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ABC’s of a CrossFit today

ABC's of a CrossFit today

CrossFit’s everywhere, even in our commercials. One in particular is not only present in magazines but has also a huge presence online, so if you’re around those who like to work out, you may have heard them mention that a Cross Fit, so called box, or in other words gym, has just appeared at the corner of the street.  So what is it all about?

According to Staci, who is not only a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer but also a participant and the first addition to the Fitness Team who happens to agree with me, it’s practically been impossible to track down an online version of ‘how to start with CrossFit’ that hasn’t been on the verge of leaning in one direction or the other. As if that wasn’t the only downside – the comment section happens to be just as negative, which brings me to the point: Why not write our own CrossFit resource guide and figure out for ourselves what CrossFit means and what’s in it for us. Of course to avoid the boredom if you’re not a CrossFit type, feel free to check back on Monday and continue with your snobbish activities. However, if you already happen to be into CrossFit, then this article will not come to you as a surprise.

Introduction to CrossFit

It’s not only about movements, your physical well-being or cardiovascular fitness. It’s a lot more. It’s a training philosophy for life or in other words it builds you up, and not just one part of your body but all of it! It’ll prepare you for anything!

CrossFit is not there to advertise the gym or zumba classes, but on the contrary, it’s there to build you up and show you all that you can be.

CrossFit is for anyone

This may be an understatement but should you be a committed individual even if you’re lacking experience, then this is the place for you and it starts with you. What that means is that there’re some workouts prescribed in particular for the vast majority who seems to be dependent on the CrossFit. They’re the same for everyone. Let’s say you can’t do squats with 135 pounds but you can do squats with 45 pounds, then let that be your beginning. If for some reasons you can’t make that goal, then there’s a solution for that too and if that doesn’t seem to work for you, it can be reduced. However, remember that the strength and experience will work your way to the top and hopefully, at one stage, manage to do the workouts as prescribed.

Is CrossFit really for everyone?

  1. Beginners to weight training – With a personal trainer, anything can be achieved and there’s no better place then CrossFit to do it. It doesn’t require previous experience on machines, but it may require that you have a couch (will be briefly explained why further in the text)
  2. People looking for support and community – A close-knit community is what makes the whole experience fun! You’re not just a number or an investment, you’re also a human with human needs and desires and that’s how they see you.
  3. Fitness fanatics – Can you do too much of it? Showing up in the gym twice a day is definitely a sign of addiction.
  4. Masochists – Give your 100% effort to finish a workout, even if it’s painful and means exhausting yourself as the reward lies in the least amount of time needed to finish a work-out.
  5. Former athletes – All workouts require that you do your exercises in a certain amount of time or you can challenge yourself and go as far as to see how many repetitions of one exercise you can do. In case you turn out to be a dedicated type then feel free to watch nationwide competitions and find something for yourself.

So what if you’re among those who don’t find CrossFit as beneficial? You surely still can enjoy it!

  1. Specialists – The standard CrossFit schedule is not intended to specialize in a certain area, therefore if you want to be good at a particular activity, don’t forget to foucus on that area.
  2. Sport-specific athletes – Finding a coach could be a plus. Every sport requires certain movements for specific muscles and you’re to train you train your muscles. It can mean CrossFit training along with other sport work outs.
  3. Solo trainers – is exactly what it says: CrossFit is not intended to be performed alone, therefore prepare yourself for team work.

How dangerous is it?

This is not a type of question that requires an answer. Of course it can be dangerous

1). When you’re told to perform or repeat certain exercises faster than you can bear, and there’s no one around to keep an eye on you, it’s dangerous. Improper form when exercising can lead to an injury. Again, if there isn’t a professional close by to monitor you exercising, then it can lead to a danger.

2). CrossFit is popular among certain circles of people. By pushing themselves beyond their personal limitations for whatever reason, they often risk pushing themselves beyond what they can handle. My first CrossFit experience made me sick on the inside because I wanted to do so much better and last year I went to such great lengths and crancked out 100 pull ups quickly and the result as you can imagine, has been devastating: I wasn’t able to straighten up for weeks.

3). Then there is rhabdomyolysis. It’s a rare medical condition which happens after people have pushed themselves too hard, too much or too fast which leads to their fiber break down and is then released into the bloodstream, poisoning the kidneys. More about this condition can be read in the previous link. This is the condition that primarily occurs with male ex athletes, who may have had a break in practicing and then come back, trying to prove with higher intensity that nothing had changed, which their bodies can’t handle.

CrossFit’s behaviour to go further, higher and harder can lead to some serious injuries unless you can coach yourself or there’s a coach nearby, to keep an eye on you. However, these issues are not the faults of the CrossFit system but we’re all entitled to believe the opposite, should that be our doubt.

In case you still want to join a CrossFit class….

Every gym will open up their door for you and let you be a part of the crowd. They may even offer you a free class to start with. What you need to know about the structure of their classes is the following:

Introduction class – It’s for those who have never been to a CrossFit class before. You may start with an overview and some basic body weight movement workouts for free and then the talk about joining will follow up.

On ramp/Elements – It’s a must if you’re considering joining the CrossFit workouts on a regular basis. It’s a basis for the nine foundational movements of CrossFit and will teach you more about paper work. Regardless of whether you think that you’re in a perfect shape, these are worth the time and money as there’s a pair of trained set of eyes watching your every move.

Regular classes – It’s a 45 minutes to an hour class. All the participants start at the same time and are being pushed and encouraged by their instructors and other participants.

Some CrossFit gyms will have their classes divided into more than one section:

  1. Dynamic warm up – This is to do with the functional movements (such as jumps and push-ups and other similar exercises) for the day and not jogging on the treadmill.
  2. Skill/Strength work – These involve squats or deadlifts or simply working on certain skills, trying to improve them, such as one-legged squats or muscle ups
  3. WOD –  This is the main workout where you will be asked to do some quick reps or there will be limit of another kind, for instance, you may be repeat certain exercises as many times as you can.
  4. Cool down and stretching – An individual or team activity.

Find your way to the CrossFit Gym

If you’re living in a city, the chances are, there will be more than one CrossFit gym nearby. However, your main focus should not be on the proximity of the gym but rather on the community and your coach, two of the greatest components you should consider when choosing a CrossFit gym to join.

Put your priorities in the right order: An exeperienced and competent coach comes first. A CrossFit website should provide more information on who the coaches are, as well as show publicly how experienced they are and what certifications they have got.

A quick insight of what you should look for in coaches:

  1. CrossFit Level 1 – You should look for an ANSI-accredited certification.  It’s a successfully passed 2 day course. The focus here is on movements and that is what they teach you. There’s no mentioning of how to deal with certain or common injuries.
  2. CrossFit Level 2 – This level is to do with in-depth training on how to coach.
  3. Specialty Seminars – It’s a course on specific topics like gymnastics or running. It usually lasts a day or two.

More and more CrossFit gyms are emerging each day and because the popularity is growing, make sure you check who your coaches are… as you don’t want to your money and time.

Programming is another thing one shouldn’t take lightly. Every CrossFit gym’s website should provide footage of the workouts they did that day. Look carefully over this and pay attention at what they typically do. A variety in exercises is what you actually want to see, in order to be persuaded to visit that certain gym.

Lastly, don’t forget that most CrossFits will offer you to attend your first class for free. Sometimes it’s worth trying out more than one CrossFit gym before making up your mind. What you want to see in order to stay is how supportive the community and coaches are, how welcome they made you feel.

Remember, most CrossFits will let you attend one class for free.  If you have a few in your area, try out each of them once before making your decision.  Go to each of them, and make note of the other members there – are they supportive of each other? Did they introduce themselves and welcome you?  Were the coaches nice and hands-on with their advice during the workout?  If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness, you know how important a good community can be for success.  CrossFit gyms are no different. They’re just as important.

Every day, CrossFit.com puts out the a workout of the day (or WOD), which can be done at home, in a commercial gym, or in a CrossFit gym. 

Every CrossFit gym will put out their own WOD as well, which can be different from the CrossFit.com site – if you happen to find a local CrossFit site that you enjoy but don’t attend fulltime, it’s more than okay to follow their workouts.

The best news about this is the workouts are posted free of charge to anybody that is interested in doing them.  There is even a site dedicated to scaling the workout posted on CrossFit.com to account for different abilities. CrossFits are often prohibitively expensive, so if you love CrossFit but are looking to save money, you can follow along at home or in your office gym provided they have the right equipment.

Many times, you’ll run into situations where you can’t complete a particular workout because you don’t have the right equipment – do the best you can with what’s available to you, and keep track of how you made your modification for tracking purposes.

The (not so common) downside to CrossFit gyms:

  1. You’re on your own and no one’s there to check on you or your form so if you start

alone at home without a professional supervision, chances are you will hurt yourself with the amounts of weights you’re forcing yourself to work with.

  1. You get no support when you’re doing at home on your own. When there’re people cheering for you, the impacts of your workouts will reach its top.
  2. You haven’t got the right equipment. Working alone at home will not provide you with all the necessary equipment, which is not cheap to purchase to start with.
  3. You will want to have the right equipment! It might not always cost a fortune but it sure isn’t cheap.

Give it a try

 Cindy, a benchmark workout is a simple bodyweight circuit that can be done pretty much everywhere and is my personal favourite. All you need is a pullup bar. It consists of the following parts:

20 minutes of as many rounds as possible (AMRAPS), 5 pullups, 10 pushups
and 15 squats. To look at each one individually, we’ll go over them in the order:

5 Pullups – Regular or bunded pullups, jumping or chair assisted pullups,you’re allowed to kip these. If you don’t have a pullup bar, then do bodyweight rows.

10 pushups – if the standard CrossFit pushups are too much for you to handle, then you can replace them with knee pushups or wall pushups.

15 squat – basic weightless air squats

Other variations for beginner athletes can be found in the examples below:

AMRAP 20min:
3 Pull-ups
6 Push-ups
9 Squats
AMRAP 12min
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Squats
AMRAP 12 min
1 Pull-ups
4 Push-ups
7 Squats
AMRAP 10 min
1 Pullup
4 Push-ups
7 Squats

Should you find these too easy to follow, go faster. The benefits of this workout, besides gaining strength are also metabolic conditioning so doing it harder isn’t the focus here. Should you be interested to try out other benchmarks as well.

Sound too easy? Go faster. While you are getting strength benefits from this workout, the goal of this workout is more metabolic conditioning, so making the movements harder (like switching to divebomber pushups) isn’t something you would want to do here.  You can find some of the other benchmark workouts.

Questions and answers

Why isn’t it cheaper? CrossFit classes are intended to be within a group and not individual. Compare it with yoga classes. Even they cost $10-20 each because there’s a coach teaching each class.

When I want to workout in addition to my CrossFit classes, do I need to pay for a separate gym membership? In most cases yes since they’re group classes.  However, you may come across “open gym” hours – but a lot of them are closed for use 5am-11pm just like many local commercial gyms.

Is Paleo  a must when I do CrossFit?  Not at all, although Paleo diet is highly recommended by CrossFit and it’s not uncommon for CrossFits to have Paleo challenges – but it’s not a must.

Is kipping pull up cheating? A kipping pull up is a type of pullups where you swing your body and get it to the bar.  It’s far from cheating because it’s supposed to be different from a deadhang pullup exercise. A deadhang pullup workout doesn’t allow kipping.

Can you lose weight with CrossFit? With a proper diet and the right amount of exercise, yes.  A combination of healthy diet and CrossFit training will certainly make you look prettier, get stronger, and feel better within a short period of time.

Why are some of CrossFit exercises named after girls’ names? The so called “benchmark workouts” are usually named after girls (or heroes – fallen military personnel) because: “…anything that leaves you flat on your back and incapacitated only to lure you back for more at a later date certainly deserves naming.”  (CF Journal – Issue 13, September 2003).

The list of the ladies’ workouts can be checked easily

Positives and Negatives of the CrossFit

Positives include:

  1. A bond with your community. As opposed to the commercial gym, here you will get to know people from your box on a deeper personal level since most CrosFit gyms organise outings where people can get to know each other better.
  2. Coaching and support – 2 in 1. In contrast to the commercial gym, CrossFit gyms involve 1: 1 training during all work-outs which instantly means better workout quality.
  3. When you’re not there, people call to ask where you’ve been. It’s something that never happens when you’re in a commercial gym you don’t show up for a session with your overpaid trainer.
  4. Levelling up. You can notice constant improvement because you can track how much lifting you can do.  You follow your own pace until you reach the point where you can perform the workouts as prescribed.
  5. Humbling yet lifting up your spirit. You may end up with lying on your back, but when you finish a workout faster there’s surely a priceless sense of accomplishment.
  6. Isn’t it extraordinary how well we perform when there’s support and cheering?
  7. CrossFit is especially ideal for women. There’re loads of women out there who would never get off the treadmill to do strength exercise. However, there’re loads of surprises too as they discover where their inner passion lies and that they can go further from there.
  8. An opportunity for former athletes to compete with the others. CrossFit makes the highschool dream of competing last longer… by opening door to a healthy rivalry.
  9. You get to know yourself.  CrossFit can teach you a lot of things: how to press harder and push further when you feel like you’re ready to give up.
  10. It’s not just about ‘hot bodies’, it’s also about building good muscular endurance. CrossFit females rock! In addition, in only few months’ time at CrossFit gym, you’ll walk out ready to face pretty much any athletic challenge.

Negatives include:

  1. Nothing that you’re good at in particular. You get good at a lot of things, but not at one particular thing. To achieve that, finding a sport specific coach would be the best way to go .
  2. Zero level of consistency. It’s kind of hard to track the progress when you never repeat the same workouts. You may have overdone it with a certain workout and as a result are currently unavailable to continue with another one because of your stretched muscles.
  3. Weird programming. Not all of the CrossFit workouts are great. Some may call for perfect form in order to be performed with success, which additionally may lead to unnecessary injuries.
  1. The cost of a CrossFit vs. Commercial gym. Crossfit boxes are generally double the price of a commercial gym (or more),. This only involves the group classes, not use of the facilities at any other times.
  2. Unprofessional coaches. In order to avoid unnecessary, sometimes nasty injuries, make sure you choose your coach wisely.
  3. Time-limited reps. It’s all about finishing quicker. Not something that coach can change, so still an unresolved issue.
  4. When you talk in a language nobody understands. Sometimes talking to a CrossFitter is like talking to someone who doesn’t speak English. It’s not uncommon for CrossFitters to forget that the outside world may not understand everything they mention… regardless of how emotional they are.
  5. The risk of getting addicted! Whether you see this is as an advantage or disadvantage, it will soon become the only stuff you do or talk about. Since you’ll be spending the majority of your time within your CrossFit community, you may as well consider them a part of the family.
  6. CrossFitters and Kool-aid. It’s no secret that CrossFits can brag about pretty much everything…. However, keep in mind that most of these comments are not realistic ones. No one can do it all and we all need the loving support of the community.

More on CrossFit

Let’s say you’re new to CrossFit and this this Anti-Crossfit timeline ) won’t help at all but some others, you might find more helpful. Some people enjoy it, others don’t. The forum addicts may post both positive and negative comments but don’t forget that a handful of these comments do not necessarily represent the majority and creates the stereotype. This T-Nation article talks about some of the disadvantages of CrossFit.

Conclusion

Staci, a Crossfit fan and a CrossFit Level 1 certified Trainer: Crossfit can be awesome, fun, sociable and opens a door to a completely new world you never knew was out there… Some of my struggles revolve around my workout plans because with CrossFit, you can never tell what’s to come next. That’s when I see the importance of my coach. Is it successful? When it comes to losing weight or getting in shape, there’s no magic pill for that. As with everything else, you will reap what you have sown.

Steve, a non-CrossFiter: It’s there for everyone to try it out. To begin with it, is free. It’s something that’s not for me and that’s not a problem. Those who think it’s safe are free to try it out for themselves. If you find it affordable, safe and the supportive gym environment community something you want in your life, don’t worry – I’ll still like you.        If you decide it isn’t for you – that’s okay!  I’ll admit that CrossFit isn’t for me and I have no intentions on ever joining a CrossFit gym, but I don’t have any problems with others doing it if they enjoy it and they’re safe.

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