How does the old adage go? “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it?” Well, that holds true for me now after several months of CrossFit training. As a physical therapist, you are taught to tread carefully when it comes to fads in the fitness industry. We’ve seen plenty of those fads come and go. From infomercials containing claims of rapid fat loss to a device that you shake until you feel your bulging biceps fatigue to exhaustion, we’ve seen it all. But CrossFit has continued to gain momentum in the fitness industry and still thrives to this day. So I decided to go on my own voyage to the unknown to figure out what this whole CrossFit thing was all about. Here are a couple of my observations:
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is based on functional movements:
-Functional movement is defined as fundamental human movement patterns such as running,jumping, squatting, pushing and pulling that is purposefully practiced to directly or indirectly influence another aspect of life positively.
CrossFit is a variety of constantly changing functional movements at a high intensity:
-Changing movements during the workout at a high level is a key component to CrossFit.
-Training through a variety of movements during the workout causes the body to adapt to different situations.
Workout of the Day (WOD):
-WOD is the set of routines that are going to be performed for the day.
-A WOD is designed to incorporate a broad range of exercises with a specific number of repetitions per exercise.
Here is an example of a WOD:
-A WOD will have ambiguous names that are attached to them with no rhyme or reason. The above workout is called “Angie”.
CrossFit is high intensity
-Capacity to do work in a specific time interval is critical for increased fitness.
-High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of training that implements alternating short anaerobic bursts of exercise followed by easy recovery periods.
CrossFit is about community
-The basic principle behind CrossFit is camaraderie.
-Having a white board written with the WOD challenges each individual to accomplish a goal through competition.
-As weird as it sounds, the sport of fitness in a group setting allows people to engage with one another through communal suffering.
Keep in mind, this is not an all encompassing list of what CrossFit is. I am, in no means, the expert when it comes to CrossFit. I am speaking on my personal experience and observations. What I have observed from doing CrossFit is that it can be extremely beneficial for the right population. Assuming that there are no faulty movement patterns or restrictions in joint mobility, CrossFit can be highly beneficial for those that are trying to get moving again. This is where a physical therapist and a CrossFit specialist can have a partnership that can be tremendous for the wellness industry. Who better to assess a person’s functional movement pattern than a physical therapist? We are movement specialists. Our primary goal is to get a patient moving better and to find any faulty patterns in a movement.
With regards to the negative stigma that CrossFit has associated with it, I believe it is a matter of dosage and intensity of the exercise program. Too many times, I have seen people sacrifice form for the ability complete the repetitions included in the WOD. What people fail to realize is that CrossFit itself is a group exercise program and not everyone is able to achieve the same amount of workload. This is where a tailored program that is specific to the individual is vital. With regards to the high intensity aspect of CrossFit, research has shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) provides improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.
On a personal note, I have felt the best I have felt in a very long time. CrossFit has given me the cross-training that I have needed to supplement my endurance sports, particularly cycling. My total physical capacity has improved tremendously and having a group setting to break up the lull of getting on the saddle has given me more motivation to live a healthy and active life.
If you ever feel the motivation to check out CrossFit or have been injured and want to get back, I encourage you to schedule a visit with me to get a movement assessment to get that PR (personal record) and get you on right track!