6 Things to Know About CrossFit

6 Things to Know About CrossFit

Ah, CrossFit: just uttering the word can prompt intense reactions.

“It’s a cult, and it’s dangerous”

“My physical therapist says it’s the worst fitness trend in history”

“I can’t believe you would risk it with your back problem!”

These three sentences and so much more have all been said to me when friends, family, coworkers and virtual strangers alike find out I do CrossFit. As a follow up to my Health Journey post, which briefly touches on how I use CrossFit as my primary workout while living with relatively minor (but still no fun) chronic pain, I thought I would expand on some of these misconceptions – while offering a few pointers – here.

What Is CrossFit?

For the uninitiated, CrossFit means constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements. Most CrossFit athletes, as us participants are known, also place an importance of eating healthfully. (You can see the official definition here.)

Every day, a CrossFit workout is vastly different than the day before: over the course of several different workouts, participants will do Olympic lifting movements (such as power cleans); traditional lifts (such as back squats); gymnastic moves (like pull-ups); movements for aerobic capacity and power (such as rowing or running sprints), and all-over conditioning movements (kettlebell swings or burpees).

crossfit workout on blackboard

CrossFit is not circuit training, nor is it all crazy-heavy weight lifting: the whole point is that it’s always different, so that your muscles and your mind are always growing!

What’s the Controversy?

They say the first rule of CrossFit is to tell everyone that you do CrossFit. (So for me: mission accomplished.)

This intense love (some may say cult-like appreciation) for “the sports of fitness” helps inspire some hatred for it in the fitness industry. Take it from me: When long-distance running used to be my fitness method of choice, my CrossFitting boyfriend used to lecture me on CrossFit’s virtues compared to running. (I hate to say it, but I now agree with him.)

Beyond this bravado, people object to a few misconceptions about the sport: That one, it’s all potentially dangerous heavy weight lifting; and two, that each workout is so intense it renders participants possibly vomiting and definitely unable to walk for days afterward.

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A lot has been written about these CrossFit myths, as well as tips for beginners, so I will just outline it from my perspective below.

6 Things to Know About CrossFit

1. Yes, it is hard. But you’re as sore as you want to be

CrossFit attracts some Type-A folks who like to push themselves as hard as they can. But you certainly don’t have to go all out and lift the heaviest weights you can.

At my gym, I have never seen someone throw up during or after a workout. I have seen individuals “fail” at lifts when they attempt to lift too much and have to step away from the loaded barbell, but it has also been done safely and under the supervision of trained instructors, who have thoroughly demonstrated both the movements and how to “fail” them first.

crossfit woman lifting heavy weight

That said, you don’t have to “max out” your lifts at every opportunity; you don’t have to run so fast you want to puke. With CrossFit, there is a supportive team mentality, but at the end of the day, it’s your workout. Just be true to yourself.

2. It is really, truly scalable

The official CrossFit website explains that every workout is scalable to all fitness levels and abilities. Before I came to the gym, I thought that just could not be true; the workouts sounded too hard!

Because of my struggles with back pain and general fear of things that make me uncomfortable (say, box jumps) there were lots of movements I had to modify when I first began. My coaches always offered me substitutions and modifications without batting an eyelash because it happens all the time. CrossFit is truly scalable to any level. (To this day, I rarely lift the “prescribed” amounts for women because, for me, they’re just too heavy!)

3. Safety matters

With proper supervision, CrossFit should be safe. But you’re still lifting heavy weights, sometimes to the point of sheer exhaustion, and things happen. That’s why my number one rule for CrossFit is to know your limits, and know the difference between pushing yourself and feeling pain.

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I am constantly asked how I do CrossFit with back pain, and my answer always is that in some ways I am the perfect person to the sport because I know what pain feels like. Saying this though, if something like foraminal stenosis is the condition you suffer from, it may be worth speaking to a doctor before giving CrossFit a go. It is always best to be safe than sorry when it comes to our health.

I am not afraid (nor ashamed) to back off and take it easier – a skill every CrossFitter needs to master! There’s also no shame in admitting that Crossfit isn’t something is benefitting you as an individual for pain relief. It’s not something that is going to work for everyone. Different methods work for different people; for example, sabaidee cbd oil works well for some people in relieving their pain, whereas for some people this may not be the best reliever.

man lifting two dumbbells overhead

4. Shop around for your gym

My CrossFit full of people like me: busy professionals (of all ages, shapes, and sizes!) who enjoy getting good workouts and who like seeing measurable progress and results from their fitness program. My box is not for individuals who want to “go pro” with CrossFit and compete in the international CrossFit games. We’re just not working at that level.

My box has a Foundations program, a six-class series designed for beginners in which participants learn the basic CrossFit movements and begin to understand how workouts are structured. Most boxes offer these beginner programs, so definitely look for one in your area that has one.

5. Find a community you love

Part of shopping around for a gym you like – in a location you’ll actually go to, with times you can make – is to find CrossFit coaches and a community you like as well.

One of the best parts about CrossFit for me is that I work with the same three or four coaches every time I’m at the gym; they know my strengths and weaknesses. Because I see them day after day, when I finally master a new skill, they are right there celebrating with me. (Oftentimes, I master new things because of their encouragement; because they see me all the time, they know when to push me and when to back off.)

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I also love CrossFit because I see many of the same people every day; it makes getting to the gym a little easier because I know there will be friendly faces waiting for me.

That said, if you don’t like working out in groups, it’s possible CrossFit isn’t for you.

crossfit workout at the beach

6. Measure your progress

If you love tracking things (such as your steps), or like to cross items off of a to-do list, CrossFit is for you. One of my favorite parts of the sport is that it’s progress you can see and record.

Some examples: I can lift heavier weights and jump higher (I know this thanks to box jumps) than when I started. I’ve also gained fun skills like handstands that I could never do before. Next up: I’m finally going to master pull-ups (or that’s the goal at least).

But if you would rather show up and do the same thing every day, you’re not going to enjoy this process. If surprising yourself with newfound physical abilities does not sound interesting to you, CrossFit is probably not for you. It’s all individual.

All in all, CrossFit has been great for me – but it’s not for everyone.
TELL US: Have you tried CrossFit? Why or why not?

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