Let’s start with this: I love Crossfit.
After years of gym lifting, classroom cardio and yoga, yoga, yoga, I find Crossfit to be a refreshing, challenging and powerful method of achieving fitness. I’m stronger, faster and have better endurance at 38 than I ever had at 20. I attribute all of this to Crossfit and Crossfit alone.
But having said all of that, I have to straight up tell you that Crossfit isn’t for everyone. It is a hard, fast and often brutal system that requires a certain mindset. Just like there are runners and non-runners, there are Crossfitters and non-Crossfitters. And simply because it is the latest fitness trend doesn’t mean that it is something simply anybody can do. Despite its apparent accessibility and great PR.
So let’s go over a few things to see if this is the method for you.
Crossfit is part of a training trend called functional training. That means that you are choosing to train your body for function rather than form. The quest is for fitness and adaptability, not for bulging biceps or rock-hard abs. This means that the training program is broad and includes all forms of natural movement. Running, jumping, lifting, agility and mental fortitude are all fundamental pieces of a Crossfit training program. These are all movement (and thought) patterns that you would see in a fully physical human living in a natural habitat.
Almost all of the Crossfit “moves” require the entire body to become involved. There is a nearly equal blend of callisthenics and weight bearing exercises within each WOD (workout of the day) which creates all over fitness. Crossfit rarely produces an athlete with bulging biceps and bird legs. It also rarely produces an athlete who can lift a truck but can’t run down the block. Additionally, the intensity of Crossfit’s unique timing element creates an athlete who is remarkably resilient to physical stress.
Because of its core nature of inclusiveness and adaptability, Crossfit is able to serve any and all types of bodies in practically any condition. The workouts are all scalable, meaning that if you can only lift 45 pounds in any given move, so be it. You will lift 45 pounds–today. If it takes you an hour to finish three rounds, then that is how long it takes you. You improve at your own pace by sticking with it and continuing to scale up as you grow stronger and fitter. The only failure is giving up.
Sounds good, right? But here is where we also need to look at…
Here’s where the reality of the program gets a little hairy. Crossfit is hard. Crazy hard. Like laying on the floor thinking that you are going to throw up if you don’t die first hard. It is burning chests, screaming muscles, and blind determination carrying you through just one more rep. And sometimes that last rep is a really, really, really bad idea. People get hurt in Crossfit more often than in any gym style workout. And we are talking blown shoulders, crapped out knees, strained wrists and rocked-out backs that take weeks to recover.
That same intensity that provides resiliency to stress and creates an amazing mental fortitude can also be a Crossfitter’s Achilles Heel. Quite often you are asked to do a series of moves in AMRAP, or as many rounds as possible, in seven (or ten, or twelve…) minutes. Or, you are given a proscribed number of rounds, but you have to do them for time. This means that you are generally moving pretty fast. Given the technical nature of many lifting movements, coupled with weight and fatigue, you run the risk of getting sloppy and then getting hurt.
For instance, the benchmark WOD “Diane” involves Olympic-style deadlifting with handstand pushups. You have three rounds to complete of 21 reps first, then 15, then 9. You are doing this for the best time possible. To be frank, 21 heavy deadlifts is a lot. You get pretty tired pretty fast. 21 handstand pushups is a lot–especially after 21 deadlifts. Then you continue on down the ladder, moving as efficiently as you can, battling your cardio, your screaming legs, exhausted shoulders…. One bad lift and you have blown out your back. One bad pushup and you have landed on your face.
I’ll say it again. Crossfit is hard. You have to know exactly where your body is, what it is doing, and how well it is doing it while under extreme pressure. People get hurt; I’ve been hurt. And if your idea of a workout is walking the treadmill while watching CNBC, Crossfit probably isn’t for you. But if that brand of intensity makes your parts tingle, here is the icing on the cake.
One other thing that I love about Crossfit is that it is ugly. The gyms are dirty. They are often exposed to the elements. A/C and heat are luxuries. There is resin chalk everywhere. The music is loud and people will be cursing, grunting, yelling, laughing and fully loaded barbells will frequently hit the floor. All of the bright, shiny and comfy elements of your Fitness Center will most certainly not be found in your average Crossfit gym.
People are there to work. There are no girls in brightly colored workout “outfits” with full makeup and hair. There are no puffed up dudes competing with one another for best peacock in show. Everybody there is too busy moving their bodies to the limits of their endurance to care whether or not they look good. Truthfully, at the end of the WOD, if you don’t look like God grabbed you by the ankles and shook you like a bottle of salad dressing, then you weren’t working hard enough. There isn’t time for pretty.
And that’s how I like it.
Bottom line: Crossfit is an amazing science. It will take your body places you never thought it could go. But you have to be careful and wise. You have to be present and maintain a healthy sense of humor. And you have to be willing to get dirty and do the work. If that sounds right up your alley, SWFL has a number of well-reputed Crossfit gyms for you to try.
Inspired yet? Read on…