyone else and will tease anyone that doesn't "beat their time."

This is okay as long as others are enjoying the banter. Some of the best training sessions I've had involved a bit of friendly competition. Often these types of CrossFitters are highly consistent with their training, and when they bunch together you get a group of hardcore fitness enthusiasts that want to destroy every workout. Every session has to leave them gasping for air and sore for days.

This seems great at first, but long term this isn't good for someone that trains 5-plus days a week. Accumulated volume with that highly competitive mindset will start to break the body down. Under-recovering, training through pain, and even becoming sick are all symptoms. It's a recipe for injury.

If you're not a CrossFitter and aren't sure how it works, CrossFit workouts have a prescribed movement standard and weight to be used. A CrossFit coach writes the workouts for the fittest and strongest person in the gym, then scales back the movements to the individual's level.

If you complete a workout to the prescribed standard it's called "RX," and in a CrossFit setting an RX score beats any scaled score.


One of the most annoying things as a coach is when people refuse to scale movements down to their level because it will affect their "score on the board." When the whiteboard starts to influence how you work out, that's your first warning sign.

More than once I've changed what was written on the board to benefit the individual more than generic class programming, trying to demonstrate that RX isn't a real thing. Bodyweight lunges and push-ups can be RX. Just because the board says 100kg cleans for reps doesn't mean you should snap your spine to get two letters beside your name. Failure to accept that you're "not that good yet" is dangerous and unproductive.

If you're spending your workout time worrying about what people will think if you don't perform well, you're on a slippery slope. Pushing yourself is great, but if you're genuinely in pain or feel like some part of you is niggling, you must talk to your coach. You don't get any prizes for being a "trooper" in CrossFit. You just get hurt.

If you're not training for a competition, you should never put yourself in a position that leaves you open to hurting yourself. It's just not sensible. Even if you are training for competition, if all you're doing is racking up injuries coming up to it, you should pull out. It's supposed to be fun, not break you.

When you start becoming obsessed with what everyone else is doing, and wanting to beat everyone around you, you have an overtraining issue. Just because you're the big fish in your little gym, there are always other people out there stronger than you.

Feeling like you're gonna die every workout can become addictive, but training should make you feel good, look good, and give you an awesome buzz. When you start putting pressure on yourself to win at working out, you're missing the point and your body will hate you for it.

If you really love to push yourself, set frequent goals and sessions for that, but never forget the bigger picture. Longevity leads to more gains long term. You can't cheat that.

Tom Morrison is a British weightlifting coach, martial artist, and CrossFit trainer and competitor. Tom works with athletes on prerequisite movement capabilities for optimal strength, performance, and reduced risk of injury.  Follow Tom Morrison on Facebook