Butting Heads: Gym Rat Race

Sumo Style: Can you trust Coppolillo?Our intrepid blogger Rob Coppolillo noticed that the most response he got to a post was when he called CrossFit CrossFat. Which got us to wondering just what all those legions of CrossFit junkies were doing in their gyms. So we asked our readers whether they thought CrossFit was core or cult. A flame war ensued and you were split down the middle, half of you love the workout, half think it’s crack. So to sort things out we brought Coppolillo back and faced him off against CrossFit convert Allison Pattillo.


I don’t particularly enjoy gyms, and until I started CrossFit last year, hadn’t crossed the threshold of one since the 90’s. But, with youth in the rearview, it was time to look beyond grunting men chugging ground-up monkey muscle powder while banging weight plates around like caveman clubs, and add strength training to my battle plan. CrossFit was new to the valley, and its claim of “broad, general and inclusive fitness” sounded ideal. No, it’s not a personally tailored plan, but workouts are scalable based on abilities and have more structure than anything I was doing on my own.

I’m a runner, and, as such, like the routine of my workouts—distance day, speed day, hill day, etc. CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman, says, “routine is the enemy”, thus a daily CF workout focuses on various muscle confusion inducing activities.

Post class, my muscles are definitely confused—pissed is more like it. Mountain athlete programs claim longer workouts. Good for them. The benefit of a session is in direct correlation to the effort you give, and after a year of CrossFit, I’ve busted out of a ten-year fitness plateau and become stronger in all my sports.

I incorporate one or two classes into my weekly training program, but adaptability rules. Jungle gyms are great for pull-ups (deadhangs for Neanderthals, efficient kipping for a full-body workout), rocks and logs make good box jumps and you can drop for push-ups and planks anywhere.

Rob’s beloved ATC touts Mountain Athlete-esque exercises, like tire drags and sandbag get-ups, with the option of a climbing focus. Functionality? If my dog’s survival depends upon me completing an obstacle course and bagging negative pitches, with a 40-pound sack of kibble on my back, he can go live with Coppo.

I don’t hate ATC, in fact, I’ve never tried it—not an option up here in dueling banjo country. Whatever works to get someone off the couch and away from their box of Ding-Dongs is fine by me. As for Coppo, I think he’s just jealous about my one year CF anniversary tramp stamp. The whole class got one….

– Allison Pattillo is a freelance writer and former editor at Trail Runner magazine.


If you’re going to talk big, then you’d best go big–and therein lies the problem with CrossFad. I had such high hopes. Friends had gushed and I’d read the hype: Forging elite fitness. Special forces and police academies use our system. The ultimate test of fitness.

I arrived for my first session and the six-or-so guys all warned, “Oh, dude, you showed up on a hard night!” Mellow warm-up, sub-20-minute workout, done. Huh?

A few more sessions and I just couldn’t do it anymore: the caterwauling about the paleo diet and CrossFit Games. Pics of shredded palms from “kipping pull-ups”–a variety of short-bus pull-up the CrossFitters love. I bailed.

Long story short, the Fitters were aghast when I found a gym I liked more. I blogged about it, poked some fun, the caterwauling recommenced, and now it’s come to this.

I’ll say it again: talk big, go big. If they didn’t talk so much, nobody would care. But they do: a quote in the New York Times from Fad-founder, Greg Glassman: “If you find the notion of falling off the rings and breaking your neck so foreign…then we don’t want you in our ranks.”

The same New York Times article revealed The Founder is 5’7”, 185 lbs., and no longer partakes in his peerless system. No problem, bud, I’ll go elsewhere. (welcome to American Gladiators for the new millennium, friends) lists its rules, of which number 11 demands, “You MUST brag about your CrossFit workouts…” Emphasis theirs.

Problem is, there is so little to brag about. How can you forge elite fitness with 15 minutes of front squats one day and 200 short-bus pull-ups the next? A little workout produces a little fitness…and guess what a bigger workout does?

After a few months of CrossFit, I’d recommend trying The Alpine Training Center (ATC), Mountain Athlete or Gym Jones. No Lululemon hot pants, no caterwauling, no shortcuts, no kooky diets, no black Nikes, no time for Games or Fads. Just athletes hurting in the gym and going huge outside, where it counts and where it’s fun. And the ATC even lets muffin-topped 41-year-old writers work out there. Just imagine what they could do with a minx like Allison? Come see!

– You can find EO blogger and AMGA Guide Rob Coppolillo working out at the ATC.

Readers Response from the Web

It’s a shame the CrossFitters throw around more pseudoscientific claptrap than they do weights. It’s rare to find a CF instructor who actually knows much about physiology and the latest research on training. They’re still stuck on outdated stuff like tabatas, stupid exercises that are prescriptions for injury, and mouth off way too much about the paleo-eating nonsense.


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