A few days ago I asked the New Yorker a lot of questions about CrossFit. I had been looking on Shape or Fitness Magazine’s website (can’t remember which to save my soul) and saw that CrossFit had been voted one of the best workout methods of the year. I knew it was great, but had always assumed you had to be in amazing shape to start it. All these questions started morphing into more of an interview, which morphed into a blog post. So, courtesy of the New Yorker, here is some great info on CrossFit for those of you who are interested in giving it a try!
-Tell us a little about yourself. How did you discover Crossfit, and what made you want to try it out for yourself?
I have been an athlete my whole life. I played soccer for 13 years and ran track very competitively in high school and for a year at a D1 college. I also recreationally play hockey, basketball and just about any other sport someone suggests that day. After I stopped running track I got into working out and for a few years did basic “out of the magazine” workouts.
I discovered CrossFit in 2009 when I stumbled onto the main site. I was intrigued by the variety in the workouts as well as the intensity at which they are meant to be done. I started doing the workouts at my college’s gym and was hooked (even with all the weird looks I got while doing the workouts).
On a weekend in February 2011 I attended a CrossFit level 1 certification course with the hopes of eventually finding a gym that needed a part time trainer.
While that has not worked out yet due to my full time job; CrossFit, and fitness in general, is something that I am passionate about. I’ve done a sprint triathlon and I do the occasional obstacle course race or 5k. This year might see a duathlon since I like running and biking but don’t really enjoy swimming.
-What is the basis/model of Crossfit?
CrossFit is a general physical preparedness program (GPP) based around functional movements. The workouts are constantly varied and programmed to improve on ten fitness domains:
-Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance
This is done by incorporating functional, compound movements done at high intensity. Functional movements are what we as humans do every day. Think of getting into and out of a chair (squat), picking something up off the floor (deadlift) and putting something over your head (shoulder press). CrossFit uses all of the varieties of these 3 major lifts as well as moves from Olympic weightlifting, power lifting and gymnastics among other things to provide improvement to the ten fitness domains.
-What makes it different from other workouts like traditional weight lifting, yoga, or running?
One big difference is the constantly varied part of it. Most traditional workouts involve doing the same exercises, many of them isolation exercises, week after week. Squats on Mondays, bench press on Tuesdays, etc. With CF you never know what you’re going to get. Another difference is the intensity. A majority of the workouts are timed, encouraging you to move faster and therefore tax your cardiovascular system unlike with a traditional weight lifting program. It doesn’t really compare to yoga or running. It’s not meant to replace either of those. In fact, the addition of them to CrossFit is very popular and extremely beneficial.
-What is the difference between paying for a CF class at a specialized gym, and going to your own gym and doing the workout of the day, available on the website?
Going to your own gym and doing the main site WOD is very possible and thousands of people do that. I was one of those people before joining a CrossFit gym and I still am one of those people a few times a week. The problem here would be for people who are new to either working out in general or just new to some of the movements incorporated in CF. If someone does a squat or deadlift incorrectly there is a very real and serious chance that they will hurt themselves. This is where the trainers at CrossFit gyms come in handy. Each class is under the watch of a trainer who will go over form before the workout and make sure everyone keeps that form throughout the workout. Also, the community and competiveness at CrossFit gyms is awesome. It is always helpful when you are struggling through a workout to have other people there either struggling with you or cheering you on to finish. There is also structure to a CrossFit class which usually follows a format similar to this:
warmup/stretch > skill/form review > strength training > workout of the day (WOD) > stretch
-Should I have a certain level of fitness before trying CrossFit?
Having a base level of fitness before trying CrossFit is definitely helpful but by no means necessary. Every CrossFit workout is scalable to each individual’s fitness level.
-Is there anything else I should know before starting CrossFit?
Don’t let it intimidate you. It is scalable for all levels.
CrossFit is very humbling, even for people who are, or think they are, in shape. There are many unfamiliar movements that will take a while to learn how to do properly.The other side of this is that it is also very rewarding. It is a great feeling when you press a weight that you didn’t even think you could get off the ground over your head, or when you squat with a well more than your bodyweight on your back. And that feeling doesn’t just stay in the gym.
If you’re curious about CrossFit then find a local gym near you (I can almost guarantee there is at least one near you, probably more). Many offer low cost or free trials to introduce you to the methodology and to see if it is something you are interested in.
A HUGE thank you to The New Yorker for all of this great information! If you have any other questions, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at PastaFreeRunner@gmail.com and I’ll forward it along to him!
What workout do you like to do that pushes you to your limits and beyond?