7 Reasons to Try CrossFit
As a physiotherapist, a lot of people ask me my opinion about different forms of exercise like yoga, CrossFit, etc. I make a point to try out different types of exercises here and there so I can give an honest answer. Last year, I tried CrossFit. I had enough people ask me what I thought about it, heard it be praised by one person, bashed by the next, so I said enough is enough; I’m forming my own opinion.
As it turns out, I loved it.
For those who don’t know what CrossFit is, their website describes it simply as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” (https://www.crossfit.com/what-is-crossfit for more detail). It is a sport that has quickly gained popularity since its inception in the year 2000.
I will say that the following is an opinion piece as an athlete and as a physiotherapist. CrossFit is not for everyone. It is not a substitute for rehabilitation or recommended that you join if you are presently injured, but for the healthy individual with all levels of fitness from couch potato to athletes. Each individual stands only to gain fitness and form on different levels. There is certainly a risk of injury in CrossFit, but a similar risk is involved with any physical activity you do whether it is running, skating, skiing, basketball, etc. If you listen to the coaches and your body, the benefits will by far outweigh the risks. After watching the Olympics and seeing some of the athletes flying on skis 180m in the air or traveling down an ice tunnel head first at 150km/h, CrossFit is lower on the risk of injury scale. You can cross that excuse off your page!
There are some serious benefits of CrossFit I would like to shed some light on, so please read on for my 7 reasons to try CrossFit:
- Workouts change every day - When you walk in and see what the Workout of the Day (WOD) is, don’t expect to see something you’ve done before. Some workouts will repeat themselves as a fun way to measure progress (http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/27_04_new_girls.pdf), but generally it’s a different workout each day.
The second best part of this point is that the programming is done for you, by a professional. There is a method to the madness in terms of proper periodization (weekly, monthly, and yearly plans), and it’s not something that you have to spend extra brain power on.
- New Exercises – I often see people in the clinic who go to the gym regularly, but do the same routine for a very long time – sometimes, over a year alternating different body parts every day with the same 4-5 exercises. I like to encourage all forms of exercising, but the only issue with doing the same thing over and over again is that in can lead to muscle imbalances, and a general lack of adaptability to other exercises or even daily tasks.
In my own experience, it may also lead to a lack of accountability. New exercises keep me looking forward to the next workout, not dreading another 60 minutes at the gym with the same routine I was doing 8 months ago. I have found that I am much more likely to stick with a workout program that has a lot of variety compared to the alternative, and you may find the same.
- Community – Every time I went to CrossFit it was in a group class format. I made a point to go at many different times of the week so I could meet new people. I found this to be something I looked forward to just as much as the workout. The people I met were extremely welcoming and very supportive of newcomers and lifers alike.
On the other hand, I have heard from others that they enjoyed going to classes at the same time every week because they enjoyed working out with the same people, which I thought was fantastic. Sometimes exercising can be tough, and it’s pleasantly surprising how much having a support system at the gym can help if you’ve never experienced it. When you’re in a tough spot or having a rough day you have someone there to cheer you on or give you a high five, and when you’re doing awesome that same support is there too. I worked out with all kinds of people – teenagers, new moms, guys my age, women my mom’s age, people who are retired, etc. After every WOD there was always high fives flying around because we had all just endured the same thing; it really brought us together.
- Push Yourself – How many times did I leave CrossFit thinking, “I would have never pushed myself that hard on my own”? The answer is almost every time. CrossFit has a way of bringing out the best in you, and often times you can surprise yourself during a WOD that you didn’t think you would do well in. A few things helped me do this: coaching, being in a group, and friendly competitiveness. Before I started CrossFit, I had looked at some WOD’s online and thought, “right… run a mile then do 20 rounds of 5 rings rows, 10 push ups, and 15 squats, right… oh, and then run another mile after that, got it… do all that as fast you can… ya right!” This workout seemed incredibly daunting at first, but eventually I was able to do it! It was an awesome feeling of accomplishment and definitely not something I would have tried on my own. Thanks to CrossFit for pushing me to do things I didn’t think I could!
- Scaling – Scaling is when movements, repetitions, sets, weights, or distances are changed in a workout to accommodate for varying levels of fitness. For example, the WOD I described above could be scaled to half of the distances and reps, and even different variations of the ring row and push-ups. You can also go the other way and make it harder, by doing pull-ups and using a weighted vest. It’s your call. Thankfully, coaches are there to tell you what are appropriate scaling options. I found this to be very helpful as a gym member.
- Coaching – Every class has a coach that is there to go over the WOD, talk strategy, review techniques for movements, and it didn’t matter what the experience level of the class was, there is a premium placed on this. All coaches in CrossFit need to be certified by their governing body in order to coach classes.
This is where people who are new to any form of exercise will benefit the most. I found the coaching to be really useful when learning new movements, especially in terms of injury prevention. There were lots of exercises that I knew about but never tried on my own because, quite simply, I didn’t have someone to show me how and I didn’t want to hurt myself. It was awesome to have someone pay attention to my form and get genuine feedback on how I can improve. It really opened the door for when I exercise on my own, I have so many more options now.
- Competition – Ok, this might not be for everyone, I understand. At the end of the day, exercise can be whatever you want it to be. Whether it’s simply a stress reliever, a way of meeting new people, or being healthy, I fully support it. The rest of the list should give you enough reasons to try CrossFit out anyway. Competing is an added bonus to CrossFit that I found to be quite fun and motivating. Some people compete with other people, some just with themselves; to be better than they were yesterday. On a day to day basis, many people thrive off friendly competition to get through a WOD.
For those who really want to take it to the next level, CrossFit offers official competitions on a yearly basis. I’ve seen the environment that a CrossFit competition offers and it’s really fun. Definitely intense, but still lots of comradery and cheering going on. It gives you something to shoot for long term over the course of the year.
In conclusion, having variety in your physical activity is key to staying healthy and preventing injury, so it’s a good idea to learn new forms of exercise, whatever it may be. CrossFit delivers this and it’s worth giving it a try if you haven’t already!
If you are having pain and looking to get into exercise, we have physiotherapists and massage therapists at our clinic that can help with your transition from injury to rehab to exercise. We have been trained in assessing movement patterns and understand the mobility demands of CrossFit very well. Let us be part of your fitness journey and book an appointment today! Please give us your feedback in the comments section on Facebook and Instagram.