CrossFit is EVERYWHERE these days.
If you have friends or coworkers that enjoy working out, you might have even heard them talking about the newest CrossFit “box” (gym) that just opened up down the street.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.
Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.
CrossFit contends that a person is as fit as they are proficient in each of ten general physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.
Who is CrossFit for?
CrossFit is perfect for a few types of people:
- Beginners to weight training – If you have NEVER weight trained before (or trained only on machines), CrossFit is a great place for you to start (provided you have a great coach, which I’ll cover shortly). You’ll learn how to do all of the important lifts in a super supportive and nonjudgmental environment. You might even find that…GASP…you love strength training!
- People looking for support and community – This is the appeal to CrossFit for me: every CrossFit gym has a really tight-knit community feel to it. You’re not just a membership payment to them; you’re a person that needs support. When Nerd Fitness gyms start popping up (don’t think it won’t happen!), I’ll be drawing a lot of inspiration from CF as to how members are so supportive and inclusive of each other.
- Fitness fanatics – You know those people that love to work out every day and feel like something is missing if they don’t? The way CrossFit is structured, you are working out with regular consistency. The general protocol is 3 days on, 1 day off, but many CrossFitters end up at the gym more frequently. It’s addicting.
- Masochists – I mean that in the nicest way possible. CrossFit often rewards people for finishing workouts in the least amount of time possible. This means that you’ll often be in situations where you are using 100% of your effort to finish a workout, exhausting yourself, and forcing yourself to push through the struggle.
- Former athletes – CrossFit has built-in teamwork, camaraderie, and competition. Almost all workouts have a time component to them, where you either have to finish a certain number of repetitions of exercises in a certain amount of time, or the time is fixed and you need to see how many repetitions you can do of an exercise. You get to compete with people in your class, and go online to see how you did against the world’s elite CrossFit athletes. There is even an international competition for those that become truly dedicated.
What’s a CrossFit class like?
Practically every CrossFit gym around the world will let you come in and try out a class for free, so contact your local gyms and find out what dates and time they’re having newbie sessions. This is how the classes are usually structured:
Introduction class – For people who have never tried CrossFit before. Usually there’s a quick overview, and then a basic body weight movement workout, and then they talk to you about joining. These are usually free.
On Ramp/Elements – If you’re interested in joining the regular CrossFit workout, you’ll most likely be required to go through the On Ramp/Elements course. The purpose of these is to teach you the nine foundational movements of CrossFit and all about proper form. No matter how experienced you are, these are valuable and worth the time and money. Even if you think you have perfect form on your squats, deadlifts and/or overhead presses, it’s amazing what can be fixed when you have a trained set of eyes watching you do them.
Regular classes: This is what you’re probably used to seeing or hearing about. A regular CrossFit class takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Everybody starts at the same time, there are instructors walking around helping out and keeping track, and everybody is supporting each other and probably swearing a lot.
Most CrossFit gyms will split their classes into three or four sections:
- Dynamic warm up – Not jogging on a treadmill for 5 minutes, but jumps, jumping jacks, jump rope, squats, push ups, lunges, pull ups. Functional movements, stretches, and mobility work that compliment the movements you’ll be doing in the workout that day.
- Skill/Strength work – If it’s a strength day, then you’ll work on a pure strength movement (like squats or deadlifts). If it’s not a strength day, then you’ll work on a skill and try to improve, like one-legged squats or muscle ups.
- WOD – the workout of the day. This is where you’ll be told to do a certain number of reps of particular exercises as quickly as possible, or you’ll have a set time limit to do as many of a certain exercise as possible.
- Cool down and stretching – Either as a group, or you’re allowed to stretch out on your own. This would also be the time for people who pushed too hard to go puke in a trash can and stretch their stomach muscles.
Pros of CrossFit:
- GREAT community aspect. Unlike a commercial gym, you actually get to know the people at your box. Most gyms will have outings that a LOT of people show up to. There’s always that feeling of teamwork and camaraderie.
- Constant coaching and support – In a commercial gym you have no clue if you’re doing an exercise right or not. While it’s not 1:1 training, you have a coach with you during every workout to help out.
- If you don’t show up, not only do people notice, but they call you and ask where you’ve been. The only time that happens in a commercial gym is when you miss a session with your overpaid trainer.
- Leveling up – Because you get to keep track of how much you’re lifting, and you know how many reps and sets you’re doing, you get to see constant improvement. You also get to advance at your own pace, slowly working your way up towards doing the workouts as prescribed.
- Humbling yet encouraging – Yeah, you might end your workout lying on your back, but you have a sense of accomplishment when you finish a workout faster than last time.
- Competition – It’s amazing how much further you’ll push yourself when surrounded by other people cheering you on and competing with you.
- It introduces SO MANY people to weight lifting, especially women who would have never ever attempted to get off the treadmill and strength train. It’s like a gateway workout – you learn what you love and can specialize further from there.
- It’s a good outlet for former athletes who like to compete. After playing competitive sports through high school and college, all of a sudden there’s nothing left to compete in – CrossFit gives people that outlet.
- You get to find out what you’re made of. CrossFit can be miserable, but it can also teach you how to push through mental barriers, build mental toughness and more.
- It builds hot bodies. While so many women say they want that “toned” look and try to get it with hours of cardio, those bodies are being built every day in CrossFit gyms. Seriously, while their goal is performance rather than aesthetics, take a look at any serious CrossFit female athlete and tell me she doesn’t look incredible!
- It builds good muscular endurance and all-around fitness – your body is prepared for pretty much any athletic situation through smart CrossFit programming.