CrossFit – what a polarizing workout. People adopt it as the equivalent of their family structure, becoming best friends with fellow gym-goers, transforming their lives and bodies, building confidence, and even moving into fitness competitions they never previously dreamed they could accomplish. If you tell people you do CrossFit, you’ll also get a lot of negative feedback. “I have a friend who blew out both knees,” “…tore their shoulder,” “…puked in class” and other terrifying stories of massive injury, pain, and embarrassment. You’ll also hear often, “I would never do CrossFit, I don’t want to get hurt.” I wanted to share my year at CrossFit review here for you so you have all the info you need before you jump in.
I had to see what all the hype was about, so I signed up for CrossFit classes. I also don’t do it any longer. Here’s a little background about CrossFit, my story and what I really think of the workout that has dominated fitness trends around the world.
CrossFit was started in 2000 in Santa Cruz California by Greg Glassman. There are now more than 10,000 CrossFit-affiliated Boxes around the world. When you take a class at your local “Box” (gym), you’ll do a functional group warm-up then start the “WOD” (workout the day) written on a white board and posted in the front of the class. The premise of CrossFit is high intensity interval training, power-lifting, and even Olympic weightlifting. You’ll do a lot of pull-ups (with or without bands), wall balls, thrusters, squats and deadlifts, push-ups, box jumps, kettle-bell swings, cleans and snatches – that kind of thing. It is designed to be community-building with friendly and supportive competition. When I moved to Seattle, I needed a new fitness group so I did CrossFit for a year.
I worked out (hard), I lifted weights, I was friendly with the other CrossFit goers, and I got pretty strong. It didn’t change my life but I never got injured and I got some good workouts in. I didn’t lose or gain weight. I didn’t feel better or worse than I did previously when I was doing more of a tabata-style workout, OrangeTheory or Soul Cycle.
Here’s a list of the pros and cons from my year at CrossFit review:
Pros of CrossFit
- You workout WAY harder than you ever would on your own.
- You can gain strength and cardiovascular fitness in a relatively short amount of time.
- Your time is limited to 1-hour classes.
- CrossFit is “non-creepy” in my experience. Though everyone at the Box I belonged to shared restrooms and changing-area space, I never felt uncomfortable. Everyone there was very respectful and professional.
- You gain confidence by doing some bad-ass lifts and you can track your progress and set goals for lifting more over time.
- You don’t have to be in amazing shape to try it. I saw people of all fitness levels and ages attending. It can be intimidating to walk in for the first time but it’s a friendly community and you can adapt it for any level.
- The trainers I’ve had are always really good and supportive. They can help you adapt your workout as needed and answer questions you have.
Cons of CrossFit
- I never got hurt, but you could. I’m a huge stickler for proper form and the trainers did a pretty good job supporting that. I believe in lifting lighter to ensure proper form first and to build strength over time. Though, not everyone feels that way. If you fall into the trap of comparison and competition, I can see how easy it would be to lift a little too heavy and lose form as you fatigue. This is what can lead to injury.
- Thank goodness the Box I attended never gave out nutrition advice but it can happen. The founder himself had suggested “a diet of meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.” CrossFitters can get a little Paleo-esque and as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I know that trainers giving out nutrition advice isn’t ok.
- The workouts are hard. Like, really hard. Some days if I wasn’t feeling 100%, I found myself not wanting to go because the thought of throwing a 20-pound ball against the wall then landing in a squat 100 times was daunting. Ultimately, I realized that I don’t enjoy Olympic lifts and I wanted something a bit more functional and flexible.
Some Notes on the Paleo Diet
As time has gone on I’ve been working with more and more low-carb diets. This is a huge trend and I believe one that’s not going anywhere. As people continue on with the Whole 30, Paleo, keto and combos like Pegan and Keto-tarian, I’m seeing it more and more in my own nutrition practice. I believe this can be a good fit for some people. And for some, it’s really detrimental. It’s so important to work with a registered dietitian on this sort of diet. Make sure to hit me up if you have questions about if this type of diet is right for you.
My Year at CrossFit Review
I enjoyed my time in CrossFit and I believe my form and understanding of weight lifting is better because of it. Every workout I’ve done since has benefited because I’m stronger and I know more about proper lifting techniques.
To set yourself up for success, see if you can get into a “prep” class or a CrossFit 101 at a local Box so that you get some individualized training and support before you jump right into the regular workouts – that’s my biggest suggestion on how to do CrossFit safely. Also, always listen to your body and err on the side of lighter weights and amazing form with each repetition. It’s easy to get very exhausted in a workout like this so never let yourself slip with perfect form. Dropping weight is better than risking getting hurt.
Warm up, cool down, stretch, and foam roll without exception. Stay hydrated and fuel yourself properly. Meeting with a Registered Dietitian can really help you understand how best to eat pre- and post-workout when starting an exercise program, especially one like CrossFit.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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