CrossFit gets a bad rap. People complain that it is too intense, it’s a cult and too many people get hurt. I’m a CrossFit instructor and I hear it all the time. I simply always respond that while not all gyms are created equal, the benefits of CrossFit greatly outweigh the negatives. Beyond that, CrossFit is not just a workout regime; it is a unique lifestyle that combines exercise, nutrition and community.
CrossFit exercises can be intimidating to someone who has never lifted weights or done gymnastics movements. Watching premier athletes compete in international CrossFit competitions further adds to the allusion that this is an impossibly difficult fitness regime.
But that is the beauty of it. Everyone must start somewhere. Gymnast Greg Glassman invented CrossFit in 2000. He liked cross-discipline workouts and realized they left him in overall better fitness.
A classic CrossFit routine includes gymnastics, weightlifting and sprinting or high-intensity work in various forms done in repeatable sets. For instance, participants will lift specific weights, run for set distances and strive to achieve specific movements in set amounts of time, so that over time they can benchmark progress.
Movements mimic chores from everyday life
Every single movement is scalable and the whole idea is to perform movements that we already do in our everyday lives. We should be able to stand our body weight up (squat), put things over our head into cabinets (press), and carry heavy objects (farmers carry). These are all functional everyday movements. I think a lot of people only think of CrossFit for its dramatic moves such as Snatches (a branded overhead weight lift) and handstand push-ups. While there is a place for those movements, you can still be really fit and do CrossFit without them. You just need find the right gym for you and your goals. For example, the CrossFit gym I coach at puts out a workout and we give three different versions Sweat (rigorous), Perform (more rigorous) and Compete (most rigorous). Below is an example:
- Every: 90 seconds x 7 sets – 1 Hang Clean (weight lifting pose) + 1 Low Hang Clean @70 percent to 75 percent
- Every: 90 seconds x 7 sets- Front Squat x 5 reps
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlift x 8/8
So, you see we take a lot of guess work out of it. On any given day half the class can be doing “Compete/Perform” while the other half is doing sweat based on their skill levels. Although, if you do want to compete and be competitive there is also a place for that as well. Each gym usually has a leaderboard, and you can compare your results to other members of the gym which can create some healthy competition.
Nutrition and Community key to CrossFit
Nutrition and community are the two aspects of CrossFit that really separate themselves from the rest of the fitness industry. Not many places or gyms really talk about nutrition, but it goes hand in hand with the workouts especially if you want to see results and perform your best.
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruits, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” From “What is Fitness”, CrossFit Journal, 2002
The above quote seems very simple, but it is the basic guidelines on how CrossFit sees nutrition. To get people thinking about what they are eating is not easy. But to begin changing their eating habits, is when the magic begins to happen. A nutritionally sound diet can help you to power through workouts and recover from them faster.
Then that third pilar of CrossFit: Community. This is my favorite thing about CrossFit and from my experience it is the most powerful thing about it. In any given class you can have anyone from 21 to 60 years old, firefighter to doctor, or even college student to retired grandmom. They are all there with the common goal of being better than they were yesterday. It is what keeps people showing up every day knowing their piers will be there beside them. The fun is in the community.
CrossFit can work for anyone. We aren’t meant to be stationary 24/7. We need to move and challenge our bodies. CrossFit is a great place to start.
In addition to working at Smart Lifebites’ parent company Crispy Green, Jackson is a Requisite Fitness/CrossFit 215 instructor. He coached for the last 7 years in Philadelphia after earning my CrossFit-Level 1 & 2 certificates. He is passionate about coaching and training. “Fitness is about finding something that will enjoy and stay consistent with. For me that is and always will be CrossFit.” To learn about other workout methods, read Is HIIT good for you? Dr. Oz’s personal trainer shares his insights.