CrossFit was founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman and has become one of the biggest fitness trends across the world, with over 13,000 CrossFit boxes across more than 120 different countries.
Here is a great guest post written by my good friend Kathy, all about the benefits of CrossFit training for changing your life…
Benefits of CrossFit Training for Changing Your Life
“To change your life, you actually have to change your life…”
Not sure who wrote that, but in all honesty, it’s as blunt as that. We all spend ages staring at what we don’t like in the mirror. Pulling, prodding, squeezing,and grimacing. Urgh, nothing is as it was. The truth is , if we look back, we probably did have the best body year and years ago, but age, bad habits and , let’s be honest, life happened and a lot of women today, simply don’t like what they see. For me, I spent so many years disliking what I looked like, and being awkward about it, I feel like I have wasted the best of them.
Too many of us take the “it’s too late, I can’t be saved ” approach. Some put a bit of effort into weight loss, and dive head first into a diet and lifestyle plan that may be too much too soon, and find it isn’t sustainable. Which then pretty much drags us all back to square one.
The vast majority of us want to change our lives, making as little effort and actual change as possible. Diet pills, shakes and arbitrary fasts promise rapid weight loss but don’t take care of the big picture. Our mental well being and general health have got to be taken care of as well.
This is how I fell into CrossFit as I like the idea of being strong, and healthy. I also need to be coached and encouraged to get going.
Getting Started With CrossFit
A CrossFit class is generally alive with atmosphere. There are People from all walks of life and varied abilities working through the same skills and workouts, encouraging each other, applauding achievements.
From the outside, looking in though, it can be intimidating. Many people watch YouTube videos of Games athletes and are astounded at how strong they are performing feat after feat with little apparent effort. Watching the Games event can take your breath away, but it is worth looking at the athlete’s Instagram profile to see where they started. A lot of them started, just like you and me…looking in the mirror and deciding to change.
The tenets of the sport are constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. For a long time I used a workout plan that dragged me into the gym to do “upper body on day 1, lower body on day 2 and cardio on day 3”. It’s a monotonous regime used by far too many trainers and workout plans which results in boredom.
Trying something new every day is interesting and fun and pushes you out of your comfort zone. The functions of the movements are apparent when you have to pick something up to lift overhead, or move across a room.
You learn how perform all kinds of lifts without injuring yourself, which ultimately adds to your independence (I don’t need people to lift stuff and open jars for me). The high intensity of the Wods’ (workout of the day), means that you are conditioning your entire body and becoming fitter. This makes the person in the mirror look and feel better as well.
Most people would gasp looking at that. It’s a lot of learning and changing. The only way to start is to turn up at your first class. Talk to the coach about where you are fitness wise and explain any physical limitations that you may have.
There is a workaround for everyone, and I mean everyone. There are pictures and videos of people with all kinds of physical disabilities conquering skills that able-bodied people struggle with, all because the skill has been customized to make it achievable.
We all have to start somewhere, and very few people stroll in on day one, deliver perfect snatches and hop straight up to the pullup bar. Most boxes (CrossFit speak for Gym) have no mirrors and have a sign on the door that asks you to leave your ego at the door. This is not bodybuilding. You will get muscles eventually, but that isn’t the end goal.
You are going to have to start using a PVC pipe when more advanced athletes are lifting barbells with weight on. You are going to have to use bands for pull-ups and, by god; you are going to have a looong battle with the speed rope to get those double unders.
Whether you walk in with a bit of a background or no background at all, you will be asked to do an “onramp” or introduction class to make sure that you are performing skills and lifts safely. It is also a chance for the coach to gauge your ability and mobility.
For example, body builders traditionally use machines that only work on small parts of the body at a time. If you asked a body builder to drop into an overhead squat, he may not have the shoulder or ankle mobility to even hold an empty barbell over his head, even though he can bench press 200lbs.
Mobility is an equalizer. Very few westerners have the ability to drop into a full squat on the first attempt. That ankle mobility has to be developed, and must be taken into account when the coach has you in his class. That bodybuilder is going to have to go to the same square one that everyone else has to in order to work on that mobility. If he charges forward because his ego is in the way, he is going to get hurt. The ego has to stay at the door.
Consistency Is Key
The next step is to turn up at classes regularly. You can’t expect to progress if you don’t come to the box and work. Your coaches will help you as much as they can, but you have to put in the work. No-one will wake you up to do it, no-one will put the shoes on and drive you there. It is all your choice.
If you want to do it, you will make the time. You will use every class to learn as much as you can about how you move. You will ask for help and spend time working on skills that you don’t do as well. It does feel like a drag when you first start out because you have dusted cobwebs off muscles that haven’t been used in years, but if you stick with it, you will see progression, you will see your body change, your sleep will improve, and, because of the endorphins, your mood will also improve.
With those improvements taking place, most people opt to take a look at their diet in an effort to support a body that requires energy at different times of the day. Meals that consist of processed simple carbohydrates and fried in questionable oils, simply won’t keep you going anymore. The lifestyle then begins to take shape with very little effort.
Common Misconceptions About CrossFit
One of the things that a lot of people use as ammunition against CrossFit is the shortness of the first certification course to become a coach. In my opinion, very few people stroll off the box floor and off the bat decide to do their L1. Most have started with something else first. Many were sportsmen in different fields, or coaches or personal trainers, with a fair bit of background knowledge.
CrossFit is just a new avenue. For most, by the time the decision is made to become a coach, a lot of hard work has been put into learning the movements and being able to perform them so that others can learn from it.
Very, very few boxes would employ someone as a coach with no experience, preferring to offer them an apprenticeship, working side by side with established coaches until they can satisfactorily break down each movement and teach it safely.
I did a 3 year paramedic programme to become a qualified paramedic with extensive on road and in-hospital work, but I still came out to work a couple of months with an experienced medic until I found my feet.
I won’t deny that perhaps Joe Soap thought he was that good that after a year of training at a box, that he would become a coach and open his own box. People these days can be that arrogant. But as a consumer, you can be a good judge if you are informed. If you are not asked to do an onramp, if the coach doesn’t watch you like a hawk as you start out, if there is too much emphasis on adding weight rather than mastering the skill, then walk out and find another box. Dodgy coaches don’t keep customers for very long. This goes for any form of sport you choose.
The perception from the non-CrossFit community that the sport is inviting injury is very often perpetuated by people from other sporting avenues that perhaps are incorporated in the CrossFit repertoire. Many people seem to think that no-one but a gymnast can do gymnastics and no-one but a weightlifter should lift a barbell.
Nowadays far too many people can cast their wisdom on videos and photos posted online from the comfort of the armchair. It is too easy to be disparaging when you don’t actually have to look the person that you are disparaging in the face.
The issue of injuries is always brought up by coaches in the CrossFit community. They ask about predisposing factors and encourage athletes to speak up when training if they feel as though there is a problem. It goes back to that old ego. Athletes start to get a bit ahead of themselves, and perform a skill beyond their capabilities, don’t listen to the coach, ignore warning signs or start to “self coach” and that results in injury in any sport, not just CrossFit.
The last thing that non CrossFitters like to poke fun at is the sense of community that develops in every box. The notion that it is a cult is perpetuated by people who have no idea what it is like to do very hard work in groups, where everyone is suffering just the same as the next guy.
Achieving a double under is a fight that everyone will go through. The feet getting tangled in the rope, the whipped arms and ankles, the sheer frustration is felt by every single person that watches you go through it, and when you get it right, that achievement is celebrated by all of those people.
Call it a cult if you like, but I rather like having that kind of support. It keeps me motivated to keep trying and with sustained effort, comes improvement. We are proud to wear the t-shirt for the box that we have just worked out in because for a lot of us it is a battle memento. We will buy the CrossFit gear, because it is designed for the sport, just like a golfer wouldn’t wear sailing gloves. We go to the events to support the athletes that have worked so hard to become competitors. We watch the Games exactly the same way that everyone else watches their own favourite sports… to see who the best is.
As a middle aged woman, who is constantly juggling a busy life. I have made the time for my CrossFit. I look around and see a large number of the people that I know via other avenues, have also made the jump, and it has changed their lives.
All of us are healthier, move better and live more vibrant lives. I may not look like a model, but I am a stronger version of the person that I used to be. My advice to the folks that want to change, get up and make it happen. There are no easy options. Get up and grind.
This guest post was kindly written by Kathy, who is a trained Paramedic, Coffee Lover and self-confessed CrossFit Addict 🙂