CrossFit fitness is focused on:
- improving 10 general physical skills (cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, ﬂexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy),
- performing any possible task well, and
- increasing your ability to deliver energy through the 3 main metabolic pathways (phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative).
- High-Intensity Level – You will train hard, but it will be hard relative to your fitness level. It shouldn’t be that much harder if you’re completely out-of-shape compared to an athlete, because the workouts are tailored for each member.
- Short Workout – The workout is typically a 5-10 minute warm-up, 5-10 minutes of technique review, and a 10-20 minute main workout called the WOD (Workout of the Day). You can often be in-and-out of the box (gym) in 45 minutes. Despite the short timeframe, you’ve sent your body a clear message to get stronger, because of the focused intensity in those 10-20 minutes.
- Adaptable for All Fitness Levels – I see people of varying athletic ability, body type, and age in the same classes. I don’t believe that anyone is excellent at all the exercises CrossFit incorporates when they start. You may be good at Olympic lifts, but then you’re probably not great at running fast or pull-ups. The trainers do an excellent job modifying exercises for beginners. For instance, most people can’t do pull-ups. At CrossFit students either do horizontal pull-ups where their feet touch the ground to provide assistance or you step onto a very large rubber strap that removes some of your bodyweight when you pull-up. Over time you use bands with less and less assistance until you can complete a pull-up without the band.
- Variability – There are exercises that are commonly used, but the list is quite long as you can see here. The combinations of exercises are endless, but there are standard named workouts used to help you evaluate your progress. Occasionally, you’ll get to perform a “Hero WOD”, which are typically named for courageous military men or women. Here’s a link to the CrossFit Named Workouts. The benefit of frequently changing exercises is that you don’t get bored with performing the same workout over and over again and your body is constantly challenged.
- No Thinking – You don’t have to plan your workouts. They’re planned for you. Everyone does that same workout each day and the workout changes daily. You can do something different and train on your own, but with the Workout of the Day (WOD), you only have to focus on executing the movements in your workout, not planning them.
- Friendly Competition – You train with a group of people performing the same workout. Scores are posted on the whiteboard, which encourages you to push a bit harder to post a good time or a good score. The competition is never malicious and never makes you feel bad about what you’re capable of doing. People are supportive of each other and work together to help each other improve through coaching, tips, and sharing strategies.
- Community – My CrossFit box (gym) often has charity events, fund-raising nights for their competition team, dinners to kickoff challenges for losing body fat, and more. You’re joining a community when join CrossFit. Their focus is health, fun, and helping others.
- Fun – The workouts are difficult, but the challenge and camaraderie is fun. Loud music blasts from the gym speakers. Coaches give you just the right amount of encouragement to push harder. There are smiles all around (at least when you’re done the WOD).
- Healthier by Osmosis – The community feel has another positive effect. Everyone trying to be healthier means you learn to be healthier by being around like-minded people. Imagine if you joined a bar. I know you can’t join a bar, but imagine if you could. You’d likely drink alcohol a lot more. When you join a gym of people enthusiastic about improving their health, you get healthier. These aren’t people running like gerbils on treadmills. People are focused on their goals and open to trying new strategies. You’ll learn those strategies and can get advice from people who’ve implemented them. You are the average of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. If you want that average to trend healthier, try CrossFit.
You’ll Get Flexible
Okay, let’s say you are looking at the schedule for your local CrossFit Box, and you see most classes are about an hour. We’ve just been describing the types of high intensity workouts you can expect, and you may be thinking, ‘I need to work that hard for an hour?’ Well, no. Remember how we said with powerlifting and with HIIT workouts you get a lot of benefit from a shorter workout time? Well, that’s the case at CrossFit. You’ll work out hard for about half an hour, but your class will start and finish with a very carefully designed program of warm up and cool down that protects your muscles and joints and helps prevent injury.
These aren’t your everyday stretching routines though, CrossFit warm ups and cool downs do much more. Based on the premise that to prevent injury and maximize performance you need to build a combination of flexibility (muscle movement) and mobility (joint range and stability). This means that what you get is so much more than just improved flexibility, you get another aspect to your workout that helps you stay active for longer!