CF West Santa Cruz athlete Matt T is a firefighter in San Jose. His station got a call to a fire in the dead of night, at 3am. Up and out of sleep fast, onto the truck and off, no warm up or stretching or anything. His truck pulled up in front of the hydrant nose to tail with the truck in front of them and another truck pulled up nose to their tail.
Except the hydrant marked on the map wasn’t there.
Because the three trucks were all parked tightly bumper to bumper, it would have been difficult to move them so that the middle truck, the pumper, could drive to the nearest hydrant, a good 200 yards away. Matt, in full turn outs and oxygen, grabbed the hose and started sprinting towards the hydrant. Fire truck hose is 5 inch hose in 100 foot sections. They are stacked so that they come out in sequential fashion length by length as they are pulled out. Matt pulled out 7 sections as he ran to the hydrant. With each step, the weight he was pulling became heavier and heavier as more and more hose was pulled off the truck. After attaching the hose to the hydrant, Matt, still in full gear, turned around and ran back to the fire, which he then fought with the rest of his crew.
Matt said that without the strength and conditioning he gets from CrossFit, he never could have done that run as quickly as he did. In fact, another fireman who was not carrying any hose could not keep up and had to stop. After his weighted dash, Matt could not stop and rest, but had to keep going as there was a fire to fight. Again, he attributed this to CrossFit.
Matt’s story directly reflects my feelings about CrossFit as a strength and conditioning program unparalleled in the realm of general physical preparedness. My thoughts were succinctly summed up by CrossFit Los Gatos stalwart Chris K in the comments section of the CFLG blog in response to this post. Chris is a high level alpinist and rock climber who regularly climbs and summits peaks all over North America and Europe, and a CrossFit Games competitor–in the Masters Division. Here is the salient part of his comment:
In general terms, if you want to be good at X, train for X by doing X. I saw an interesting illustration of this on my recent climbing trip to Canada. After our aborted attempt on Mt. Athabasca, my friend and I were at an indoor climbing gym on a rainy, stormy day in Canmore, Alberta. A fellow was training there who for years had probably been the greatest ice and mixed climber in the world. He is still close to that now. Well, I was watching this guy do various climbing/cardio workouts, and as one would expect, his performance was stunning. Much of the time I was watching him thinking, there’s no way in hell I could ever do that, but I was also thinking that this ace climber would get buried by any high-end Crossfitter: a number of our boys could do it. Of course neither could they do what he was doing. Which burned into me all the more more the recognition that one needs to train specifically for what one wants to do. That said, there’s a sense in which CrossFit seems broadly applicable in a way that, say, training for climbing per se isn’t. Virtually any athlete could always use more physcial strength, more endurance, more mental toughness, and these are just the things that CrossFit provides in spades. Just the reason I love it….
Broadly applicable is one of the best phrases to describe CrossFit and one that I use often when discussing it with potential trainees. CrossFit seems broadly applicable in a way that many other conditioning programs just aren’t. Of course, broadly applicable is exactly the stated aim of CrossFit, and this is often lost on people who attempt to denigrate CrossFit for its perceived lack of elite athletes. What is also lost upon these people is again the term “broadly applicable”. CrossFit’s main tenets of high intensity functional movement executed across a wide range of modal domains are easily translated into a sport specific strength and conditioning program. Again, it is broadly applicable.
It seems to me that broadly applicable is the ultimate example of CrossFit’s wonderful use of scaling, so often only taken to mean “scaling down” to a level or weight less than the prescribed. Scaling literally means to make something equal to something else, as in balancing the scales. Scaling in CrossFit means to make the workout, the program, equal to who is doing it.
Thus, an elite athlete can make use of CrossFit as a strength and conditioning program, as can a firefighter who can’t get to class as often as he wishes due to a very pregnant wife, as can an alpinist and college professor solidly in the Masters Division. Coach Glassman’s famous quotation that we use universal scalability to make CrossFit viable for everyone and anyone is seen in the light of making CrossFit equal to the needs of each trainee.
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