CrossFit: Is It Good For You?
Going to the traditional gym and sight-feasting on well-toned bodies of fitness freaks doesn’t always give the required dosage of motivation to return and begin transforming your physique.
It can dampen your morale. But with CrossFit, the much-needed motivation comes in high doses keeping you exercising and craving for it even during your resting days.
So What is CrossFit?
It is a power fitness program famous for building strength and conditioning your body through repetitive varied exercises that involve purposed movements at high intensity. The exercises are structured to enable your body to tackle daily surprises without specializing in one particular thing.
CrossFit’s biggest uniqueness is its focus on time versus repetitions. Say your coach assigned you to do some push-ups.
They would either ask you to hit as many push-ups as you can within a specified time, or they could state the number of push-ups to do and the time to see how long you take to complete such.
That requires you to push yourself beyond any limits you have set for yourself. And that’s just one side of the story.
But push-ups aren’t the only kind of exercises to expect in a CrossFit gym, or box, as the folks there call it. Get ready for cleans, kettlebell swings, deadlifts split jerks and pull-ups.
Your coach could also assign squats, bench presses, calorie rows, thrusters, handstand walks, box jumps, rope climbing, and burpees.
The list of workouts goes on and on maintaining a mix of Olympic weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and aerobic exercises.
A Day at a CrossFit Box
So far, CrossFit’s workouts sound scary from the outside. But when you conquer the fear and walk in, it’s a different world altogether. A workout session lasts 1 sweaty hour.
Let the fun begin!
Waking Your Body
The coach first explains the nature of every exercise scheduled for the session for 5 minutes then warm-up takes over for the next 10 minutes. Expect dynamic stretches during warm-up to prepare you; body and mind, for the rest of the exercises ahead.
Most coaches incorporate movements that are applicable for the next two sessions. You may be required to do some rowing movements, jumping squats, and windmills here.
The intensive session begins with strength and/or skill workouts for the next 15 minutes. Expect those gymnastic movements you see high school cheerleading girls indulge in, such as handstands, rope climb, and Olympic lifts.
Each requires correct technique and form to perform. If you have never pictured yourself upside down, this is a good time to do so. But don’t sweat it; your coach is always there to guide you and everything you do prepares you for the next session.
Workout of the Day (WOD)
Not that you haven’t been working out the last 30 minutes, but the fourth session of the workout is where the rubber meets the road. The coach sees you through 20 minutes of the famous WOD which consists of high-intensity exercises meant for metabolic conditioning.
Here you could engage in calorie rowing, pull-ups, and push-ups while targeting either number of repetitions or beating the timer. These exercises get your heart racing.
Expect the coach to insist on combinations of such intensive workouts, say 3 rounds of 400 meters run and 30 overhead squats while watching the timer. Or, they could also request you to do rounds of 30 calorie rows, 20 burpees, and 10 power clean in 20 minutes.
If any of these froze your spine and left you wondering if these high-intensity Olympic level combinations are the right kind for you, you aren’t alone.
When Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai incorporated CrossFit, Inc. in 2000 in Santa Cruz California, USA, they made sure that this interval training would suit everyone who desired it.
From the beginners to the professional athletes and everyone in between. In a New York Times story featured in 2005, Glassman admitted, “It can kill you.”
But don’t worry if you can’t do as many squats or burpees, or any other workout assigned by the coach. A good coach is keen to scale down the set workout and assign beginners alternative exercises to complement such.
This gives you enough time for a gradual upgrade to a pro-level like other CrossFit diehards. That also reduces the number of possible accidents in the gym.
Wind Up Safely
To end your workout hour, the coach takes you through 10 minutes of stretching and cooling off. The workouts here include hamstring, hip flexor, and triceps stretches. Such stretches allow your body to form full, long muscles instead of the dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome. You could also do low-intensity rowing here.
The session focuses on toning down the intensity of the exercises you did in the last two sessions so your muscles begin to recover. And before you know it, time runs out. That’s it!
You see, it isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Scared you could get injured?
Consider the number of accidents you escape in your sleep and wake time. That explains Glassman’s response during an interview with 60 Minutes, an American Television News broadcast on CBS, “Stay in your chair where you’re sure to get hurt, and you’ll become one of the 300,000 people that will die next year from sitting in their chair and doing nothing.”
So whether you choose to join CrossFit and gain from the pain, or curve a butt-shaped groove on your favorite couch while binge-watching Firefly Lane on Netflix, some kind of risk awaits.
You just need to choose the kind of risk with the most suitable reward for you. That calls for a comparison between the pros and cons of CrossFit.
So, What Are the Benefits of Joining CrossFit?
CrossFit is praised for a myriad of benefits; we chose the most crucial to help you make an informed decision; to join or not to join. Here is what you can expect:
- Ever-present coach. Unlike in most traditional gyms where no one guides you on how to perform every workout, every CrossFit gym has a coach waiting to instruct you. The coach also plans your workout so you only need to show up and follow instructions.
- Enforced diet. CrossFit insists on the Paleo, Keto, or Zone diets to enable your body to get strong, gain endurance, and tone up. These diets are heavy on meat and vegetables while staying away from processed foods; the exact diet of your ancestors ate and lived long. They are also famous for ensuring good health.
- Challenge-based workout. The time versus repetition rules ensures that every participant is challenged to either perform as many repetitions of a workout in a specified time or do so complete the number of repetitions in the shortest time possible. So at any one time, you are your competition trying to do better today, than you were yesterday. And that is a great way to toss laziness out of your world.
- All-round fitness. If you are looking to tone your muscles, strengthen your body and lose some weight, CrossFit has the right exercises for that and much more. Each workout is structured to build your body gradually, and before you know it, you have that strong athletic body you have been craving for.
- Never boring. There is always a new set of workouts prepared for you by the coach every day. Say you want to burn calories and choose to go to a traditional gym. You are more likely to get stuck with the same cardio exercises day in day out. But at CrossFit box, you wake up to an exercise you didn’t anticipate, and the variety is extensive. You will love it!
- Always competitive. If you hate comparing physiques with fellow gym rats, CrossFit spares you the agony. The exercises are designed to help you push yourself against your last achievement. And for every extra push-up within a set time has fellow CrossFitters cheering you on all the way. That brings us to the best part of CrossFit.
- Buddies everywhere. CrossFit gyms are hubs for support and community. So if your fellow CrossFitters don’t see you for a day or two, they notice it and ask about it when you show up. Trust me, only an overpaid coach would notice your absence in a traditional gym. And maybe someone who has a crush on you.
- Elite Fitness. Besides competing against yourself and trying to outdo a fellow CrossFitter in your box, CrossFit dares you to workout with a greater target; the CrossFit Games. You could ace the position of the ‘Fittest on Earth’ during the world’s largest participatory sporting event. The NoBull CrossFit Games 2021 begin on Thursday, March 11, and continue for 3 weeks. But if you aren’t a CrossFitter yet, you could follow up on Instagram @crossfitgames.
- Self-awakening. Before joining CrossFit, chances are there is a list of workouts you wouldn’t want to attempt. But upon being introduced to them and challenged to increase the repetitions against time, you will be surprised that you can endure through them all and more. The limiting factor is shredded right before your eyes. That helps you tear down everyday mental barriers as you see the physical ones melt in shame!
But for every great organization, there are some downfalls, and CrossFit isn’t exempted from such. Here are some reasons you may end up hating CrossFit gyms.
- The ‘box’ thought. The minute you join CrossFit, you notice the restrictive language used there. First, CrossFit gym is referred to as ‘box’ and most of their workouts have names you need to learn before you flow with every other CrossFitters.
Expect some Helen, Angie and some hero’s names that to the rest of the world sound gibberish. You must master such names to keep up with the game; you snooze, you lose!
- Quite an addictive lifestyle. Lots of CrossFitters admit to being addicted to the lifestyle to a point of not being able to hold a conversation without using CrossFit Lingo. They also have no other content to discuss when networking besides their in-the-box achievements. While that sounds cool among the CrossFitters, but elsewhere, it’s dead boring.
- Bad coach alert. CrossFit sets a very low barrier for gym ownership and coaching. Most of the people we talked to about CrossFit complained that they left because they felt some coaches weren’t sure of what they were doing. Such coaches didn’t have adequate knowledge of strength coaching or physical therapy which are very important for a gym trainer.
But come to think of it, if your coach is a CrossFit Level 1, they only had a weekend-long training, passed an exam, and were able to pay the $3000 affiliation fee to start. Then they kept fueling the same fee every year. Without further training, such a person may lead you to more injuries than fitness.
- Goodbye to Consistency. When you sign up to a traditional gym, you are assured of getting the same equipment and performing the same workouts every time you show up.
While this may sound boring, it guarantees you gradual growth in your target training. That is not so with CrossFit. Chances of doing the exact workout on your consecutive visits are low.
Instead, you are bombarded with surprises every day in the name of workouts. In the end, you have less training and more exercises making you ‘a jack of all trades and a master on none.
This style of working out may not work well for pro-athletes because they are so goal-specific and focusing on a certain type of workout is key to their breakthrough. But if you are there for weight loss and strength building, CrossFit is the place for you.
- Prices beyond reason. Comparing the subscription fee in a traditional gym versus that of a CrossFit box, the price is almost three times higher. Yet, you are restricted to working out in groups all the time. The price depends on the gym you attend and the number of times you go in a month.
On average the figure reads $130 with a possibility of rising to twice the figure. And bearing in mind CrossFit gyms rarely operate for long hours like traditional gyms; 5 am to 9 pm, such a high price is prohibitive in every way.
With a fair mix of pros and cons, you can now decide whether to sign in and become a CrossFitter.
Is CrossFit Safe For You?
If you want to commit to CrossFit, your major concern should go to knowing the right way to do every exercise you are given, not increasing the repetitions against time.
The reason being, whenever you perform an exercise wrong, you risk injuring your body. Imagine the pain and damage you would have to endure if you were doing something wrong at a high speed. This narrows down to your coach who should train and correct you.
Don’t fall into the temptation of ‘majority wins’; just because there are over 35,000 accredited CrossFit trainers around the world doesn’t mean you are in safe hands. Examine the couch and make a sound judgment on their expertise before you commit. The 3.1 incidents per 1000 hours of activity recorded as relevant CrossFit injury rate isn’t just a figure. Don’t ignore it.
Again, like every other fitness regimen, pregnant women should consult their physicians before joining CrossFit. It is safer for them to wait until they deliver then begin the exercises. And even if such have been in the program before getting pregnant, it is only safe to consult the doctor before carrying on.
CrossFit boasts of being the best workout program for retired athletes. Unfortunately, most athletes retire due to injuries that interfere with their ability to participate.
If the coach lacks physical therapy knowledge, the chances of worsening the injury are high. This also applies to older people, especially those age 60. In each case, the doctor and physical therapist should be consulted.
So if you have no health condition, enjoy working out in a group, and want to keep fit, CrossFit may be the best place for you.
How Many Days A Week Should You Do CrossFit?
A competent CrossFit coach understands that workouts tend to make your muscle sore and there is a need for them to heal well. So they would never encourage you to hit the box every day.
Instead, they encourage you to take once after a few days of training. Better still, once a year for about a week when you do nothing gym-ly. Consider taking your much-deserved vacation then.
However, such a coach would like to know your fitness goals, how much time you can commit to CrossFit without hurting other areas of your life, and what you can do exercise-wise.
They need to know your strengths and weakness before advising you on the best way forward. Only then can they help you formulate a timetable that suits your life and enables you to get the body you desire.
For stunning results, the coach is most likely to advice 3 to 5 days of CrossFit with 1 day of rest that you must observe religiously. While there is no one size fits all, 3 CrossFit days followed by 1 rest day works well for most people.
Is CrossFit Better Than Traditional Gym?
If you are working out to get better at a certain sport, the CrossFit box may not be the best place for you. Get a coach who specializes in your sport of choice and hire them to help you; you will never regret it.
Your coach is likely to take you to a traditional gym where your companions are fitness junkies, bodybuilders, and office workers letting off the steam after hours.
CrossFit focuses on general fitness goals. As we said earlier, you turn to CrossFit when you want to be good at everything fitness, but specialize in nothing in particular. But strangely, you can still become the ‘the fittest fellow on earth’.
What makes CrossFit stand out is the community aspect, tough exercises that vary every day, and friendly competitions. And if you are looking for the gymnastic kind of exercises, the traditional gym won’t give you that. Turn to CrossFit instead.
CrossFit is the place you find ex-athletes, newbies who stayed away from athletics in their formative years, blue-collar job workers, military buddies, and people who like new challenges and a push every day. Kids fit well in CrossFit too because they are challenged to tackle different problems daily.
But as far as presentation is concerned, don’t let CrossFit’s growth fool you. CrossFit is known to grow at a 2% to 5% rate every year making them the fastest growing organization in the fitness sector. That however doesn’t mean you will find a CrossFit box in your town.
There are less than 170 boxes in Africa, yet the USA has over 5000 of them. Use the map on CrossFit’s official website to know where the nearest box to you is. Google Maps helps you locate the closest traditional gym, and you can bet they are more of those than the boxes.
So whether you prefer one over the other; CrossFit box versus the traditional gym, availability remains an issue for the former. And unless you entice a qualified trainer to your area and help them start a CrossFit box and probably help another experienced fitness coach prepare for the exams, this could remain a huge problem.
Is CrossFit Good For Weight Loss?
So far, CrossFit has never disappointed anyone who wanted to lose weight.
The high-intensity exercises involved during the strength and/or skills and WOD sessions threaten to burn over 100 calories per workout. And even after such exercises, there is a tendency to burn more calories as your body resets to a resting state due to the post-exercise oxygen consumption effect (EPOC).
This is suspected to be the attractor factor to women above 40 years since it enables them to lose weight faster and build lean muscle mass improving their metabolism.
The emphasis on the good nutrition aspect of CrossFit is yet another advantage leading to weight loss. It also encourages great health and long life. Who doesn’t want that?
What Happens To Your Body When You Do CrossFit?
When you commit to CrossFit as instructed by an experienced coach, you can expect to increase body strength, endurance, and flexibility. Your aerobic fitness and mental alertness will also develop. If you are seeking to have a captivating physique; well-toned and without excess weight, CrossFit is the place for you.