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CrossFit Games and “The Fittest on Earth”

This weekend marked the 10th running of the CrossFit Games, dating back to 2007, whose stated mission is to find the fittest man and woman on Earth. It is a lofty goal to be sure, and in some ways, they have done that. Since the end of the games on Sunday, I have had multiple people come up to me and mention just how incredible they found the athletes, and how inspiring the entire event was for them. However, things always get a little bit dicey when you say something as an absolute. The question, then, is, how do we know if the male and female champion (Mat Fraser and Katrin Davidsdottir) are truly the fittest people on the planet? We know they won the CrossFit Games, but is that enough?

To begin, we have to consider what is considered “fit”? Some people believe that specialization is fitness. Under this line of thought, Usain Bolt and JJ Watt are equally as fit as the other. Bolt has specialized in running extremely fast in a straight line, Newton in being the best football player he can possibly be. As last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, it is fair to say he is currently the best in the world at that. However, if you put the each one of them in the other’s position, neither would be at the level he is now. JJ Watt would almost certainly not be winning the 100m dash at the Olympic Games in Rio, and one doubts that Usain Bolt could win the most prestigious award for a defensive football player. What is the answer? Are they equally fit? CrossFit would argue certainly not.

In keeping with our example of Usain Bolt and JJ Watt, we should compare them across modalities. In deadline speed, Bolt most certainly wins. He is the fastest man the world has ever seen, and holds every record imaginable. However, what about overall strength? Watt, however, is 290 pounds, and has one of the most incredible combine result boards ever seen. To put strength against speed, Watt benched 225 pounds 34 times at the combine. I doubt that Bolt would put up anything past 10. He is built to be as lean and sleek as possible. If he benches at all, I would be slightly surprised. In our example, Watt certainly wins a test of strength, and Bolt wins a test of speed. So we are back to square one. This is what CrossFit addresses.

This year at the games, the events were truly a spectrum of fitness. There was a 5 mile trail run (endurance), the dreaded workout “Murph” (bodyweight and endurance testing) as well as a squat clean ladder (strength) and a deadlift ladder that ended at 615 pounds for the men (strength). While Fraser did not win all of these, he consistently placed highly in each event. This is the idea of the CrossFit Games. Be extremely good at all facets of fitness, so that you can perform well no matter what situation you find yourself in. Basically, it is the polar opposite to sport specific training, and in my opinion is the best option to lay a foundation for general health and fitness. However, it is not fair to say that Fraser or Davidsdottir is a better athlete than, say, Watt or Bolt, as the sports in which they compete are completely different from one another. 

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