Let’s Talk About CrossFit Part 1/2

If you have been reading my fitness posts, you know that in my attempt to get fit the second time I started by joining CrossFit. In this post, I would like to talk about what I like and do not like about CrossFit.

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What I like about CrossFit?

  • Anything can be scaled: When you start CrossFit it can be quite intimidating. For many, the exercises are new. In addition, most require complex movements. Finally, some people cannot do the exercises as prescribed (i.e. RX). CrossFit addresses all of these concerns by offering the ability to scale anything. Is the weight too heavy? Use less weight or no weight! Is the weight too low? Go up! Can’t do a movement like a pull-up? No problem, do this other movement like a ring row where you control how much weight you are pulling! Got pull-ups? Strap some additional weight on and then try! This means no matter what your fitness level or physical capability you can do CrossFit!
  • You get results immediately: I have spoken about motivation on multiple occasions regarding fitness. When it comes to CrossFit, you will see and feel results immediately. The results seen and/or felt are different from person to person. For some, it is losing weight. Believe it or not though, losing weight is not common when you first start CrossFit. Do not be alarmed though, you will feel better, you clothes will fit better, your body appearance will change, you will see and feel the difference. How immediate are the results? For many, you feel it within the first week and you see it within the first month. The transformation you go through is constant. I have been doing CrossFit for over two years and I am still seeing and feeling changes as my fitness improves.
  • It is challenging, but fun: I would be lying if I said CrossFit was easy. Part of the reason why you see results so quickly is because of the intensity of the workouts you perform. The good news is, the workouts are an hour of which you typically do less than 30 minutes of actual work. In addition, the workouts are fun. They challenge you physically as well as mentally, they require coordination and planning and they are always different. Lifting a weight up and down like in a curl multiple times over multiple sets over multiple weeks can become really mundane and boring. Learning how to do a clean and doing them for reps, as part of a clean & jerk and as part of complex is challenging and fun.
  • It is a complete body workout: There are many potential problems with traditional exercise programs including focusing on a very specific muscle group and using machines to compensate for movements that would otherwise require balance and coordination. The result may be a sore muscle group, but the rest of your body is typically fine as well as muscle strength, but no balance and coordination. With CrossFit, your whole body will be sore and you will build balance and coordination. CrossFit stresses different muscle groups and muscle groups you did not know you had and did not know you could work. Part of this is achieved through exercises that require balance and coordination. All of this leads to immediate results you can see and feel.
  • The atmosphere and community: While the workouts are primarily individual-based and the classes are personal-trainer led, the atmosphere is very group-based and supportive. In addition, you can feel the motivation in the room — perhaps it is the loud music or the PR bell hanging on the wall. To top it off, each athletic brings something special to the box.

What I do not like about CrossFit?

  • Not every CrossFit box is the same: This is true of any fitness place, however when it comes to CrossFit, I believe this difference matters more. With a traditional gym, different locations may mean different equipment available, different quality of equipment and different classes available. With CrossFit, all of the same apply, however since CrossFit is primarily class-based and these classes focus on a specific set of workouts, the equipment available, the quality of the equipment and the available classes make or break the CrossFit location. I also described how the atmosphere and community are positives in CrossFit, but not every box brings the same level of enthusiasm and motivation. Finally, using the CrossFit name requires little more than an annual fee so the quality of a box can be hard to judge.
  • Not every coach is the same: Again, this is true of any fitness place, however CrossFit falls into a different category than many traditional gyms in that it requires a special skill-set to teach and improper coaching can lead to significant physical harm. CrossFit workouts push you hard, coaches push you hard and athletes push you hard. In top of this, CrossFit specific training is pretty minimum so the quality of the coaches can be hard to judge.
  • It is a lot of individual work: To get better at CrossFit you need a lot of practice. While coaches can and do assist with your technique and provide feedback, they look at the class as a whole and do not focus individually on athletes. For the majority of CrossFitters this is not a problem, especially since anything can be scaled up or down, but for some of the more advanced CrossFitters this can prove to be problematic. Now this can be addressed in a variety of ways including personal training and switching boxes.
  • The option is scaled or RX: When it comes to a workout or competition, the two options are scaled or RX. For workouts, scaled can mean just about anything. When it comes to competitions, both scaled and RX workouts are prescribed and have to be done as written. For those on the verge of RX, but competing scaled as well as those who are elite RX competitors this is not a problem, for everyone else  this can be a problem. The result is the inability to win in competition. This can impact motivation and eliminate some people from the community CrossFit has worked so hard to create.

Summary

As you can see, there are things I like about CrossFit and things I do not. I would recommend that everyone try CrossFit for at least a week to see what it is all about. Note that everything listed above are my personal feelings. Of course, many others have expressed their feelings on CrossFit. In my next post, I would like to look at some of the additional negatives frequently stated and express my opinion on them.

© 2015, Steve Flanders. All rights reserved.

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