Making the Leap to CrossFit
Perhaps the most popular fitness craze sweeping across America today is the emergence of CrossFit, and other, similar brands. CrossFit is a high intensity workout that includes anything from plyometrics, to cardio, to Olympic lifting exercises. Usually the Workouts of the Day (WOD's) are done with a group and lead by a coach who has been trained and certified in the CrossFit philosophy and technique. I wanted to write this article to hopefully help clarify what exactly CrossFit is, and if you are considering CrossFit for yourself, give you some practical tips to get you prepared for your experience.
I joined a CrossFit gym about 1 month ago. I have been working out regularly for over 10 years, I have a degree in Exercise Science, and I have played team sports my entire life, so working out is not new to me by any means. For a while, I was resistant to the "CrossFit Movement". There were a few reasons for this. First was the cost. Joining a CrossFit gym is NOT cheap, especially in comparison with traditional gyms, and in relation to my nearly-college-student level budget. Second, I thought I knew enough about working out to be able to accomplish the same things on my own, just going to a traditional gym. Third, having studied Exercise Science, I was very concerned about the prospects of injury, not necessarily to myself (at least not yet, since I'm only 24), but more so to people who don't really have much experience with working out, or who come into CrossFit at a low level of fitness. All in all, I simply thought that CrossFit was a fad that would quickly fade, and we would all just go back to our regular old gyms and forget the whole thing.
Since joining my gym, I have pretty much totally gotten on board with the so called "fad". While I can't speak authoritatively for all CrossFit gyms, I'm going to share with you some reasons why the gym I joined has totally changed my perspective on CrossFit, and how CrossFit has already totally revolutionized my workout routine and my fitness habits in general. In the process, I hope to encourage you to give it a try if it's something you've been considering, and I'll share some tips from my own experience to help you as you transition into the CrossFit style workout environment.
Without a doubt, the biggest hurdle I had to overcome before I actually joined my gym, was the cost. Just to give you an idea, I joined one of the cheaper CrossFit gyms in town, and I am still paying 5x what I was paying for my membership at my old traditional gym. That may seem outrageous, to be honest, it still feels pretty crazy to me sometimes; however, here are a few ways that I am able to justify this in my mind. First, I am going to the gym much more regularly than I was with my previous membership. Part of the reason for this is that I don't want all that money to go to waste, but the other, probably bigger part is that CrossFit is a group workout, so there is some "positive peer-pressure" that helps give me the motivation to go on days when I may not be too excited about the workout. Finally, because I am doing these high-intensity workouts, I don't want them to go to waste, so I have been preparing much healthier food at home as opposed to going out to eat where I would typically find something pretty unhealthy, thereby saving money in my food budget.
The second hurdle I needed to overcome was the thought that I could just do CrossFit workouts on my own without actually joining a CrossFit gym. To be honest, this one is totally true. I absolutely have the ability to do CrossFit workouts alone at the gym, or even at my house. The problem is, I never did. Not ONCE. A few factors come in to play on that. First, many of the CrossFit movements require more space and different equipment than you would find at a traditional gym like a Gold's or Planet Fitness. CrossFit involves a lot of Power Cleans, deadlifts, any variety of squat imagineable, running, jump-roping, pullups, etc - and these are all performed with no break in between. At a traditional gym, not only do you not usually have a good place to do cleans, but it is also rare that you would be able to quickly move from doing cleans to running, to squats, to pull-ups without having to wait for someone else to finish a set. Another factor that influenced this is that some CrossFit movements just look weird, and will definitely get you some stares in a regular old gym. Finally, when you go to a traditional gym, you don't have a coach giving you direction and motivation to do the workout - quite simply, its just so easy to just leave the gym whenever you get tired, especially when you're working out alone.
The last major resistance that I had to CrossFit was the risk of injury to myself, and especially people who are at a low level of fitness or who do not have much experience lifting weights or otherwise working out. This is another risk that is very real. As I stated above, this is an intense workout. The closest thing that I have experienced to a CrossFit workout is probably my high school football practices. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how you are able to scale the workouts to fit your fitness level. You can either reduce weight or modify the movements to do what you are able to do. While I would still recommend that you have some knowledge of working out before you attempt a CrossFit workout, you definitely don't have to be an expert or be in the best shape of your life. I have also been thrilled with the coaching at my gym, as they work very hard to teach technique, and they encourage you to emphasize proper form before they push you to start lifting more weight or doing more reps. There is also no pressure from your classmates to push yourself too hard either. Everyone in the gym seems to be simply focused on pushing you to do your best, whatever that may be.
These were the hesitations that I had coming into my CrossFit experience, and I imagine many people have felt the same way. Joining this gym has been a massivley positive experience for me, and I want it to be the same for you. I hope this little blurb has helped you to understand a little more about what CrossFit is, and how it may be able to benefit you. In my next few articles, I'm going to write in more detail about what my first few weeks in CrossFit have been like, as well as give you some tips on how to approace your own CrossFit experience in you are considering joining a gym yourself. I hope this has helped, and I hope you'll come back to read the next article!