If you want to optimize your success, health, and lifestyle, you must exercise. The question is how. To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter: If you do anything ( even walking), you are already ahead of most people. In our highly sedentary society, adding any movement is a net gain.
But if you read this blog and website, there is a good chance that merely exceeding mediocrity won't satisfy you. That is because you are the sort of person that wants to excel with your business, your health, and your lifestyle.
If so, I recommend that you try CrossFit. It works.
Of course, like anything that becomes wildly popular or successful, CrossFit has its critics and it is not, by any means, perfect for everyone. And like anything else, you may find variation in the quality of coaching among CrossFit boxes throughout the world (Each CrossFit facility is called a Box, not a Gym). Fortunately, most sizeable cities have multiple CrossFit boxes, so you can check out a couple of them before settling on one.
To learn more about the history of CrossFit and its culture, we highly recommend that you read J.C. Hertz's Learning to Breath Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness.
Below are six reasons why you should try a CrossFit box. This is from the perspective of someone that is relatively new to CrossFit. I exercise at both CrossFit Invictus in San Diego and Crossfit 2120 in Del Mar, California. For background, I am around forty and had been lifting weights sporadically since college and graduate school, with some running and hot yoga mixed in over the years.
1. CrossFit Works.
It is as simple as that. If you want to add muscle, lose fat, and improve your fitness and shape, consistent CrossFit participation will make it happen. Your diet and nutrition are important, of course. (You can read about the book, “The Perfect Health Diet,” here and you can read about "The Paleo Solution" here.)
But if you do CrossFit, you have the exercise part of the equation covered.
CrossFit isn’t one of those fads or marketing gimmicks that make great results look easy. The workouts are hard, no matter what shape you are in when you start. Indeed, that’s the point. You can, of course, scale your workouts up and down to reach the level that challenges you so you improve.
Part of the reason that CrossFitters are known for becoming so diehard about CrossFit is that it works so well, most likely better than any other exercise program they have ever tried.
If you exercise on your own, there is a good chance that you will focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Maybe you can bench more than anyone you know, but can’t run 400 meters? Or maybe you can run several miles at a seven-minute pace, but can’t do a single pull-up?
Or, like me, maybe you are okay when it comes to strength and endurance, but your shoulder mobility is terrible and keeps you from performing certain exercises correctly? In fact, if you have spent many years sitting at a desk, you probably do have mobility issues. Your CrossFit coaches will quickly identify those issues and help you work on them. They might have you adjust certain movements and will probably give you some exercises or stretches that can help you improve your mobility.
If you really want to learn to improve your mobility, you should read Kelly Starrett's famous book, "Becoming a Supple Leopard," which you can order by clicking here or above.
CrossFit focuses on helping you become a better overall athlete—in addition to the goals—like weight loss and strength gains—that becoming a better athlete will serve. So you will, necessarily, discover and improve your weaknesses as well as identify and add to your strengths. The workouts range from gymnastics to endurance to Olympic Weightlifting.
3. CrossFit Stresses Functional Movements that are Useful in Life.
As you will quickly learn, CrossFit works with rather than against the functional movements the body was designed to make.
To illustrate, a baseball pitcher that throws a ball ninety-plus miles per hour overhand is not making a natural movement. That is part of why you see so many injuries and sore arms among baseball pitchers.
CrossFit, by contrast, focuses on movements that work with the body rather than against the body. As you develop strength and mobility through CrossFit exercises, you will notice how these benefits cross over into everyday life. For example, once I learned to do squats correctly, I noticed that bending down with my knees was less painful and, frankly, easier.
4. CrossFit is Scalable so Almost Anyone Can Participate.
If you watch a CrossFit class, you will notice that not everyone is practicing the movements in the same way. That is because each exercise is scalable. That means that if you have a past injury, or mobility issues, or lack strength in certain areas, the coaches can adjust each exercise so it works for you.
That doesn’t mean they will make it easy—it means that they will customize the workout to fit your specific body situation at that moment. So you could easily see people in their seventies exercising alongside peak athletes in their twenties. And it works.
5. Crossfit Can Help You Reduce the Likelihood of Injury.
One area of controversy for CrossFit has been reports of injury. I suppose anyone that is moving (even simple walking) could injure themselves. And if a large number of people participate in CrossFit, we would expect that a certain number of them will suffer injuries.
But the criticism probably stems more from the fact that some workouts require participants to do a certain movement quickly or many times during a set time period. That can be dangerous if your form breaks. That is why the coaches are there.
In my experience, if my form diminishes during a workout, someone will quickly tell me. And the coaches will direct me to either slow down or reduce my weight if I start to lose proper form. In my experience, the coaches stress doing the exercise correctly more than anything else.
But there are many coaches at many CrossFit boxes and it is quite possible that some are better than others at pushing form over speed of movements. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity to learn from the outstanding coaches at both Crossfit Invictus and Crossfit 2120, in San Diego and Del Mar.
In fact, because the coaches place such emphasis on proper form, I have had fewer injuries and joint pain since I’ve started CrossFit. Indeed, I learned very quickly that, prior to CrossFit, in my many years of weightlifting, I had developed bad (and potentially dangerous) habits with deadlifts, power cleans, and squats. Having knowledgeable coaches around while performing the form-intensive Olympic lifts is important.
Even now, if the coaches see any imprecision in my form, they insist that I drop the weight on the bar so I can do the repetitions perfectly before adding more weight.
In my experience, the CrossFit coaches also emphasis mobility training. By improving your mobility, you are less likely to suffer injury or chronic pain. Indeed, mobility and other practices, like foam rolling, are integrated into every workout, which reduces the likelihood of injury. You might also try yoga to improve your mobility.
6. CrossFit Successfully Balances a Supportive Community with Competition
It is no secret that competition brings out the best in people. If you are going to run 100 meters, you will probably run faster if you are racing someone.
CrossFit builds competition into its programs, both with the people around you and yourself. But it does it in such a way that the competition is both friendly and supportive. That is, you keep track of your repetitions or your time—depending on the workout that day—and everyone is working at the same time, but the competition is such that you root for those around you to do better not worse.
CrossFit is known for its positive and supportive community and it is something that I have experienced myself.
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We would love to hear about your experiences with Crossfit in the comments below.