CrossFit or “The Sport of Fitness” is growing quickly. What started out in a few garages out in California has turned into a fitness juggernaut with Reebok commercials on prime time TV and a $1M prize package “CrossFit Games”. The reason for the success of CrossFit? When done correctly, it REALLY works. Whether you want to get strong, get in shape, lose weight, gain muscle, or just get off the couch…there is a good chance that CrossFit is for you.
CrossFit is decidedly manly. We are talking about dropping weights, flipping tires, snatchin’ kettlebells, throwing things, and climbing. Men should be active, and CrossFit is definitely active. CF attempts to merge together all the different elements of fitness into one all-encompassing training method. The training combines Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, rope climbing, kettlebell training, sandbag carrying, medicine ball exercises, bodyweight movements, powerlifting, sprinting, and more. If you see someone at your gym doing something equal parts strange & badass, there is a good chance it is CrossFit. CrossFit wants you to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable”, prepare for the “unknown and unknowable” by performing “constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity” (all common sayings in the community). CF preaches “functional fitness” versus exercise for the sake of exercise. The approach is a bit minimalist, no big machines or treadmills required. You can equip a great home CrossFit gym for just a couple thousand bucks.
The CrossFit formula is simple, head to CrossFit.com (or your local CrossFit affiliate’s website or gym). They will post a WOD (workout of the day) each day (at the gym or on their site). Most workouts have some element of measurement (time, weight, repetitions, etc.).
Here is what an example 3-day workout plan might look like:
Rest 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
Rest 1 minute
The Tabata interval is 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 intervals.
Five rounds for time of:
12 Wallball shots, 20 pound ball
The workouts are always different and you are never going to do the same workout twice in a row (probably not even twice in 2 months). Every day is a new challenge. Many CrossFitters are found checking their i-phones to see what the next WOD is or to see what times other athletes churned out on that days WOD.
As I mentioned before, a big reason for the popularity is the fact that it works (assuming it is taught & coached correctly). There are A TON of testimonials and success stories. People frequently lose 50 pounds or recapture the athleticism of their youth. Some become more advanced in their profession (for those in the military, police, fire or other physically demanding professions). Beyond that, you often see huge gains in peoples self confidence, their attitude and their overall health and energy levels in everyday life. Here are a few reasons why it works:
The atmostphere – If you are doing the workouts in good CrossFit gyms it’s a really cool atmosphere. There are a couple of trainers watching form an technique and correcting mistakes. People that were in the earlier class often stick around to cheer on the later class, and the folks in the late class might come early to cheer on the class before theirs. In a good gym, there aren’t really any egos…just a bunch of people trying to better themselves.
The workouts – The workouts themselves can be pretty fun. Playing with medicine balls, kettlebells and dumbbells is fun and different. You will also row & climb ropes, you may even get to throw things or do Olympic lifts. Yes, the workouts can be a bit sadistic and they definitely get you out of your comfort zone, but people get hooked. It is much more interesting than logging minutes on the treadmill or elliptical each day. The workouts are also often short, usually intense, and aim to be well thought out so you continually get better, stronger, faster, leaner, etc. Additionally, the measurement aspect keeps you showing constant improvement. In the example above you would have run a 5k on Day 2. You might not run another 5k for 7 months, but in 7 months if you stick with CrossFit you will likely run a much faster time, and it is a real good feeling to go back in your training log and see you ran a 5K four minutes faster than you did 7 months ago.
The people – As I mentioned before, there aren’t many egos in a good CF gym. In most CF gyms I’ve been to: the people are welcoming, the trainers are friendly, everyone looks to help out everyone else, and newcomers get treated just as good (if not better) than regulars. Members are people from all walks of life, all levels of income and abilities, young and old, men and women. Everyone is there to get better than they were the day before. Many strong friendships are formed in these gyms, and the members often get together for social events beyond just working out together.
The snowball effect – Regardless of what you may think, the people around you greatly influence you. When you go to CrossFit, everyone else is trying their best, so you want to do the same. Most people eat healthy, so you want to do the same (you also know how much harder that workout will be if you eat McDonalds instead of the meat and vegetables). High intensity workouts are a great stress reliever, so you have an outlet you might not have had before. All these things combined (an more) have a great cumulative effect and they all move hand in hand..imagine a stronger, slimmer, less stressed out, healthy eating YOU.
How to get started?
The best way to get started is to ask around and find out who the good CrossFit trainers are in your area. You could head to the CrossFit message boards and ask around for the most reputable trainers, or just stop in at a few local gyms and talk to the trainers. Once you find a place you feel good about (focus on the trainer vs. what the gym looks like), sign up for their intro session (sometimes called “elements”, “on-ramp”, or “foundations”) and get going right away. If you don’t have access to a CF gym near you of if you can’t make class times or you can’t afford monthly dues…start spending loads of time on the CrossFit.com. You can watch videos and demos on how to learn the lifts and movements, practice them at home or at your gym,. Start off with light or no weight and do your best to master the movements.
It’s time to embrace your inner MAN and give a CrossFit workout a try.
Be careful of…
There are a few things to be wary of. YES, you can hurt yourself doing CrossFit. You must spend a lot of time correctly learning the movements. You should make every effort to get a qualified and knowledgable trainer to train you. Get a few references from some current members at the gym to make sure they are worth the monthly dues.
Don’t do too soon too fast. There is a definite addiction factor, many want to do more and more and more. Know your limits, build up to the workouts, and don’t try to be a hero early on (that comes later!).
As always – check with your doctor before you get started
photo credits: cnolan011