Crossfit is an intense exercise program featuring dynamic exercises like plyometric jumps, Olympic lifts and running. Crossfit trainers and enthusiasts tend to use non-traditional weightlifting equipment such as kettle bells, sandbags, suspension systems or water-filled implements. The program is structured in such a way that participants are challenged to do a certain number of repetitions in a workout in a specific time frame; and more advanced CrossFit participants will actually compete against each other to see how fast they can complete their daily workout. The truth is that CrossFit should be about using perfect form while performing each exercise in the circuit. This is because, if you do not perform an exercise correctly in a competition, it won’t count as a rep.
Busting the CrossFit myths wide open
I avoided the topic of CrossFit for a while because it’s a style of fitness with an aura of controversy. As with any trend, there was a groundswell a few years ago and, with so many CrossFit focused gyms popping up in a short time, there was perhaps too much focus on money and not enough of technique and safety. Several videos have been posted online showing people with terrible form lifting too much weight, and it totally put me off giving CrossFit a try. I decided to try CrossFit so I could honestly assess if it was something I would recommend to others.
My CrossFit experience
As I travel around the world teaching fitness, I try to take an exercise class in every country I visit. It’s important for me to experience fitness classes in a foreign language and it’s a fantastic way for me to learn new skills while walking a few steps in the shoes of my non-English speaking students. I’ve tried dance, spinning, step aerobics and yoga classes in over 12 countries, but my most memorable experience by far was CrossFit in Milan.
I loved every second of my two-hour introduction to CrossFit in Italy. Two incredible and knowledgeable trainers walked me through a series of exercises and, because of the language barrier; body language was our most important tool. I had fun racing against the clock and pushing myself to a level I hadn’t seen since my professional training days. I left the gym feeling satisfied, accomplished and completely exhausted.
Since my Italian adventure, I’ve tried a few other CrossFit sessions and – now that I know what to expect – I enjoy the element of competition and the intensity level even more.
As a fitness trainer, do I recommend CrossFit?
I believe that traditional CrossFit is not for beginners. It is a high intensity and predominantly high impact style of exercise that requires body awareness and a solid fitness foundation. Crossfit workouts follow a set pattern that promotes muscular strength, power and endurance.
If you are intrigued by the thought of giving CrossFit style training a try but are not quite ready, why not adapt your current fitness plan to incorporate a timed challenge? I’m becoming famous for saying that “fitness is not a one size fits all situation” and with all forms of exercise you can easily modify the workouts to fit your current fitness level and ability. If you take this approach to CrossFit you can design cross-fit-style workouts that will give you the thrill of a challenge and stay within your current fitness range.
Remember to focus on form rather than speed even during a time challenge. If you find you enjoy the added incentive of time trials then CrossFit might be for you. Look for a well qualified, patient and positive trainer and a gym that pays attention to safety. The best way to judge a gym is often by talking to current and past members – don’t be scared of asking a few questions before signing up and checking that the gym style will fit both your personality and ability.
If you love to compete against the clock and feel that you need a challenging workout to keep you motivated then CrossFit might be the perfect option to keep you active. Take a class or try a one-on-one session and let me know about your experience in the comments below.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.