CrossFit: Is It Right for You?

I knew after my first “trial run” with CrossFit that I would have to go back for more”¦

For those of you who don’t know, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, functional movement and endurance training. The workouts are extremely fast-paced, often lasting only 15 to 20 minutes. Since its inception in 2000, CrossFit has spread like a virus, dominating the exercise industry and culminating in the competition now watched by millions every year, the “CrossFit Games.”

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In the first 10 minutes of the session, I couldn’t catch my breath and was intensely nauseous. My body was refusing to continue. At that point, I was training five to six days per week with weights, and mixing in a moderate amount of endurance training. I felt like I was in good shape, but this workout made me feel like I had never stepped foot into a gym before. Not only was my conditioning clearly lacking, this workout managed to expose every weakness I had!

After the grueling 20-minute session was over, I was surprised at how many people came over to tell me “good job” or slap me on the back as I leaned against the wall, panting for dear life. I wasn’t proud of what had just happened, but the CrossFitters that day seemed genuinely excited to have me train with them.

On the drive home, I felt a sense of euphoria set in ““ like an extreme “Runner’s High.”   I realized that I needed a challenge like this, and that it had the potential to dramatically transform my body and abilities. Thankfully, I did go back. Over a period of several months, I began to look forward to the workouts ““ even obsessing about them. I was doing things with my body that I NEVER thought I would be able to do. I had also lost several pounds of body fat, despite not following a strict diet. I was looking and feeling better than I had in a very long time, and making great friends along the way.

I eventually moved away from that gym, and found a traditional gym in closer proximity to my work and home. For now, I am happy to focus on improving my strength and conditioning with my own program.   I’m sure that at some point in the future, I’ll be jumping back in to the CrossFit community.

Aside from a few minor injuries (due to poor form), I had a very positive experience with CrossFit. The people are passionate and hard-working, which was incredibly contagious once I immersed myself in that environment. For anyone seeking a challenge or striving to make dramatic improvements in conditioning and functional movement, I highly recommend testing out CrossFit. Just be ready to work!

A word of caution: If you have severe mobility/flexibility issues, or a history of injury, I highly recommend scheduling a quick consultation with a trainer prior to beginning the class. You will be asked to work way outside your comfort zone, which becomes standard procedure once you get the hang of it.   The danger is in NOT listening to your body’s warning signals when an injury is just around the corner.   An obsessive focus on proper technique is essential to staying healthy when performing these movements.

Pros

  • Fun, supportive group atmosphere
  • Intensity of training far exceeds normal gym-based training
  • Metabolism skyrockets, fat melts away

Cons

  • Advanced exercises (Olympic lifts) are performed when in a state of extreme fatigue ““ compromised form can lead to injury
  • Lack of individualization
  • Limited availability of class times
  • High monthly dues: $120 – $200+

Variables

  • Competence of the training staff ““ Look for a training staff that spends time discussing technique with the class, and working directly with individuals to improve their movements. If you are a beginner, it is vital that someone has eyes on you as you perform complex movements such as deadlifts, squats and pullups.
  • Your goals ““ CrossFit can help you reach pretty much any fitness or athletic goal. The exception is someone whose sole priority is to gain weight, muscle and strength. The amount of total work volume makes adding muscle mass difficult for hard-gainers.
  • Health history and limitations ““ If you have mobility issues or are not particularly flexible, I recommend making these areas your #1 priority. In order to safely complete CrossFit workouts, you will have to be a well-balanced, mobile, flexible individual. If you have a history of injury ““ particularly shoulder, back and knee ““ proceed with extreme caution. There is nothing wrong with using a substitute exercise to prevent a possible permanent injury.

Scott  Hogan, Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach (A.C.E.), blogs about nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle factors that contribute to peak performance.  

 

 

Scott Hogan

ScottHogan, Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach (A.C.E.), blogs about nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle factors that contribute to peak performance.

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About Scott Hogan

Scott Hogan, Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach (A.C.E.), blogs about nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle factors that contribute to peak performance.

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4 comments on «CrossFit: Is It Right for You?»

  1. jorie @vitacost says:

    Thanks for this great blog, Scott! I’ve been trying to learn more about CrossFit and this is one of the mos comprehensive descriptions I’ve seen of it. Still not sure if it’s right for me but at least now I’d know what to expect!

  2. Liz says:

    Your tips and analysis are spot-on! I LOVE the concept of CrossFit and you certainly pumped me up for it. The only downside is that I don’t know anyone who has given it a try and NOT become injured. :-/

    1. Scott says:

      Thanks Liz! That’s a very good point: it is definitely more high risk than most traditional exercise methods – so it’s good that you are aware of that before diving in.

      1. Liz Lotts says:

        Thanks, Scott. I can still see myself enjoying CrossFit. :)

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