What is CrossFit?

First, CrossFit is not for everyone.  Period.  As much as I go around blabbering to anyone who will listen about how awesome it is and how great the results are, it will not work for everyone.

Whether your workout routines mainly consist of couch sitting and beer drinking (like mine did) or you are a current track and field star, does not matter when you begin CrossFit.  Not at all.  What matters are two things: willingness & commitment.

You need to be willing to accept the fact that you are there to learn.  That there are people out there who know things you don’t.  That there are groups of people who really care about making you improve, and have put their lives behind that.  You have to be willing to mentally join a team, with teammates and coaches, with rules, with good days and tough days (which are also good days, but usually involve a lot of push-ups).

CrossFit is the Sport of Fitness.  There is a lot to be taken from that statement.  It is a Sport first.  CrossFit is amazingly fun, just like other sports.  You compete, mostly with yourself if you are like me, and everyone who wants to be, is ranked on BeyondTheWhiteboard.com.  There is equipment.  Cool equipment, like kettlebells, which are like bowling balls with a handle, slam balls, wall balls, giant rubber bands, bars, weights, cameras, shoes, bandannas, and  t-shirts and other fun things.  There are rules, timers, winners, runners ups, history, records, personal records, local, regional and national competitions.  It’s a sport first.  And there are many detractors of the sport.  People who are anti-CrossFit.  People like Steve Maxwell.  Read his thoughts here: http://maxwellsc.com/blog.cfm?blogID=90

CrossFit is the Sport of Fitness, so that means when you play the sport, you are playing fitness.  CrossFit makes doing push-ups and squats, and burpees, and squats, and squats, and oh yea, squats, fun.  Seriously.  I used to workout because I had to, which translated into short bursts of a couple months of working out at most, then back to the couch and the beer.  These guys have done something on the order of a Jedi mind trick to make me actually look forward to going in every day, and feel like I’m missing out on something on the days that I don’t make it in.  So when you get into playing CrossFit, you are first playing, and second playing fitness.  That comes with some direct benefits, such as having fun playing on a team building friendships and those things, as well as some serious gains in your performance at the sport.  The goal of this sport is improvement.  You win, when you do better than you did last time.  And, as you are getting better at fitness, you are getting more fit.  So for people like me, that means losing over 40 pounds of fat in 6 months.  Being able to do pull-ups (both our kipping-style and the more traditional ‘strict’ pull-ups) for the first time in my life.  It means being able to pick up a couple hundred pounds off the floor, or raise over 100 pounds over my head, touch my toes, run, jump, skip… But wait, there’s more….

The benefit of playing CrossFit goes far beyond the direct benefits of playing the sport.  As you play, you get more fit.  Fit for the movements associated with CrossFit, but those movements are chosen because of their usefulness in everyday life.  The better I have gotten at playing CrossFit, the better I’ve gotten at playing with my 2.5 year old daughter.  I’m more flexible, I can pick her up and hold her longer.  She loves sitting on my back as I do push-ups and make horsey sounds.  It makes me better at standing in an awkward position over the bed and dresser hanging the new blinds that I was too cheap to pay for installation on.  I’m better at climbing the stairs with a backpack.  I’m better at skiing.  I’m better at sleeping.  I’m better at thinking about what I eat…I’m in training after all! I’m better at managing my time so that I can get my WODs in.  I’m better at lugging crap through an airport in a hurry, and fitting in the seat when I get there.  I’m 35 and I’m significantly more fit, physically and mentally, than I ever have been in my life.  Playing CrossFit did for me in 6 months, what my $2500 Bowflex Ultimate II and a $1500 SmoothFitness Elliptical machine failed to do in 6 years.  It got me motivated to get my butt out of bed, every day, and work out.

Is playing CrossFit for you?  Honestly, probably not.  But if you read this far, it’s worth checking out for yourself.  There are many ways to do so.  Most CrossFit gyms offer a free intro session.  Just google CrossFit in your town, and you’ll probably find something close.  I’ve never heard of anyone getting pressure from the gyms to join, it’s their friends who play CrossFit tend to supply the pressure to sign up :)

If you are in Ann Arbor, check out HyperfitUSA.  These guys changed my life.

If you look to the official CrossFit source, CrossFit is defined as: Constantly VariedFunctional Movements, performed at High Intensity.  Here are three short (~30 seconds each) videos which describe them:

Constantly Varied:

Functional Movement:

High Intensity:

One final thought.  As mentioned, CrossFit is a sport.  You play it.  And just like football, basketball, tether-ball, jarts or any other sport, when you play it, you might get hurt.  If you are smart about it, listen to the instructors, and above all listen to your own body, you’ll probably be just fine.  But always remember, ab mat ass is very real, and never to be taken lightly.

If you want to be successful at CrossFit, instructor Mike put it best.  “Show up consistently, and do what ever the hell we tell you to do.”  It is that simple.