What is CrossFit and will it really get me in shape?

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push ups cross fit

Cross fit is a short, hard hitting workout (Shutterstock)

CrossFit is a trendy and emerging workout choice. But it isn’t trendy like Zumba—there is no dancing or cute outfits. Instead, it’s a gritty workout plan targeting those who aren’t afraid of some serious effort, the kind that might make you grunt and the kind that will definitely leave you with a healthy amount of sweat—armpit stains and all. This isn’t Jane Fonda; CrossFit is short, hard-hitting, and to the point.

CrossFit was founded by Greg Glassmen in 2000 in Seattle, Washington. By 2005, there were 13 CrossFit gyms. Now, there’s nearly 4,500 across the nation. Needless to say, it’s catching on.

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a full-body strength and conditioning workout combining dynamic and diverse movements. It is designed to improve your fitness level: Endurance, power, speed, muscular tone or whatever else your fitness goal is, including weight loss.

At the heart of a CrossFit workout is the Workout of the Day, WOD for short. This workout is usually less than 20 minutes. But before you get excited about short workouts and start looking for your nearby CrossFit gym, you should know, these workouts are seriously intense. They require maximum effort. You can’t go to a CrossFit gym and just go through the motions— they will definitely call you out. This is intense fitness training and although it’s open to anyone (young, old, fit and overweight), the goal here is to whip your butt into shape.

By all accounts, CrossFit is seriously effective. Part of the reason for this is the level of effort you are putting into the WOD. Also, the WOD consists of many fitness-mainstays—moves that have been working for years. This is good old-fashioned functional exercise.

Your WOD might include burpees, climbing, push-ups, pull-ups, weight lifting, sprinting or rowing. You will use weights, kettlebells, medicine balls and most importantly—your own body weight. In some gyms, your performance is scored and ranked with others, to encourage competition. While these groups are encouraging and a high-energy bunch, some healthy jibes certainly occur in an effort to boost each other’s performance.

There is also a time for warming up, learning technique and form and mobility exercises to increase flexibility.

Training frequency is set depending on your fitness goals as well as to avoid overtraining and injury, but Crossfit participants usually train anywhere between three and five times a week, although beginners can save two days a week for the workouts.

Pros and cons of CrossFit

bicep curls, crossfit

Cross fit works, but it’s not for everyone (Shutterstock)

CrossFit works. It’s an intense exercise system; some would say it’s a lifestyle. It combines cardio and strength training, and each session usually ends with some stretching—all the necessary components of well-rounded fitness. It seems to be a fun workout for most people, with participants hyping each other up and having a good time in the midst of the extreme effort.

But, like everything else, CrossFit has its critics. These critics say that CrossFit’s extreme approach to fitness puts people at risk of injury. Well, running puts people at risk of injury, and so does lifting weights at the gym. Any fitness program comes with risks. Minimizing these risks by working out smart is your responsibility. The movements are also scaled, so you can practice CrossFit whatever your fitness level is.

Another complaint is that the workouts are overly-generalized. If you’re looking for a weight lifting program, you would have to supplement that to your WOD. CrossFit wasn’t designed specifically to make people stronger or to make people faster. It was created to be a general training program. It can make you faster and stronger, but if you want to focus on one goal specifically, you’ll need to target that yourself.

Finally, there is the sort of cult-mentality of CrossFit. If you know someone who is involved in the program, you know what I mean. But, when you think about it, those activities in life that we build a “brotherhood” around are often those that are the most enjoyable and those that mean the most to us. CrossFit isn’t trying to get you to change your religion or spend every waking hour at the gym, they are only asking for 100 percent of you for about 20 minutes each day.

Are you involved with CrossFit? Share your experience!

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