CrossFit a Cult? Don’t Believe the Hype

Of recent there have been a lot of articles posted online or printed in magazines regarding the phenomenon that is CrossFit and its recent peak in popularity.  Traditional health and fitness staples such as Men’s Health, Self, and numerous others have all offered their perspective on CrossFit and it’s “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement” prescription for losing weight and getting in shape.  It is no secret that I myself have been doing CrossFit for over a year…and I love every second of it.  Most media outlets have viewed the dedication that those have to CrossFit as they view members participating in a cult.  Is CrossFit a cult?  What is a cult?  What does that exactly mean?  Why does everyone have such a negative connotation around the word “cult”?

Whenever I find myself looking for understanding of a particular word…I resort to looking at a definition of the word to provide a basis for my understanding.  Being that I haven’t even seen a dictionary in the last 5 years…I’ve resorted to dictionary.com as my go to destination for all things definition.  When I enter the word “cult” into the browser…here is what is provided as the definition:

Cult, noun –
1.   a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
2.  an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
3.  the object of such devotion.
4.  a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
5.  Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
Let’s get this straight before I go into a discussion on each one of these definitions.  I love doing CrossFit.  I try to make it to the “Box” (what us that do CrossFit refer to our gym as) a minimum of 3 times per week.  Before our second came along…I was actually attending classes 5 times per week and loving every minute of it.  When our new one arrived…knowing I would not be able to make it into the box as much…I went ahead and built a box in my garage.  I was and am extremely dedicated to CrossFit.  But I digress…
Breaking down the definition of a cult…I see no where in any of the definitions that point to a cult being a bad thing.  The first definition, at least for me, does not apply.  I do not see CrossFit as a religion.  I am sure that some do…but for me and I’d say about 95% of the others out there who do CrossFit…it is a passion…not a religion.  Which brings us to the second definition…an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers.  I’d have to say that this is a fit description of CrossFit.  Those who do CrossFit…and there are many…love CrossFit.  They enjoy the workouts, the community, and the challenge that the methodology and movements it requires.  Crossfit certainly qualifies as a thing…so I would have to say that according to this definition of CrossFit…it is a cult.  But then again…so is any organization or thing that has a large following…such as…lets say NFL football fans.
The third listed definition…the object of such devotion…might also fit when describing CrossFit for some people.  Going to excersize 5 times per week may definitley point towards devotion…but I feel as though the devotion I have is to be physically fit…not necessarily for the construct that is CrossFit.  I am devoted to my wife…I am devoted to my family…but am I devoted to CrossFit…well…sure.
The fourth definition is just another way of stating the second definition…there is a group of people who venerate around the same thing…so no need to go over points already made.  The fifth definition centers again around religion and for me…does not apply to CrossFit.  It is something I love to do…but it is not something I pray to or think has a spiritual power…though workouts like Fran often have me thanking God that I made it through alive.
So back to the guiding question…is CrossFit a cult?  If you were to go by the strict definition of what a cult is…then I would have to say the answer to that question is a resounding yes.  But why…if the definition of a cult has no indication of negativity…do people think this is a bad thing?  Society is to blame.  The Media is to blame.  In our society only the negative news gets the spotlight…activities of cults that perform heinous acts get coverage on the national news and as a result the world paints a negative picture of anything classified as a cult or cult-like.  For me…and I am sure anyone who you ask that does or is devoted to CrossFit…go ahead and call it what you’d like.  But I dare you to grab a kettle bell…grab a pull-up bar…grab a seat on a rower…participate in a CrossFit workout and then you let me know if you still believe all of the negativity around CrossFit as a cult.  I’ll put my money on you being back for more…yet another member of the cult that is CrossFit.

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