My current position on CrossFit
I was going to bed last night and the last piece clicked into place for the way I'm currently feeling about CrossFit.
At various times I've felt that CF is best for beginners and not intermediates, or for intermediates and not beginners. The argument for the former is that it requires no knowledge and covers all bases, so it's a nice cookie-cutter prescription for retarded beginners, but intermediates should be able to customize their own program. The argument for the latter is that I feel most beginners are better off starting with a strength program, yet after that everyone should eventually get to some conditioning, bodyweight stuff, etc.
Now I'm starting to think that they're both right, which means that CF is a pretty GOOD program for both, but not actually the BEST program for much of anyone.
1. CF WoDs have developed, both theoretically (with a goal of "increased work capacity across broad blah blah") and actually, into workouts focused on improving work capacity. This is a useful thing, but except for a few individuals who need a very high level of non-specific conditioning, it's not THAT useful. It's not necessary to emphasize it this heavily, and doing so reduces their ability to develop other traits of fitness. Therefore, if your goal is GPP -- be good at everything, do anything -- the most sensible role of CF workouts is as a "metcon day," to whatever extent you need this. Few athletes will need to use them predominantly.
2. Why are you training? If it's for a sport, or your job, or some other specific demand, you should obviously be customizing your training for those needs. If it's for general health, longevity, or "life" (the classic examples of picking up your sofa, going skiing, or responding in an emergency), then you frankly do not need this level of fitness. It is extremely difficult and taxing and requires a major commitment of your life, and you have no need for the level of fitness it develops. If you're interested in the competition or self-challenge, CF makes sense; this is basically no different from training for some other sport, and the growth of things like the CF Games should make this easier. But if you have no actual reason to train like this, then you will tend to: 1) do whatever you're told since you don't have any goals; 2) suffer the downsides, such as potential injuries, burnout, and time/money drain; 3) at some point realize what's going on and simply stop or do something else.
Where does this leave CF? As a good program for many people but not the best for anyone except "metcon-biased" demands like maybe MMA, firefighters, etc.; as a good tool to use for the conditioning component of your training; maybe as a test for progress (do a named workout periodically, see how you're doing) or weaknesses (do a WoD with a bunch of movements, where are you sore, what was failing?); and I suppose as the best option for anyone too retarded to develop their own GPP program.