Can CrossFit be a professional sport?

Ali Crawford proudly holds the Scottish saltire as she claims second place in her category at the 2021 CrossFit Games in Wisconsin

“CrossFit has what it takes to be considered a professional sport, like soccer.”

So says Richard Tait, which drives the discipline more and more popular when his duties for St Mirren come to an end.

The 31-year-old full-back has already started making plans for the end of his playing days and CrossFit is at the forefront of his thoughts.

“I have spent a lot of time playing football since I was a kid and I have the same level of passion for CrossFit now,” he told BBC Scotland. “It makes me feel like a little kid again.

“I train every day after training and I love it. It’s amazing to help people improve and to see me improve as a coach.”

So what exactly is CrossFit?

Step into a CrossFit gym for the first time and you will see participants doing circuits around various exercise stations; hand push-ups, grueling weighted dumbbells, sprints and rope climbing to name a few.

It might sound like a class of traditional circuits, but it’s a different strength and conditioning program, encapsulating a range of workouts designed to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility.

There’s a competitive element too, with Scotland’s recent success on the world stage.

Flying the flag of Scotland

The CrossFit Games have been held every year since 2007 and this year East Kilbride mother-of-two Ali Crawford took home an impressive runner-up.

The 45-year-old switched from normal gym life to CrossFit in 2013 and started competing about five years ago.

Only the top 20 athletes of each age group are admitted to the Games.

In 2018, she became the first Scottish woman to qualify, placing 14th. Three years later, classified as an outsider after qualifying on edge in 19th place, she climbed to the podium in the Women’s Masters 45-49 category.

“This year was a different frame of mind than 2018,” Crawford explains. “I was proud to qualify at the time and had no real ambition to win. When you face 20 of the fittest women in the world your age, it’s hard to stay in your own lane. and believe in yourself. I was overwhelmed. “

The Games in Wisconsin this summer took place over three days. To test their interdisciplinary abilities, competitors only receive a daily event briefing the day before.

Without a union or governing body, CrossFit is intended for amateurs, although some athletes in the United States train full time and are considered “elite.”

Crawford works as a financial analyst by day, runs fitness classes, and trains hard in his spare time, spending at least two hours a day, five or six times a week.

“You have to take training seriously,” she says.

“CrossFit is for everyone”

With more than 15,000 affiliated gyms around the world since its inception on a California ranch in 2000, CrossFit is booming. Of the 586 such gyms in the UK, 46 are in Scotland – and those numbers are steadily increasing.

“CrossFit is for everyone from your elite athletes to your grandparents, it has such a wide range,” says Tait.

“Elite athletes at the Games are already mostly professional athletes. Their job is to train every day with one goal – the CrossFit Games – which is basically the CrossFit World Cup. It’s a massive event and it generates a lot of money.

“I’ve been training CrossFit for a while now and I’m learning new skills every day.

“I’m laying the foundation for my retirement to be the best coach I can be.

“If you talk to any of the boys in St Mirren they’ll tell you I bored them to death with CrossFit this and CrossFit that, but that’s it for me!”


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Sara R. Cicero