50 years ago, the Poor People's Campaign advocated for economic justice for poor Americans. What does that fight look like today?
New yoga centers, spinning studios and back-to-basics boot camp programs are sprouting around the region, transforming the fitness landscape. It’s all part of an exploding exercise industry that’s given rise to everything from elite boutique fitness clubs to hardcore Crossfit “boxes.” We look at what’s behind the fitness boom in our region.
- Todd Miller Professor of Exercise Science at George Washington University and Director of the Weight Management and Human Performance Laboratory at the university’s Ashburn campus
- Tom Brose Owner, Crossfit DC
- Perry Stein Reporter, Washington CityPaper
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Fitness trends come and go, remember aerobics, roller blades and the abdomenizer? Those fads may have faded out but trendy new exercise programs in gyms are booming in our region where you can find everything from extreme regimes like boot camp and solid core to elite fitness clubs that feel more like spas.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISo what does it say about us, that there's a yoga studio in a Crossfit box on every newly built block? Joining us to answer this question is Perry Stein, she's a reporter with Washington CityPaper where she is in charge of the city desk. Perry Stein, thank you for joining us.
MS. PERRY STEINThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Tom Brose, he is the owner of Crossfit DC, Tom, thank you for joining us.
MR. TOM BROSEThank you.
NNAMDIAnd Todd Miller heads the Department of Exercise Science in the School of Public Health at George Washington University. Todd, thank you for joining us.
MR. TODD MILLERThank you.
NNAMDIYou too can join this conversation, give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. Do you belong to a gym? Is it a traditional gym or is it new and trendy, 800-433-8850? Perry, in a recent article in CityPaper, you wrote about the fitness boom here in our region. Where were we before this? What did the gym scene look like a decade or so ago? I'll start with you, Todd.
MILLERWell, thank you. I think, that about a decade ago, I would say, that the primary way that people were exercising in terms of gyms were large, big fitness clubs. And, as you said, that is kind of going away and we're seeing this uprising of specialty clubs, smaller clubs with more specific offerings instead of trying to appeal to everyone, they appeal to a smaller type crowd and those things seem to be very popular.
NNAMDIPerry, you tried out a number of the trendy fitness programs available in D.C. today.
NNAMDIGive us a sense of the landscape of fitness programs out there that didn't exist a few years ago.
STEINYeah. I specifically tried these new boutique gyms, these gyms that cost about $30 a pop, many of them, to just do one class. I did Crossfit, Solidcore, these are all new studios that are really rigorous workouts and the people that see going to them are really, largely, really fit people, people that are already in pretty good shape.
NNAMDIAre you now largely fit yourself?
STEINI thought I was, going into this, but I was at the bottom tier of all the classes that I tried.
NNAMDIUh-oh, Todd, one notable trend here and elsewhere is toward extreme workouts. There are a lot of programs out there that now cater to those who want to really exert themselves. Can you talk about what fits into that category?
MILLERI think, things that fit into that category, probably the most popular today, is Crossfit, we've seen that booming in recent years, and I think that if you look at intensity of exercise, it's one of the things that's most effective for getting results. So in general, the greater the intensity of an exercise, the faster your results are going to come. So, I think, that it makes sense that we see these kinds of things for those people who these appeal to, which isn't everybody.
NNAMDIPerry, a number of programs out there could be considered extreme fitness. One of the programs you tried out was called Solidcore, can you talk a little bit about what that entailed?
STEINSolidcore, and I'm not the best with these technical terms, but it was a form of weights that you are on, Pilates like machine and you do high resistance intervals, weights, the whole time, it's not what you would think of, of a fast paced cardio workout but you're always moving, you're always lifting different weights on a machine whether it be with your abs, legs and arms and you leave feeling sore for days afterward.
NNAMDII was about to say, and even though it's not a fast paced cardio workout, it's 50 minutes and at the end of those 50 minutes, how did you feel?
STEINMy legs and muscles, muscles that I did not know I had were shaking, most of the time. And it is fast paced, it's just not like a cardio, running, sprinting type of class.
NNAMDIDid you try it again?
STEINI have not gone again but I would, it is -- I would go again.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number, what fitness trends have you tried and perhaps abandoned over the years, 800-433-8850? You can also shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Tom, one of the hottest trends here and around the country is Crossfit...
NNAMDI...you own Crossfit DC.
NNAMDIFor those who are not familiar with this -- with it, tell us a little bit about that and what the program involves.
BROSEWell, it's a mix of a lot of different, kind of, modalities of training. We have a lot of focus on the technique and development of Olympic weight lifting, power lifting. So we spend a lot of time fine tuning how to snatch, clean, dead-lift, squats, stuff like that and we mix it with a lot of other kind of more cardio-ish type activities, combing that into what most people think of a circuit sometimes. So it's a mix of strength and conditioning.
NNAMDIWhat -- why are Crossfit gyms known as boxes?
BROSEYou know, some people refer to it as that. I'm not too into, kind of, the vernacular of it. We refer to it as a gym. It was originally just the -- instead of a big, lush place with like neon and a front desk and something like that, it was, like, an industrial warehouse. And it was just a big, open box and then you pulled some rowers in and mounted a pull-up bar to the wall and set it up like that.
BROSESo from the initial appearance of the kind of traditional Crossfit gym, people coming from the environment of, what we call, big box gym, would come in there and it would just be a box.
NNAMDIWe're sitting right across the street from a Gold's Gym...
NNAMDI...it doesn’t look like that?
BROSENo, it's a different look.
NNAMDIYou're tired of this question but many people associate Crossfit with a diet known as Paleo, first, what's a Paleo diet and second, are Crossfit and Paleo at all connected?
BROSEWell, they're connected in the sense that there's an overlap with some people. It's not an official part of what we do. The Paleo diet is basically looking to eat more of what ancestrally would've been available and the theory is that it's -- you know, our bodies aren't -- haven't evolved to handle all the processed stuff we have. Some people do it, some people don't, it's not an underlying part of Crossfit, necessarily.
NNAMDITom Brose, he is the owner of Crossfit DC, he joins us in studio, along with Perry Stein, she's a reporter with Washington CityPaper where she's in charge of the city desk and Todd Miller heads the Department of Exercise Science in the School of Public Health at George Washington University. You can join the conversation, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Do you Zumba, Crossfit, Solidcore or boot camp, would you recommend it, 800-433-8850? Perry, you see this growing push, fitness push in D.C. as part of the overall gentrification here, a rapid change that's come to our region, talk about that.
STEINYeah. A lot of people talk about all the new restaurants, the new bars and everything a signifiers as this -- as changing D.C., but you can just as easily look at gyms and the gyms that are popping up, like, I called 14th Street, just gym central. I mean, there are so many gyms on 14th Street opening up every single week, it seems like. And it is wealth, I mean, these are people that are willing to spend $30 a class, hundreds of dollars a month, on their fitness. So this isn't serving -- this is serving a wealthier part of D.C. You look east of the river and there are no gyms like you see.
NNAMDIYeah, we'll talk about that in a second. But when we think of the gentrification or in some cases just the development of D.C., people are thinking theaters, they're thinking restaurants, they're thinking nightclubs, apparently we should also be thinking gyms, right?
STEINDefinitely. It's trendy, it's -- you see it in New York, you see it in cities where there are young, educated people and that's the population that these gyms are largely serving.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones, here is Shawna in Frederick, Md. Shawna, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHAWNAHi there, Kojo, thank you for taking my call. I was responding to what you were talking about as far as the trends of fitness that are going around. I've not tried Crossfit or not Zumba either but one of the things that really appeals to me was the trend of poll dancing as fitness classes. I did actually a stair class when I was pregnant because I couldn't do the high impact, cardio stuff that I was used to doing, which was like at a Planet Fitness thing because I was more like a, you know, get in, get out, do my routine, you know, and move on with life kind of girl.
SHAWNABut, you know, I wanted to keep fit and, you know, as many women can attest to feeling probably the least sexy in the latter months of their pregnancy, I found that doing the chair dancing classes was a really great way to kind of revitalize my sense of femininity and also stay in shape as the months were going by and my tolerance for lots of movement was dwindling.
NNAMDIPerry, is poll dancing still a hot trend? I got the impression that it was a hotter trend before.
STEINYeah, I hadn't, in my research for this, which was looking at, like, kind of, the newest clubs that were opening up, I didn't try a poll dancing class but I know that there are some that exist and people still do go to them.
NNAMDIShawna, are you still going?
SHAWNAI am still here, yes.
NNAMDIAre you still going to poll dancing classes?
SHAWNAOh, oh, that's a -- well, unfortunately, the one that was around my way closed. I see, a lot of times, something's like Groupon and Living Social deals for the area of D.C. where they do still have these classes. If there was one that opened up in the area, I certainly would do it again. But I thought it was a lot of fun.
NNAMDIDid you also want to say something about catered classes?
SHAWNANot specifically just that...
SHAWNA...it was a kind of thing that seemed to represent and appeal to a specific demographic, it was appealing to me as, like I said, a woman late in my pregnancy and...
SHAWNA...it seemed catered in that way, yeah.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. On now to Matthew in Roanoke, Va. Matthew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATTHEWYes, I basically I used to do Crossfit and I got out of it a couple of years ago and have been back at the Y and actually I miss Crossfit, I want to go back and I wanted to kind of comment on some of the reasons why I miss it.
MATTHEWYou know, really, I just miss the direction and the enforced disciple of going to Crossfit, you know, compared to going to the Y. You know, when you go to Crossfit, you walk in the door, your workout is posted for you, you don't have to think about it. You really don't have a choice, you have to do the strenuous exercise and you don't really have a choice about it whereas you go the Y and you kind of poke around and you go, ooh, this feels good, you know.
MATTHEWMy bicep is getting a workout, okay, that's good but at the end of the day I feel like with Crossfit, I had better direction and better discipline and that gave me better results, overall. And...
NNAMDITom, do you see that as one of the advantages of Crossfit?
BROSESure, absolutely, I mean, we think that the benefit of Crossfit spans a lot of different things but a huge part of it is coaching and community. So you can get really, really fit in your garage with minimal equipment but it's a lot easier to do that in a setting that's conducive to it and, you know, from the aspect of, if you're doing burpee's or rowing intervals or something like that, you're gonna go harder and push yourself when you have your friends there, when you're trying to finish before someone or when your friends are cheering you on.
BROSEAnd the other part of it is, certainly, the movement with a bit of information you can do on your own but you're not gonna excel at them and it's not as safe working on complex things like Olympic lifting without someone giving you fine tuned directions. So everybody needs that adjustment and have eyes on them and that's a big part of what we...
NNAMDII have a challenge for you, for our listeners who don't really understand it, describe a burpee.
BROSEA burpee is just standing, you're just gonna drop down, chest to the floor, come back up and jump and clap overhead.
NNAMDIYes, I had to YouTube it to see what it was but, Todd, there's also a feeling, not only of obligation that Matthew points out here, but maybe a feeling of camaraderie in a lot of these programs. Does that help people stick to exercise programs?
MILLERYeah, there's no question about that. And I think that's one of the best things -- probably, in my opinion, the best thing -- about Crossfit and these other type of sort of very specific type things, is that sense of community. We've looked at people who go to regular big gyms. And we've surveyed these individuals. And one of the things that they've all said really helps them stick to their exercise program is doing things with a group of like-minded people who are all heading in the same direction.
MILLERAnd I think that Crossfit, regardless of how you feel about it, Crossfit, I think, does that, in my opinion, better than anything I've ever seen, any fitness craze I've ever seen or any trend I've ever seen. So I think that if that, in and of itself, helps people to continue on with their exercise program, you know, looking at that from a public health perspective, I think that's a great thing because we need to do anything that we can to get people up and moving.
NNAMDISome of this extreme fitness involves what in other spheres would be seen as, well, hard labor, hoisting sledge hammers, running 10K obstacle courses. What do you think attracts people to exert themselves in this manner?
MILLERWell, there's something -- I don't know how to say it other than the fact that there's something inherently fun about hitting a tire with a sledgehammer. That's a lot more exciting and sexy than running on a treadmill. So I think that people like variety. And people are more likely to do things that are exciting to them. And if somebody loves walking or running on a treadmill, then that's great. That's what they should do.
MILLERBut for a lot of people, these other things that are new and different and exciting, that's what they need to stick to their program. And if they can do that safely and it's effective at giving them results, then I see no reason why not to do it.
NNAMDIPerry, these are also people, many of us who generally sit at a desk all day long. Perhaps that has something to do with the attraction, you think?
STEINDefinitely. It's definitely an outlet for the people that I saw. The people that I met at these classes were, you know, working people who had long jobs and worked really hard. And when it came to Crossfit, I delved into this a little bit in the story, but it is a big social scene. They seem to go out, hang out outside of the gym. So…
NNAMDIAnd as a friend of mine used to say -- speaking of social scenes -- he said, "I work out so that I can drink." It's because I have to stay in some kind of shape. Tom, you say you can always spot the ex-athletes. How? And why do you think they and other people are drawn to Crossfit and other programs like it?
BROSEI'm not sure you can always spot the ex-athletes. They're drawn to it -- I think a lot of people -- we do get people coming from an athletic background. And they find that they're missing that sense of team -- is a huge thing, more so than the exertion, I think. Working with other people, training for a goal and a lot of people can find their sport in Crossfit. Most sports that people would play high school/collegiate, there's not a lot of outlet for post-school. And this gives them an outlet to have a team environment, to train for a goal, to work together towards something and to really push themselves.
NNAMDIIn addition to the team factor, I talked with people who have been -- who are ex-college athletes. And I was a jogger for, oh, 40 or so years. And they always said, "It's just not enough. I was used to having a much more rigorous exercise than that when I was an athlete. And so any time I try to work out now and do the things that just kind of keep in shape, it's not enough for me and so I quit."
BROSESure. One of things that -- to me, is that, you know the whole topic is this extreme exercise, it's this new push to extreme. We don't consider this new or extreme. We consider this things that people have done for generations. And it's not extreme. It's just getting away from the concept of easing into it. You know, what you've been basically sold over the last 30 years or so is that exercise can be really comfortable. You know, go in, you just do a little bit of this, you sit on the recumbent bike and read People Magazine.
BROSEAnd that doesn't make any change in people's lives. I mean, it's better than nothing, but it's the first step above better than nothing. So the, you know, people who don't find what their -- anything to motivate them or get any gain from need to look to something more.
NNAMDIDo you agree, Todd Miller?
MILLERI think I generally agree with that. There is a lot of fitness machines and things like that that try and give you the perception that the activity is relatively easy. And if you perceive the exercise as easy, that's because it probably is easy. And, again, being a public health person, we know the challenge it is to get people up and moving. So if it's hard enough just to get them on a treadmill, it's going to be much harder to tell them, okay, now, we're going to do something as intense as a Crossfit workout.
MILLERSo, you know, it's not everybody, but again, I think that I agree with Tom, that it's not anything new. It's the kind of stuff that if people were doing, as a whole, if society was -- were doing these high-intensity types of exercises safely, then I think from a health perspective we'd be in a much better position.
NNAMDII'm glad you pointed out about exercise programs that are, in fact, easy. A lot of programs have long promised big results with minimal effort. That doesn't really work, does it?
NNAMDIThis is the reverse of that. You work hard, does it payoff?
MILLERYeah, the harder you work, the greater the payoff. And that's the difficulty, or at least that's where the challenge comes in, is making the exercises difficult, but not so difficult that you increase the risk of injury to the point where somebody gets hurt. And that's the fine line that needs to be walked.
NNAMDII think if you're exercising hard and exercising well, as I used to say, I like having worked out because it makes me feel better. But the workout isn't always fun, is it? I mean, it's hard.
BROSEYeah, sure it's hard. I think a lot of people find value in challenging themselves.
BROSEOr find value in exertion. And, you know, one of the reasons I think stuff like this has grown really rapidly in a city like Washington, is we have people who are driven people. Their motivation isn't to go sit on the couch and, you know, watch, you know, a "Law and Order" marathon every day after work. They want to push themselves. And that some of the reasons why they're successful in maybe their professional realms and enjoy what they do.
BROSEBut it is fun. I mean, we want to make sure people enjoy themselves. It's not a sense of dread. When they come in they might be like, oh, man, this one's going to be tough today. But they're looking forward to it. And they leave feeling great.
NNAMDIPerry, is that a part of the Washington culture, this urge, this pressure to succeed, to do well, because that's why people come here?
STEINYeah, I mean, I think there's definitely a big component to that. I think that probably if you look at New York, the New York fitness boutique scene, the L.A. boutique fitness scene, I imagine the demographics are somewhat similar, in terms of who's using them, in terms of educated, wealthy, young people. But, yeah, D.C. people -- you look at D.C. It's the early classes and the last classes that are always booked the fastest, which suggests that people are working full time and doing it before work and doing it after work and making that a priority.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back we will continue with our fall membership campaign. But after that, we'll be continuing with this conversation on extreme fitness. So if you have called, stay on the line. If you'd like to, the number is 800-433-8850. Do you belong to a gym? Is it a traditional gym, is it new, is it trendy? What fitness trends have you tried over the years? 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about extreme fitness. We're talking with Todd Miller. He heads the Department of Exercise Science in the School of Public Health at George Washington University. Perry Stein is a reporter with Washington City Paper. She is also in charge of the city desk there. And Tom Brose is the owner of Crossfit D.C. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Todd, another question that comes up a lot when talking about extreme fitness programs and Crossfit in particular, what about injuries?
MILLERWell, as we said, any exercise is going to be more effective the more intense that exercise is performed. And there's a paper that's recently -- it's actually in press right now -- looking at injury rates in Crossfitters. And the Crossfit injury rate is about the same as it is for gymnastics, power lifting and Olympic weight lifting. So -- and Crossfit is promoted often as a sport. They call it the sport of fitness. So like other sports it has some sort of risk attached to it.
MILLERWhether or not that injury is something that's going to happen to somebody is really dependent on the preparation that they have when they're doing the activity and how the Crossfit coach who is training them can determine where they are in terms of their fitness levels. And I'm sure Tom can speak more about that, but when somebody begins taking Crossfit it's really important that wherever they're training the owners of that gym or the trainers of that gym are able to properly assess where that person is so that injury risk is minimized to as little as possible.
NNAMDIThere's a particular injury that was a rare, but is associated with extreme fitness programs. What's rhabdo -- if I pronounced it correctly?
MILLERRhabdo is -- that's the shortened version for rhabdomyolysis. And rhabdo is a disorder where the muscles are worked to a point where they are damaged to a point where they start leaking proteins out into the circulation. And those proteins can then go to the kidney and cause kidney failure. It's a very dangerous situation. And it can -- it used to be very rare.
MILLERIt used to be that it was really only seen -- exertional rhabdo -- in military individuals, boot camp, that kind of thing. It is on the rise. Partially due to extreme type workouts. I think the most -- probably the most notorious case, in 2011, there were 13 University of Iowa football players who were hospitalized following some intense workouts. They weren't Crossfit workouts. They were just workouts that they were doing with their strength and conditioning staff.
MILLERAnd again, it's in the paper -- I should say in the paper that looked at injuries among crossfitters, there were no cases of rhabdo in that paper. They were all shoulder injuries and those kinds of things. So it's -- this is why it's critically important to make sure that the trainers that you're working with are able to scale these workouts to a point where it is applicable and makes sense for wherever that person is at in their fitness level.
NNAMDIPerry, in the program that you tried out, you said you were feeling sore at the end, solid core, but no injury.
STEINNo injury, no.
NNAMDIThat meant that you were in pretty good shape going in, presumably?
STEINI hope so. We can say that, yeah.
NNAMDITom, what about injuries and what do you do to avoid it?
BROSEWell, there's -- needs to be a focus on progressive approach to it. So Crossfit certainly we try to find methodologies that have the most kind of impact and most bang for your buck because that's what's going to be effective. So at Crossfit DC, we're very focused on starting people off gradually, teaching the movements. We have a six-session course we make everyone go through ahead of time to teach the movements outside of the workout setting.
BROSETeach alignment, work on them understanding our cuing. So when we give people corrections, they know what that means and gradually building up their tolerance. We get to know the people, get to see how they move, correct that. They get to -- an understanding of what we're looking for. And then as we move them into our general class structure, we make individual adjustments on that. So we do that constantly with everyone.
BROSEAnd, you know, one of the things that I found is that people are saying about the injuries, the injuries, the injuries. We've had, you know, through hundreds of thousands of workouts we've put people through, a handful of minor injuries. We, you know, people make it seem like there's going to be, like, a line of ambulances waiting outside of a Crossfit gym. We don't see that at all. We see a very safe approach.
BROSEWe see people make really good changes and get what they're looking for. There, you know, with anything there is that risk and someone could tweak a shoulder or an ankle or something like that. And we've had a few of those, but it's very few and far between.
NNAMDIBefore I go to the phones, there's an email that we got from Andrew in D.C. "I'm a lifelong competitive athlete and I'm drawn to the idea of Crossfit because of what your guests say -- team atmosphere, coached environment, focus on fitness, et cetera. But what gives me pause are the cases of severe injury that circulate around Crossfit because of improper coaching and a focus on the ends and not the means. How do you really know if your instructors are fully qualified to coach?"
BROSEI think a couple of things is one going in and observe. Ask if you can watch a class. I think, generally, watch if you can -- if there's an entry process for people. People will say, oh, you're an athlete, great. Jump into this class. You can learn to snatch as you go. No, that's not a good sign. If you're going to do an individual assessment, if you're going to look at what people's capabilities are, their movement patterns, if there's an on-ramp process, I think that's a really good sign.
BROSEAnd watch and see. Go to a class and look. Is the instructor working out with the class? Is the instructor go three, two and go and cranks the music and then, you know, gets on their laptop? Those are warning signs. And, you know, if the instructor's focused on the people and making corrections, keeping an eye on everyone, modifying movements as need, you know, our approach is that we're always active in watching our people and making the adjustments we need. I think that's a good sign.
NNAMDITodd Miller, there may be new rules around certification for trainers. Can you talk about that and how it might help?
MILLERYeah, I can. There -- I will say that the training issue is something that plagues all facets of the fitness industry. There is very little regulation on what constitutes a personal trainer. Pretty much anybody can say they're a personal trainer with really no qualification whatsoever. And that's how the District is right now. But the District has recently passed legislation where anybody who trains in the District is going to have to have some type of credentialing or certification or regulation.
MILLERIt's just that that has not been defined what that is going to be yet. And that has been handed -- the charge to do that has been handed off to the D.C. Board of Physical Therapy. So the D.C. Board of Physical Therapy is going to make a determination as to what qualifications trainers in the District will need in order to work in D.C. And I think we are going to see that kind of thing happening nationwide in terms of whether -- I'm not sure whether it'll licensure of trainers or educational standards for trainers.
MILLERBut I think that needs to happen. The major fitness industry players think that needs to happen. And it looks like that's what's coming down the pipe nationwide.
NNAMDIIs that something you're in favor of, Tom?
BROSEI think that there needs to be a higher standard of knowledge in the general realm of training. I don't see how the D.C. government taking that on is really going to help, to be honest with you. And I -- I'm not sure -- there's not any one kind of overlying standard of what constitutes good training. And you're going to have people really pushing for basically what they can provide as an education service to be what's recognized.
BROSESo I think a lot of people are going to be really in that for basically what they can get out of it financially and how it affects them as opposed to what's going to better serve public health.
NNAMDIIf you have called, stay on the line, we will get to your calls, 800-433-8850 is the number. What fitness trends have you tried and perhaps maybe abandoned over the years? Do you Zumba, Crossfit, Solid Core or Boot Camp? Would you recommend it? 800-433-8850. Perry, what was your experience with Solid Core? Did you find that the person who was assigned to you was fairly attentive?
STEINYeah, they were. I would say the one thing I was impressed throughout all the classes that I tried was it was a very personal experience. I watched one of Tom's classes, everyone knows your name. They're attentive to you. You're paying a lot of money and they, all the instructors that I came across were very attentive and seem to know your background, any injuries you may have and asked.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Jerry in Fairfax who writes, "I'm a longtime weightlifter and certified CF instructor. Unfortunately, there is zero quality control for CF trainers. It's an incredibly easy certification. In particular, most CF instructors, not members but instructors are incapable of teaching and performing the Olympic lifts currently at moderate weights. This is the source of many of the shoulder and back injuries." "There are CF instructors," that is Crossfit, "but they are in the minority." Todd Miller?
MILLERWell, I think that that's a pretty blanket statement to say...
MILLERBut I will say that that is something, again, that plagues the entire fitness industry. Now, you can walk into any big commercial gym and maybe you'll get a very -- a qualified trainer and maybe you won't. So I just don't think that we can generalize and say the majority of Crossfit trainers don't know what they're doing. I don't think that's fair.
NNAMDIWell, let's hear from JC in Alexandria, VA who wants to weigh in on this. JC, your turn.
JCYes, I just published a book called "Learning to Breathe Fire," which is a cultural analysis of Crossfit.
JCAnd I wanted to make a point about, you know, people saying this is only affluent, well-educated, type A professionals because what I've seen in my travels is what I call a mixture of white collar, blue collar and (word?) collar. Yes, there's real estate agents and orthodontists, but a lot of them are doctors or firefighters, military, law enforcement. And one of the reasons it's so popular in Washington, D.C. is there are so many military folks who do this as part of their physical training because that's part of their job.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for you call.
BROSEJC, I really enjoyed your book. I thought it was a great read as well.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, JC. Perry, D.C. is now the fittest city in the country, at least according to a ranking earlier this year by the American College of Sports Medicine. But as you were pointing out earlier and I'd like you to expand on it now, this is not spread evenly across the city. Where are we not seeing these new fitness Meccas?
STEINEast of the river, for one, and in places -- in lower income communities in D.C. That -- the ranking has been touted by the mayor and a lot of people. And one thing that I bring up in this article is if -- if this were really about making D.C. a more fit city, you know, decreasing the obesity rates, no one would have really distributed these new boutique fitness gyms the way that they are.
NNAMDITom, you would like to cater to a broader range of clientele. What are some of the challenges?
BROSERent, you know, expenses. Getting a small business started is not that easy. And people look at Crossfit and think, okay, you can have 200 people paying $200 a month, you're making a huge profit. But there's a lot of cost associated with it and building out a place. So certainly getting up and running, you know, the finances -- to be an independent small business person is not that easy. And I'm lucky I have a couple of good business partners that we have been able to make some ground on it.
BROSEBut you need to get up and running. You need to cover your expenses. And that makes it hard to start doing things that generate no income. So we're, you know, always looking to try to help people. We have some people that we know we kind of sponsor as they're not financially able to do. But it's not something that, you know, we just look at and say, okay, we're going to charge as much and rake in the money. Business costs a lot.
NNAMDIWe asked earlier what fitness trends have you tried? And so we heard from Carmen in Bethesda, MD. Carmen, your turn.
CARMENHi, Kojo, thank you for taking my call.
CARMENI just want to talk about Brazilian jiu jitsu because that's what I currently do. I think it's a really practical martial art. You basically are learning how to wrestle. So it's kind of a ground game. And especially as a woman, I find it really, really useful, not that I feel in danger in any way in Bethesda or D.C. But I feel more confident that I know that I can do certain moves while on the ground. And I think it's great.
CARMENI mean, the community is so supportive and so kind. And I know a few of the people in my gym have done Crossfit. I currently go to Lineage in Rockville. So...
CARMENThe coach is amazing.
NNAMDIBrazilian jiu jitsu. Well, Carmen, hold on the line for a second and hear what Jay in Washington, D.C. has to say. Jay, you're on the air, go ahead please.
JAYHey, thanks, Kojo. Big fan of the show. And just to echo what Carmen said, I've been doing Brazilian jiu jitsu for about 10 years. And there's a lot of parallels to the appeal of Crossfit as well, that camaraderie and, you know, the team atmosphere. And it just a heck of a workout as well. I mean, the self-defense aspect, I almost see that as a happy side effect. I've been training with Capital MMA for -- ever since I've lived in the District, again, about 10, 11 years. And you get addicted not only to the art itself but also to the community around it. I can definitely see the parallels in Crossfit.
NNAMDICarmen, how do you feel about that?
CARMENI totally agree. There's so much support, especially if you decide that you want to compete in competitions or actually so many places where you can go. You can grapple quest, you can do New York Open, Boston Open. So they really -- everyone is really into your becoming...
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly. But, Perry Stein, that's your next assignment, Brazilian jiu jitsu.
STEINI'm in, yes.
NNAMDIOkay, look out Perry Stein will be singing soon. We're running out of time. Very quickly, Todd Miller, but there are rec centers all over the city. But those might not take the place of gyms. How important is it in your view that there should be commercial gyms in places like Ward 7 and Ward 8 in the city?
MILLERI think it's very important, because as we said, exercise is something that's very individualized. And a lot of people like to go to big commercial gyms. And they want to have a multitude of different offerings rather than something very specific. So I think the more opportunities there are for everybody everywhere to get out and find something that they like and that they will do consistently, the better off society is going to be as a whole.
NNAMDITodd Miller heads the Department of Exercise Science and the School of Public Health at George Washington University. Tom Brose is the owner of Crossfit DC. Perry Stein is a reporter of Washington CityPaper who has written about extreme fitness and who now moves on to Brazilian jiu jitsu. She's also in charge of the city desk there. Thank you all for joining us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
We discuss the results of Washington, D.C.'s primaries, look forward to November's general election, and talk about the District's decision on the contentious Initiative 77.
The unpaid rite of passage known as the internship has evolved under pressure and lawsuits, and now many organizations pay all interns for their work. The U.S. Senate will soon follow suit.
Juneteenth commemorates the day the last slaves were freed in Texas. How does the region celebrate this holiday?