What the Heck Is CrossFit?

CrossFitWhat the heck is CrossFit? This is a question I have been asking myself for a while. I figured that if I don’t know, you might not know. So, let’s find out!

Maybe you have the vague knowledge of CrossFit that I had–the Facebook picture and post. I can’t tell you how many of my friends proudly post pictures of a dry-erase board with jibberish scribbles as if it’s their first born child. They include meaningful comments with the picture such as “Nailed the WOD!” or “Bam!”

Suffice to say, I really needed to extend my knowledge to be able to write on this topic. I did lots of research, talked to some friends, and even checked out a local CrossFit gym. Here’s all the information I discovered to best answer the question:

What the Heck Is CrossFit?

CrossFit is one of the most popular workouts on the market today. They have gyms around the world. These gyms are different from standard gyms in many ways, but most noticeably, the floors are rubber and there are no pieces of cardio equipment. It’s just you and a bunch of free weights and weight racks.

Despite the aesthetic differences, the activities you do in a CrossFit gym might be very similar to what you might do in a standard gym. According to the CrossFit website,

“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. These are the core movements of life. They move the largest loads the longest distances, so they are ideal for maximizing the amount of work done in the shortest time. Intensity is essential for results and is measurable as work divided by time—or power. The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness.”

From my perspective, CrossFit is a fitness class filled with a variety of all things fitness. Whether you like cardio, strength training, Olympic lifting, circuit workouts, or simply the community of exercising with others, you get the workout you need.

How Did It Begin?

After decades of work, CrossFit was developed by Greg Glassman in 1996. The first CrossFit gym opened in Santa Cruz, California. According to the Map of Official CrossFit locations, as of June 2017, there are 13,088 CrossFit gyms around the world. You can click on the link to find the CrossFit gym nearest you.

Why Is It So Popular?

With so many people doing CrossFit, it stands to reason that this program is able to meet many different needs. For example, when I went to check out a local CrossFit gym, I met a woman named Terri Stewart. She showed me around the gym and told me what she knew about the program.

I asked her why she did CrossFit, and her response surprised me. She said that she had always had wanted to learn Olympic weight lifting. When she comes to class, she’s most interested in learning the technique for Olympic lifts. Then, she practices and increases her strength and weights.

A contrast to that is my friend Lynae. She had done CrossFit before but quit for one reason or another. As a group fitness teacher, she gets her exercise in many ways, but she was starting to feel like her body was in a rut. So, when she got a pass to come to CrossFit classes, she came.

Although the reasons may vary, people around the world are giving CrossFit a try. Many of them like it so much that they are super-fans! Here are two personal stories from friends of mine about why they started doing CrossFit and what makes them come back for more.

Christie, a Middle School Band Teacher

Christie Berger, a Middle School band teacher, had several run-ins with CrossFit before she finally started. “I saw a lady (she currently runs a successful CrossFit affiliate) working out at 24 Hour Fitness, and she looked like she was killing herself in a workout. When I asked her what she was doing, she said breathlessly, ‘CrossFit.’

“I still do CrossFit because it is the best bang for your buck in fitness. It focuses on all of the right things for me: strength, functional movement, and ability over body image. I have never felt more physically capable in my life.”

Christie is so involved that she has participated (and had great victory) in multiple CrossFit competitions.

Laura, a Social Worker

Laura Curry-Matthews, a social worker, said “I was skeptical, because I thought if I couldn’t bench press or squat my body weight on the first day I would be told CrossFit wasn’t for me. I was pleasantly surprised that our gym is focused on doing the best you can. They don’t want you to overexert yourself, and if your form or technique is suffering, they will make you drop weight. They give you lots of feedback too on how to improve.

“I keep going because I enjoy the intensity of the workouts. It helps me clear my mind. Also, the workouts are challenging, and I truly believe if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. Some of the workouts are just as much of a mental challenge as physical challenge. I showed up one day, and the board said 10k. No way, I thought . I can’t do that. Not only did I finish, I finished in decent time – 54:55.
“I was also getting bored with going to the gym and doing the same routine. Every day is different. My gym currently follows the CrossFit main site for their workouts, and it is a good mix of bench mark WODs, hero WODS, the ladies, etc. plus it has built in rest days.”

What Is a WOD?

WOD stands for workout of the day. (I had no idea.)

The WOD can be something unique to the facility, but many gyms go along with the CrossFit website and use what they designate as the Workout of the Day. By doing this, individuals across the world can compete against each other on a daily basis.

A Word of Caution

As someone who has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years, let me offer some advice.

  1. Never lose touch with your body/mind connection. Pay attention to yourself and what you’re doing at all times. This is the best way to make sure that you avoid injury.
  2. If you’re unsure about whether you should increase your weight, don’t. Sometimes, if we start looking at our neighbors during a workout, we can convince ourselves that we are stronger than we really are. This can lead us to make a rookie mistake like adding weight when we’re not ready.
  3. Try to attend classes with great teachers. A good teacher can tell you what to do and stop you if you’re doing something wrong. However, a great teacher can take that one step further and explain the exercise to you in a different way so that you understand. These are also the instructors that can watch over a group of students and immediately find and help the ones who are struggling. Shop around. Find the great teachers. Once you find them, go to as many of their classes as you can.

If you do CrossFit, what attracted you to it and what keeps you going back for more? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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