By lex, on July 12th, 2008

The Crossfit regime has it’s legions of admirers and, to be fair, its critics. Having been on the program faithfully since late March, you can count me in the former camp. The functional focus makes perfect sense – there are no leg extension machines that only prepare you for leg extension machines – and I grok the kind of high intensity strength routines over an aerobic time interval that deliberately blur the lines between power lifting and pure cardio. The variety is good as well, you never quite know what’s going be on your plate the next day.

If I had a critique of the program itself (as opposed to the more zealous of its devotees), it’s that I think there’s probably room for more long cardio routines on a weekly basis than Coach Glassman makes room for. A 10k run every other month or so doesn’t hack it, at least not for me. I’m thinking hard about subbing some two hour pedals for yet another 20 minute round of pull ups and dips, one of these weekends.

Results? I’ve lost 5 pounds and two inches off my waist while packing on the kind of upper body muscles I haven’t had since my 20′s, if ever. Given that muscle mass is more dense than fat, I reckon I’ve given back at least ten pounds of the latter. Maybe more. I wake up feeling strong and go to bed at night feeling like I’ve earned my eight straight. Workouts that made my eyes pop in disbelief back in March and April are over in half an hour or so with no great fuss, although I will admit to scaling the loads I do in recognition of five decades wandering the green. Anno domini can’t be beat and it’s no good pretending otherwise.

Still, as I said: There are critics. Like a certain commanding officer of the Navy’s Center for Personal and Professional Development. Whatever that is. Who apparently has issues of his own:

“Another item I want to touch on pertains to a cover story in a recent Navy Times on Crossfit, “the new fitness craze.” This is a commercial off the shelf (COTS) program and is not tailored to an individual. Several SMEs in the sports medicine field (military & civilian) have addressed a concern that the program has the potential for causing an increased incidence of musculoskeletal injuries and even muscle breakdown (rhabdomyoloysis) and therefore is not supported by CPPD. Granted, anyone can develop a program that’s very intense but there’s a safer way of doing this for our Sailors. Additionally, any program that names exercises after women is contrary to our Core Values.”

I’m not sure I know the context within which the good captain made his comments. Maybe he’s a distance guy with a three inch vertical leap who can nearly make the throw from the mound to first, I don’t know. And maybe there are subject matter experts (SMEs) who have their own complaints with the popularity Crossfit has gained among SOF, combat Marines and regular forces, as well as the police. (The main reference to “rhabdomyoloysis” is found in references to the captain’s article, so no help there.) I do find myself rather scoffing at his notion that there’s an implicit alternative provided the Navy that’s “tailored to the individual.” Stumble through a PRT twice a year and – so far as the Navy is concerned – you’ve done your physical bit for God and country. Height/weight, a mile and a half (where are those found at sea?), push ups, sit ups and a “sit reach” stand in for actual functional fitness.

If you want more than that, it’s all on you.

But, it’s all good and room enough for all opinions. Until hisself launched into the whole “Core Values” bit of his speech. I’ve always had issues with that brand of censorious tone, the whole assumed mantle of smug moral superiority. Especially when it’s so poorly founded. A “Fran”, for example – just to name one exercise that’s named after a woman –  21, 15 and 9 reps of 135 pound thrusters (a squat porting a bar loaded to 135 pounds that ends in a shoulder press, repeat) alternating with an equal number of pull-ups. For time.

Anyone who can crank out one of those in under half an hour or so satisfies my definition of “core values” no matter how the exercise is named.

Crossfit studs can do it in a shade over 2 minutes.

And that’s before we get to the issue of the “Murph”, named after Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy. Medal of Honor winner. It’s a straightforward drill: Run mile at your best pace followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push ups and 300 body weight squats. Then run a mile again, if you can.

I couldn’t. Did the first bit and then stumbled through 200 squats and half mile at the end and before I called it quits. LT Murphy – God rest his soul – used to do it wearing 50 pounds of body armor.

It’s not just a great workout, that you mightn’t have come upon all on your own. It’s a reminder.

Thus it is that I find the comments of the commanding officer, Center for Personal and Professional Development – whatever that is – unfortunate. The Navy’s Core Values are designed to make each sailor a professional warrior, a part of a team. A team that includes women. A functional fitness program that is leaps and bounds beyond what the Navy itself provides is not to be breezily waved away in the absence of a workable alternative. And a service that uses the pronoun “she” to describe her warships ought to  have no fear of workouts named after women – and heroic men.

“A ship is always referred to as ‘she’ because it costs so much to keep one in powder and paint.”

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex

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