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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Can CrossFit save Men's Gymnastics?

Gymnasts and former gymnasts--raise your hand if you've gotten into CrossFit. Even if you haven't yet, you've probably already heard about how CrossFit draws heavily on gymnastics movements. If you're not in the know, I'll give you a quick rundown.

You'll get there, do a little warm up and stretching (this is where you wow them with the remnants of your flexibility, even if it's not what it used to be). You'll see some rings (no one told them those are only for the boys). You'll get an assignment (a WOD--workout of the day).

Toes to bar--that's leg lifts. But get this--they don't even care about straight legs and pointed toes!

Handstand pushups--just when you thought you'd never do those again. You can offer tips to the others about levering in!

Pull ups--another familiar one.  And don't worry about a dead hang--they're cool with whipping up! They'll tell you that's "kipping," but it's best not to get hung up on the details.

Box jumps--just go up and down, you don't even have to flip!

Rings--so as I mentioned, chicks do rings too. And what everyone tries to do is a muscle up--just go from a hang, up to a straight arm support. Funny thing is, that's not actually a skill in the Code of Points. But if you've never been on a set of rings before, wow, is it hard!

Here--watch David Durante use his gymnastics background to school a bunch of really good athletes.  (There's a whole series of these, and they're all great.)

So clearly this relates to gymnastics, but why is that important?

Because there are gymnastics programs across the country who can't even drum up enough interest to offer even one boys' gymnastics class. And now suddenly at thousands of CrossFit "boxes" there are salesmen and doctors and housewives and teachers who are utterly fixated on accomplishing one gymnastics task that isn't even an actual skill in the code of points.

As a gymnast, don't you feel sort of vindicated? Haven't you been telling everyone all along how gymnastics is the best sport ever, with the best athletes on the planet? People are taking notice! They want a gymnastics-style workout. A MEN'S gymnastics-style workout. And they're not even sticking around for the fun part. They just want conditioning!

So this is a good thing, right? But I have to wonder if USA Gymnastics, FIG, and NCAA gymnastics teams have put much thought into the correlation between the two sports. Because the obvious thing to do at this point is to figure out how gymnastics can capitalize on the public interest in CrossFit. Surely they've noticed that many great gymnasts are going on to be successful CrossFit athletes. Surely they've noticed that CrossFit is really Gymnastics' younger, flashier, more media-savvy cousin.

But it's not just about having a sport for former gymnasts to transition to. It's about riding the wave of CrossFit popularity to potentially rescue men's gymnastics from the brink of extinction!

Many gymnastics facilities already house CrossFit programs because gym owners understand the connection. Now we need to show these CrossFitters that they can use their athleticism to do the fun stuff. We need to lure them to events as spectators because they will be able to appreciate and relate the high difficulty level on display. If there were an official collaboration between the two sports, could CrossFit athletes and their families could fill the stands on discounted tickets and a promise of an open-gym meet-and-greet where they could come try out those rings right next to the guy that just won? Just a thought.

CrossFit people have kids! And they want their kids to grow up with an appreciation of health and fitness. Gymnastics is the perfect sport for the child of a CrossFit enthusiast--they'll acquire strength and discipline and all that good stuff. But kids need incentive. And the incentive, the payoff, is FUN TRICKS.

The recent Men's NCAA Gymnastics Championships attracted an audience of just over 2,560. The CrossFit Games, however, packs stadiums with tens of thousands of fans to watch a championship that been in existence for less than a decade. While colleges across the country are cutting men's gymnastics programs left and right, CrossFit champions are competing for millions of dollars in prize money and endorsements.

Maybe it's a little soon to know if CrossFit will have the staying power of other sports. But the numbers don't lie. Now it's up to the powers that be to seize the day. Carpe Diem, men's gymnastics. What can CrossFit do for you?

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