CrossFit Level 1 Certification – the good, the bad and the ugly
The CrossFit Open season is upon us, and this year I chose not to participate for the first time in the last four years. I am still keeping half an eye on it, and even got my 17.3 done at a friendly CrossFit Tarantula in Lecce, Italy.
Since I won’t be providing the running commentary to the Open as I have done in the past (because, really, how many times can I really rant about the fact that 55 reps of a moderately heavy deadlift for time is a bad idea?), I thought I’d share with you my experience of receiving my CrossFit Level 1 Coach certification instead.
This was few years ago, and I had a blast that weekend. I really did.
Coaches were actually pretty awesome. Passionate, charismatic, knowledgeable in CrossFit. One of them was a former Games athlete, and two others were former UFC fighters (cauliflower ears and all).
CrossFit Colosseum is one of the best boxes in the Greater Toronto Area – from 16,000 square foot facility to strongman toys to group atmosphere.
I enjoyed the foundational exercises (although was not clear as to why those nine exercises were nominated into the church of CrossFit). And WODs at the end of the day were a blast – every “sit-in-your-chair-all-day” seminar MUST include a workout. At least one. [Precision Nutrition does this beautifully, where during our annual staff gatherings there are multiple opportunities during the day to MOVE!].
If there was a 250-hour CrossFit certification, I would take it. I think. That’s how long my yoga teacher certification was. You can’t possibly learn everything you need to know, should know (yes, watch me “should” all over this sentence!) in two days.
It’s pretty brutal on the body. To learn all squats and all shoulder stuff, and kipping pull-ups and thrusters all in one day is an overkill. Yes, you will work with a PVC pipe and no weight. And yes, you will still be sore AF. On Saturday night, I found myself in bed, helplessly trying to flip over from my stomach to my back, without the use of my arms – because they were that smoked. I consider myself a fairly fit individual, and firmly believe that this amount of high reps is unnecessary. Then again, that kinda goes for CrossFit in general…
If dogma scares you as it scares me, the manual is fucking terrifying. All in all, it’s a pretty light read (again, as long as you do not get stuck in the dogma). You can get through the 150 pages in a couple of days, and retain enough information to regurgitate it dutifully on the day of the exam.
Scary? Yes. Light? Yes. Useful? I’m not sure.
As certification go, CrossFit is grossly overpriced for 14 hours of instruction. At $1,000, you are paying over $70 per hour of instruction. To put it in context, that is higher than what you would pay per hour for a university course. CrossFit (both certification and box membership fees) cost this much… because it can. It is not unusual for a CrossFit gym membership in US or Canada to cost up to $250 a month.
Of course, one can argue that it is the market that dictates prices. If people are willing to pay for it, then that’s how much it is worth. For comparison, you can sign up for an unlimited CrossFit membership in Italy for as little as 50 euros a month.
Anyone can sign up for a Level 1 certification. There is no fitness experience, or CrossFit experience required. Yet, Level 1 certification is the only thing required in order to open an affiliate gym (apart from a chunk of money, of course).
There were multiple people in the course with 2-3 months of CrossFit experience. And for one person, this was the very first exposure to CrossFit. Ever. So, not a single CrossFit workout. I think he mentioned opening a CrossFit box shortly after. Keep that in mind when you see someone’s CF certificate displayed proudly in a frame – what other experience do they have? What other certifications/credentials do they have?
It’s one thing when someone like CF does a CrossFit cert – learning is awesome. Enjoy. It’s an entirely different matter when a complete novice to all things exercise and Crossfit completes the certs, and is then unleashed onto a general population of soccer moms with bad backs, and middle-aged accountants with bad knees.
Apparently, the whole first time Crossfitter’s thing is not rare. There is always one.
And CrossFit HQ is quite fond of these fellas.
“Get you on the right track right away!”, they say. You should not need a $1,000 certification in order to “start on the right track”. That’s what a CF box is for. With coaches that hopefully have more experience than this very same person looking for experience.
Few misleading comments that were dropped by coaches that made my blood boil.
No, salt is not “bad” for you. No, 10% body fat is not a healthy number of most men and women to strive for. Most of the misleading statements were definitely in the realm of nutrition. I wish they stuck to the exercise and programming.
The overall vibe is culty. I know, I know, I found it shocking too. There is a lot of “we” vs. “they” speak – in the best traditions of creating ingroup/outgroup biases.
Albert Camus memorably admonished that those who prefer their principles over their happiness remain unhappy, suggesting that such rigid personal dogmas at the expense of actionable happiness are a form of especially dehumanizing self-punishment.
I mentioned this before, and I will mention this again. If there is dogma, I WILL make fun of it. And there is a lot of dogma in CrossFit.
Is doing CrossFit Level 1 certification worth the time and money? If you can afford the thousand bucks, and want the t-shirt, so to speak, go for it. It’s a fun weekend of working on movement technique, and meeting new people.
Will it make you a better trainer?
Maybe. If you have never had formal instruction in basic lifts.
If a thousand bucks puts a noticeable dent in your budget, there are dozens of other certifications that would deliver way more. I would recommend finding a weightlifting coach to work with one on one, and investing in a separate nutrition certification such as this one.
P.S. I have since completed CrossFit Mobility certification in Santa Cruz, California, and found that certification to be endlessly more informative and useful (and yes, less dogmatic).