So I came out of the closet yesterday. You know I tend to be TMI. Well, now you know not only my bedroom habits but my exercise habits.
I’ve been reading and talking to true believers about Crossfit (CF) for a few years–almost since the day I went Paleo. It was through Paleo that I discovered the CF world. But as a personal trainer, I was skeptical. The CF world is populated with slogans about pain and excess and Youtube videos showing Jackass-type challenges and dangerous technique.
But I have my own mind.
So I’ve read and watched and talked to people about their experiences. Besides, I know full well I shouldn’t judge a theory by what its stupidest adherents do. Else I wouldn’t be a Christian.
I read a lot and try new exercises with myself all the time. If they work and are safe and fun, I try them with my clients. In my fitness & training journey, what I’ve discovered is that I’ve been naturally moving toward CF style workouts.
My favorite parts of CF so far:
1) Focus on mobility/flexibility. You don’t hear about this part of CF because you see only the intensity and competition. But fundamentals start with spine, hip, and shoulder mobility that will give power to all your lifts.
2) Core is developed as part of all the compound movements, not in isolated abs exercises like crunches and sit ups. This is part of my point about how my workouts have organically progressed toward CF: real strength, flexibility, and metabolic enhancement come from compound, functional exercises.
3) Workouts are about what will make you strong not pretty.
Paradigms Are Shifting
To see what I mean, just consider the world of nutrition.
Paleo came on as a grassroots movement that bucked the established guidelines, took a lot of criticism, and has helped demonstrate that the “science” of nutrition was corrupted by politics. Now, clinical research is supporting our anecdotal evidence (admittedly, no long-range studies yet). CF is doing this for fitness in the same way: functional, full body, intense workouts are replacing isolated, machine-based, moderate cardio workouts. CF has helped drive this.
Here is a summary of CF from one of its founders, Greg Glassman, at crossfit.com:
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.
Glassman also explains how he arrived at the CF philosophy:
CrossFit is in large part derived from several simple observations garnered through hanging out with athletes for thirty years and willingness, if not eagerness, to experiment coupled with a total disregard for conventional wisdom. Let me share some of the more formative of these observations:
1. Gymnasts learn new sports faster than other athletes.
2. Olympic lifters can apply more useful power to more activities than other athletes.
3. Powerlifters are stronger than other athletes.
4. Sprinters can match the cardiovascular performance of endurance athletes even at extended efforts.
5. Endurance athletes are woefully lacking in total physical capacity.
6. With high carb diets you either get fat or weak.
7. Bodybuilders can’t punch, jump, run, or throw like athletes can.
8. Segmenting training efforts delivers a segmented capacity.
9. Optimizing physical capacity requires training at unsustainable intensities.
10. The world’s most successful athletes and coaches rely on exercise science the way deer hunters rely on the accordion.
Now, I’ve seen the criticism of this explanation. No, it’s not scientific, nor a defensible argument of logic. It’s not meant to be. It’s about personal experience and judgments that have led step-by-step to engaging more people in better exercise.
Why do you hate CF?
Because you are looking at the stupid people. And you are listening to people you consider experts without a good measure of skepticism at their motives.
Find a gym (box) near you and take the fundamentals course. Ease into the workout of the day (WOD) sessions at the box. Find a trainer who can watch your technique before you increase your load or speed. Find a box where there are not too many people for the trainers to watch, where they watch you (and not work out themselves), and where the trainers are knowledgeable.
You should probably realize that a personal trainer can get certification through an online test and never step into a gym nor do an exercise themselves. A Crossfit instructor must a least take one hands-on workshop. Of course, neither guarantees you a knowledgeable or safe trainer.
As always, my advice is think for yourself.