My little cousin’s dirty little secret

Anton Kovalyov
4 min readSep 25, 2013

Earlier this year I got injured. For the next few months, I was unable to do most of my workouts and had to put my Krav Maga training on hold. At times my pain was so bad I couldn’t hold any object heavier than a mobile phone. So, how did I get injured?

First, a bit of background about me. Until two and a half years ago I wasn’t doing anything. I was a thin, unhealthy computer programmer who sat in his chair all day and couldn’t lift his own body weight even if his life depended on it. Then I started doing CrossFit and today I do CrossFit workouts 3-4 times per week as well as supplemental strength training 2-3 times per week. Sometimes I also do sprint training. So, basically, I do some kind of a workout almost every day.

So, how did I get injured? I was playing with my little cousin on a children’s playground in New York. I was throwing her in the air and jammed my finger. In my defense, she was yelling at me to throw her higher and higher in the air.

Of course, immediately after the incident, I went on the Internet and told everyone to stop playing with their little cousins and siblings because it might hurt you. I felt really good about myself.

As you might have already guessed, the last paragraph is a lie. But this is about how I felt when I read the CrossFit’s Little Dirty Secret the other day. Its author presented anecdotal evidence without any actual numbers and then concluded that doing CrossFit is not worth the risk. I won’t be doing a point-by-point response to that article because, quite frankly, there isn’t much to respond to. A cartoon from an article from eight years ago? One anecdote from the author’s life?

Besides, my problem is not with its attack on CrossFit. My problem is that such articles needlessly scare off people who can otherwise become stronger, faster and healthier with exercise. These people read these articles, conclude that its not worth the risk and continue with their beer-soda-and-pizza filled road towards heart disease and diabetes. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any criticism—I think there should be plenty—but CrossFit’s Little Dirty Secret was clearly written to spread FUD (fear-uncertainty-doubt) among general population.

If you think this affects only CrossFit, you’re wrong. Pick almost any sport and there will be someone on the Internet, who doesn’t have anything to show for them besides a clever username,who will tell you how that sport sucks and how top athletes are not healthy people. You like running? Don’t you know it screws up your knees and ankles? You like Olympic weightlifting? Didn’t you see that video of a dude dropping 400lb. on his neck? You like playing football or soccer? Don’t you know they cause head injuries?

Then there are Internet experts who will tell you how this particular branch of this particular sport doesn’t do everything with the perfect form. Jesus tap-dancing Christ. If you’re in the office right now stand up and look around. Do you see how people sit in their chairs? Slouching and everything? People can’t even sit properly nowadays—do you seriously think a little exercise with a slightly less perfect form will make it worse?

These articles and comments, aimed to spread FUD among general population, are harmful. They are especially harmful in a country with more than one-third of adults being obese. Do whatever sport or exercise program you want. Train for a race, learn new sports, learn how to lift weights, join a CrossFit gym or do whatever other type of exercise you enjoy [1]. Chances are, whatever you pick will be better than doing nothing and being a vegetable.

As for the threat of over-training, most of us are not at the point (and will probably never be at that point) where there’s a serious risk of over-training. To paraphrase CT Fletcher, people who talk too much about over-training often aren’t worried about over-training, they are worried about working.

P. S.

There was also a top-rated comment on Hacker News about top CrossFit athletes not training using normal CrossFit methods. This is probably true but we’re talking about top 40-50 athletes out of hundreds of thousands participating in the CrossFit Open event. To win the finals they need to get an edge over other top athletes. This means they pick a few things and train specifically for these things with waves of metabolic conditioning right before the competition.

But guess what, the best sprinters in the world also don’t just sprint all day every day. Same with the best soccer players, and the best football players and pretty much every other top athlete out there.

Besides, if you need to read these articles you’re not one of these people so let’s become fit first and think about winning the Games later.

[1] — Except for curling in a squat rack. That’s just wrong.

Anton Kovalyov