One of the biggest movements in fitness right now is CrossFit. In fact, you probably know someone who does CrossFit and can’t stop raving about it. Yet, for the person who doesn’t have a ton of fitness experience, CrossFit may seem overwhelming at first: the workouts are intense and the equipment and exercises are unlike normal gyms. This can scare a lot of people off at first, but looks can be deceiving. CrossFit is very accommodating and nearly everyone who gives it a try loves it.
Some people might not know it, but CrossFit is actually a company- CrossFit, Inc. The company was founded by Greg Glassman in 2000, and has grown tremendously since then. Most people see CrossFit as just a type of workout, but it’s actually built around its subsidiary gyms, of which there are now thousands of around the world! Yes, this phenomenon has gotten BIG. There are a number of reasons for that, and we will explore them in this article.
First of all, people just love the workouts. A lot of people have a variety of interests when it comes to lifting weights and hitting the gym. Some want to look like bodybuilders, others want to be fast, while some just want to lift heavy weight! CrossFit finds a way to blend all of these elements into its unique workout. And for those who may not enjoy one aspect of CrossFit workouts, the variety will certainly keep them coming back.
CrossFit is by design supposed to be broad and general, which makes it so inclusive. It’s applicable to combat, sports, survival and lifting. It rewards the type of person who is all-around fit and athletic.
It also appeals to both men and women. In fact CrossFit is nearly divided evenly between men and women. Men love it because it helps them get fit and strong, and to compete against others. Women love it because it really challenges them beyond what they would find in a typical fitness class.
The training environment also plays a big role in its popularity. People of all skill levels find something to love because they adapt the program to their desires. For example, if someone is a novice at training, they will find encouragement from training staff as well as their peers who are more than happy to keep a new trainee on board. It’s also great for building comradery which keeps people coming back, whereas most people at traditional gyms give up on their progress. Also, for those who are competitive they can compare their times with the most athletic people in the gym.
Another reason for the appeal is that CrossFit workouts are scalable, meaning that they can be adjusted based on one’s experience, skill and strength. This scalability applies to the weight, time or other variables. The program, however, doesn’t change unless you’re physically incapable of performing an exercise.
Most of these workouts are quite short and only last around 5-15 minutes. CrossFit workouts are still brutal, however. They are fast-paced and intense, and will force you to use every muscle in your body for the duration of the workout.
When you go to a CrossFit gym (affectionately known as ‘boxes’), expect to spend around an hour there. You will make sure to perform a proper warm-up, a skill development tutorial, an explanation of a workout and then hop into the Workout of the Day (WOD). This can be followed and preceded by stretching too. A WOD is what CrossFit is based around. It contains a variety of exercises that are usually performed back to back, for a number of rounds.
Here’s an example:
20 Min AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)
4 Deadlifts 185lb
You will perform your best to complete as many rounds as possible in the time allowed which for this workout is 20 minutes. Oftentimes the workouts may exclude a heavy exercise like deadlifts, and will place them before the WOD. There is a lot of flexibility in these CrossFit programs which makes it all the more appealing. Additionally you can see that this workout includes a variety of exercises. There are aspects of aerobics, calisthenics, and Olympic lifting.
Keep in mind that you’re not required to take a class every time you enter the box. You can simply work out on your own if you’d like. Yet one of the benefits to CrossFit is working out together with others and challenging yourself to get better.
A major part of CrossFit is the focus on functional training. The idea behind this is that fitness should prepare you for real world strength and fitness activities. Bodybuilding is not functional for the most part because rarely will you find yourself struggling to ‘curl’ something. However, you may often find yourself needing to run fast or lift heavy objects off the ground, which CrossFit promotes.
Stepping food into a CrossFit Box is a unique experience from other gyms. For one, many people expect that they’ll find a highly competitive environment, filled with grunting and sweaty super-humans. They’d be surprised to find out that CrossFit gyms are actually very welcoming and inclusive. You may also notice that CrossFit boxes forego much of the traditional gym equipment. They are actually quite sparse and have a lot of open space. There are no fancy machines that isolate each muscle. There are no rows of elliptical and treadmills. Everything in the gym is there for a purpose.
That said, CrossFit uses a broad array of equipment. Not only is this important for promoting functional strength, but it also makes working out more fun which is one of the reasons for the brands popularity. At a typical CrossFit box you can expect to see barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, pull-up bars, ropes, gymnastic rings, sleds, medicine balls, plyo boxes, rowers, big tires and chalk (for grip). These are not always used in a particular workout, but may be used in a skill activity, or just for fun after the workouts.
One thing you may want to consider before diving head first into workouts is to see if your local CrossFit box offers an introductory course. Many CrossFit gyms have a course that will teach you the philosophy of CrossFit, give you a tour of the gym and let you know what to expect. It may be helpful, especially for those who are apprehensive.
There has been some skepticism for CrossFit because of the potential for injury. First it’s important to note that any form of physical activity can put you at risk for injury, and this is something you should be prepared for. With that said, training smart and using proper form will mitigate risks. As for CrossFit being especially risky, there may be some truth to that. One aspect of CrossFit is that it uses exercises that require a lot of technique, such as Olympic lifts like the snatch. Many novice trainers can’t perform these well, but attempt to do them for high-reps during workouts.
Another aspect that makes CrossFit unique is that the people are hardcore. CrossFitters don’t back down easily and they regularly push their limits. Certainly you only have to do what you feel comfortable with, but you may get sucked in to working out really hard.
The safety risk shouldn’t discourage you from doing CrossFit though. Safety is thoroughly encouraged and proper form is drilled for the common exercises. Additionally, CrossFit certifies each of their trainers.
Ready to get started? A great place to do so is by searching for a local CrossFit gym on this map of their affiliates. If you live in an urban area, there are likely at least a dozen gyms in your area. This means that you should shop around. The reason for this is that not all CrossFit gyms are created equally. Some gyms emphasize different aspects of programming, some coaches are better than others, and there are different age ranges at each gym. Look through each website to get the specific details that look the most appealing to you.
Can you do it from home?
One of the inhibiting factors of joining a CrossFit gym is the price. They can cost upwards of $200 per month, several times more than the average gym. This can be too much of a financial burden for some, which is why some people wish to either do it from home or at another gym.
So the answer is yes, you can do it outside a traditional gym. One issue that may arise, however, is that you may not have all the equipment. If that’s the case, building a home gym is a great idea.
So even if CrossFit is not something you’d normally do, you should definitely give it a try. It’s going to be totally different from what you’re used to and it will guarantee to make you sweat and have a good time.