One of the hottest fitness trends right now is CrossFit. This intense workout delivers results, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Learn the fundamentals of CrossFit before deciding if this exercise program is for you.
“Our specialty is not specializing,” is what CrossFit founder Greg Glassman says. Each CrossFit “Workout of the Day” or “WOD” is different, but most include a combination of plyometrics (think jumping jacks and medicine ball throws), Olympic- and power-weight lifting, speed training, kettle bell moves, gymnastics, body weight and endurance exercises. Glassman, a former gymnast, modeled CrossFit after the strength and conditioning training programs used by police academies and military special operations units. The benefits of doing CrossFit workouts include improved cardio fitness, strength, endurance, stamina, speed, agility, balance and coordination.
CrossFit also encourages participants to follow a special diet consisting of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. Note that these dietary recommendations were not developed by a registered dietitian, and they suggest a lower carbohydrate intake and higher protein intake than the guidelines issued by the American Dietetic Association.
What to Expect During a CrossFit Class
You can do CrossFit at home or at a specialty CrossFit-affiliated gym or “box.” WODs consist of a circuit of challenging and explosive exercises. Each WOD is meant to be completed as quickly as possible, with little to no rest between exercises and sets. WODs are posted on crossfit.com each day and they are named for women or military heroes, for example “the Fran” or “the Barbara.”
There are more than 2,500 independently-owned CrossFit-affiliated gyms open in the U.S. If you join one of these gyms, you’ll have to complete a month-long initiation course to learn proper technique for CrossFit exercises before you can take a regular class. A typical, coach-led class at a CrossFit gym is about one hour long and includes the following:
10- 15 minute warm-up. 15- 20 minutes practicing a skill (like rowing technique) or focusing on strength (such as deadlifts). 10- 30 minutes on the WOD. An example WOD is “the Murph”: timed 1-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats accumulated throughout the workout (all pull-ups, push-ups, and squats are not performed in a row, unless you are fit enough), finished with another timed 1-mile run. 5- 10 minute cool-down with stretching.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
These factors can help you decide if CrossFit is for you.
The pros of CrossFit
It’s effective. Whether you want to tone-up or trim down, the intensity of CrossFit workouts give you results. Workouts don’t take a long time. WODs only take 10-30 minutes to complete.It’s fun. If you get bored with exercise, CrossFit is guaranteed to keep you on your toes since the WOD changes each day.You get a friendly dose of competition. If you do CrossFit at a gym, each person’s WOD times are noted on a large board. That can be incentive to improve upon your own times or beat other people in your class.
The cons of CrossFit
Workouts are very intense. CrossFit is not for people who are new to exercise or those with injuries.You can get hurt. Your risk of injury increases when you perform workouts in a fatigued state, such as during WOD circuits. If you do WODs at home without the supervision of a coach, you may not be using proper form, which ups the risk for injuries. Not all CrossFit coaches are certified. Ask a coach about their certification, background and references before signing up for class.
Have you ever tried CrossFit?