CrossFit is going full speed ahead into the fitness industry. There are almost 7,000 affiliate gyms, from just 13 in 2005, reflected also by the 166% year-over-year growth rate of the CrossFit Games. Moreover, there is only a 2% estimated failure rate when opening a CrossFit gym. With so many people joining in, does that mean it’s right for you?
How did it all begin?
The first CrossFit affiliated gym was opened by gymnast Greg Glassman in 1995. From its early days, CrossFit was created to simulate the effort required by sports people during performance, such as that of fighters during a match and athletes during a competitive event. Gassman also thought that this high intensity workout replicated the physical effort required in everyday situations such as that of a police officer in a chase.
What is the goal of CrossFit?
CrossFit is designed to improve cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, power, speed, agility, and balance. This is done through power exercises such as a clean and press (the clean and press is an Olympic lift where you start with the bar on the ground, pull it p to your chin, flip, then press it straight over head – it helps improve total body strength and power), as well as plyometric exercises such as box jumps (in a box jump, you jump from the ground onto the top of a box – box jumps improve cardiovascular explosiveness), and high intensity cardio exercises such as the tire flips (tire flips involve very heavy tires that you squat down and grab from the bottom, pull up, and push to flip over – tire flips improve total body strength, power, and endurance). Glassman claims that CrossFit not only improves your overall fitness level but that it also prepares you for physical challenges in life.
Not for the faint of heart…
CrossFit has a reputation for being die-hard. The CrossFit mentality at many Boxes is to work as hard as you can, no matter how you feel. Some CrossFit Box owners will pride themselves on giving out t-shirts for anyone that throws up, or telling you good job when you scrape your shin and bleed. For some people, this is awesome and just what they need. For others, this will end up being too intimidating and most likely scare them off. You should ask yourself whether you and your physical condition can handle the intensity of CrossFit training.
The good, the bad and the ugly!
- Improves strength/endurance/overall fitness level: CrossFit uses weights and cardiovascular focused equipment.
- Helps lose weight/burn calories: CrossFit will help you burn a lot of calories through the exercise and, as long as you have a healthy and proper diet, you will lose weight and build muscle.
- Great if you enjoy group training: It’s a great opportunity to exercise in a group if you prefer it to 1:1.
- The competitive spirit can boost your performance: If you are competitive like me, there is nothing like trying to do something better then someone else to motivate you to do your best.
- Increases mental toughness: When being put through very vigorous and intense workouts, your body will adapt to the intensity over time and be able to better handle it. This will then result in overall increased mental toughness.
- Lack of scalability: The exercises are fixed, they don’t take individuals’ ability into consideration.
- Not suitable for the “average Joe”: This is not a discriminatory comment, rather a cautionary one. However, most people can build towards doing CrossFit training.
- Some instructors are under-qualified: To open a CrossFit Box, all you need is a Level 1 certification. CrossFit Level 1 trainers are certified after a 2 day seminar and a 50 question multiple choice exam. This leads to a lack of highly qualified trainers who are able to provide suitable guidance.
- Lack of suitable instructions: Many cross-fitters did not feel that adequate instructions were given on how to correctly perform the exercises. This might be a direct consequence of instructors being under-qualified.
- Lack of programming: There is a high rate of complaints regarding program structure. Many ex-Crossfitters feel that the workouts were poorly structured and almost chaotic.
- Higher risk of injury compared to more traditional forms of exercise: This is due to a general lack of proper lifting education, use of heavy heights with complex movements, and many of the exercises are momentum based rather then controlled.
- Could cause joint problems in the present and or future: A large number of ex-Crossfitters have complaints of joint injuries due to overly complex exercises that their body simply was not ready for.
- Risk of dehydration and Rhabdomyolysis: Due to the high intensity and volume of exercise repetitions, along with dehydration, many Crossfitters have developed Rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown or injury of muscle fibers which leads to the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream. If too much myoglobin is produced, this cannot be filtered by the kidneys as it is highly toxic and can therefore lead to kidney failure.
Here’s what I think!
All in all, I think CrossFit has its place. At this point in time, it is more of a fad than anything which is what leads to the high volume of injuries and low quality instructors that reviewers are talking about. It is great for people who are really trying to improve their overall fitness and maybe already have a high-fitness level. But, for most people, their body is just not ready for the high intensity, high repetition, and high volume that comes with CrossFit.
3 tips for first timers
If you have decided to give it a try, here are 3 tips for you!
- Research your instructors and make sure they are highly qualified and have a lot of experience.
- Ask other people who have gone to a class what they thought of it.
- Don’t feel pressured. If something is too much, feels painful (in a bad way), or you don’t think you are doing it right, then just stop. Its not worth it! The goal is to progress, not to get injured.
The most important thing after being safe while doing exercise, is to enjoy it. So, try it out as you are the only one who can decide whether CrossFit is right for you!