in Health/Strength

CrossFit’s Pukie the Clown: Your symbols signal what you value

CrossFit's Pukie the Clown and Uncle Rhabdo

Pukie the Clown (via and Uncle Rhabdo.

I’m one of the humans behind The Dallas Morning News Facebook page, and I posted a Washington Post story we ran that criticizes CrossFit’s … intensity:

It’s getting a great mix of response the comments, some testifying to their individual CrossFit gym and coaches’ legitimacy and skill, some criticizing the entire CrossFit culture and short-sightedness of extreme workouts. One comment is standing out for me: Chuck Swain’s, whose profile says he’s the owner/head coach at CrossFit Fervor in Mansfield, Texas.

Started CrossFit several years ago as an obese executive. Is it intense? Yep. But intensity is in essence the secret sauce. Have I ever met PUKIE? Yep. Fight gone bad September of 2011. But, I have never been seriously hurt. I have been able to reverse illnesses that docs would medicate symptoms. I turn 49 in less than a week and this year I completed my first UltraMarathon, ran The Great Bull run last month in Ennis. Bottom line: it works if you work it. If you have found a crappy CF coach leave there are plenty of good ones. That is my .02 worth.

Talk about intensity. That’s a really intense transformation, going from obese to an ultra runner. I’m drawn to that. I don’t say it out loud/write it too often, but my ultimate fitness goal is to complete an ultra, preferably trail. I draw inspiration from Chuck, who attained that very same goal with more hurdles hindering his journey than mine.

I also have been curious about CrossFit lately. I know; it’s pratically old at this point. Even though sweaty-warehouse/throwing-stuff-around-type of workouts excite me, for the longest there was never anything about CrossFit that made me want to join one. Then I took a look at membership costs and realized I really didn’t want to join one.

So why now am I all of a sudden getting the itch? Maybe it’s because I know more people now who are part of a CrossFit gym and say they absolutely love it. Maybe it’s because, when I lived in Deep Ellum from 2011 to 2013 and would run around the neighborhood, I’d run by the open-air CrossFit Deep Ellum gym and see men and women of various fitness levels discomforting their usually comfortable lives, and I realized that I needed that, too.

Except I really don’t know why spaz-out (and just gross) cartoon mascots are needed in order to encourage and celebrate physical “intensity.” I doubt few people at any CrossFit see the puking of Pukie the Clown and kidney failure of Uncle Rhabdo as fitness ideals; I get it. Intense, shared experiences can create hyperbolic/extreme/over-the-top symbols that signal a specific camaraderie. But these two “symbols” make CrossFit’s culture seem like adolescent amateur hour. Like it’s adherents are just now discovering the concept of pushing their limits but haven’t quite matured into respecting them yet.

I doubt that’s how most CrossFit athletes actually are. At least not the ones I know. Which means that as symbols, Pukie and Rhabdo are ridiculously ill-fitting.