According to founder Greg Glassman, CrossFit “…is a strength and conditioning programme built on constantly varied, if not randomised, functional movements executed at high intensity.”
CrossFit has attracted an almost cult following (if you ask some people), with their own language, doing their WODs (Workouts of the Day) and AMRAPS (As Many Reps As Possible) and hanging out in their Boxes. They’ve developed a strong sense of community based on support and inclusiveness, made working out accessible and tapped into your biggest competitor – yourself. CrossFit gets a bunch of people moving who perhaps otherwise would not move.
These are all admirable things and I have lots of respect for CrossFit, its’ popularity, and its popularisation of the fitness industry. The concept is good (back in the day we might have called it a circuit), but sometimes the execution falls short. But you could also say the average gym-goer has poor technique too.
Some people thrive on the CrossFit go-hard approach – constantly striving to beat their personal best time/weight/number of reps. People screaming at you to go harder and faster really gets these guys excited. That’s great if it works for you, but it’s not for everyone and it’s not for me.
Many of us have seen the cringeworthy YouTube videos showing CrossFitters with terrible form, doing bad, bad things to their body. However, for every bad form clip there’s tens, if not hundreds, of people doing CrossFit well. People get injured doing other exercise too – consider boxing, mixed martial arts, rugby, netball – we just don’t seem to focus on that so much.
I’m all for the concept of pushing yourself – when you’re feeling good, when you have sound technique and you know what your limits are. Grit and determination are great traits to foster but does CrossFit take it too far? ‘Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done’ is a common catchphrase. But what if you’re pushing yourself past utter exhaustion and putting yourself in danger of injury? When every cell in your body is telling you to stop, maybe that’s when you need to stop. Just because you pushed through the pain, threw up (or broke something) and finished your set does not make you a hero.
I’m not in favour of the use of technically complicated movements like Olympic lifts with heavy weight for a timed period or high reps as seen in many WODs. Olympic lifts are seriously technical and not for beginners. If you want to do these well, seek out a qualified strength and conditioning (S&C) coach. This doesn’t necessarily mean your CrossFit trainer isn’t a qualified S&C coach, there are many out there who are both and will take you through the process thoroughly. Personally, I know my Olympic technique is questionable, I’ve been working on it for years. Give me a WOD with Olympic lifts with heavy load, high reps, and fatigue and I’ll be in trouble but you might be more co-ordinated than me.
If you’re previously unfit and you CrossFit, you will see dramatic results, fast. Just as you will with any high intensity exercise programme. If you’re not in tune with your body, don’t have enough recovery time, and continually ‘push through’, injuries will occur and set you back from your overall goal. We’re not designed to workout hard constantly, we need recovery time.
CrossFit has its’ good and bad, it appeals to many but it’s not for everyone. When it’s executed well, it’s fantastic. If it’s not so good, watch out.
We all want to be healthier, fitter, stronger and leaner. Different things work for different people, but when did being healthy have to hurt so much?