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CrossFit is not just a fad

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CrossFit instructor Steve Willis instructing a group Session.

CrossFit instructor Steve Willis instructing a group Session. Photo: Fiona Morris

You may love it or you may hate it, but for those serious about fitness, there is no ignoring the phenomenal growth in the fitness brand that is CrossFit.

It even has even spawned its own official sports event; The CrossFit Games, which ran last week in California and features four days of hill runs, swimming, handstand push ups, box jumps, and 70kg overhead squats.

The CrossFit games were not covered by the Australian newspapers nor discussed across pubs, because the fact is that many Australians still don't even know what CrossFit is. So here is my take on it for those who are looking for a simple, intense, workout regime that guarantees results.

CrossFit is a community that's centred around fitness, and every person has one thing in common – they all like to exercise with intensity.

The brand was founded by Greg Glassman in 2000, who designed a strength and conditioning program where exercises are performed at a high intensity via functional movements.

Workouts (known as WODs – Workouts of the Day) are varied and typically short in duration… some may last only 5 minutes, and some may last up to 30 minutes.

Although the emphasis is on intensity, CrossFit athletes don't tend to be bloated budgie smugglers with fake tans, and you won't be watching Justin Bieber videos as you work out.

Nor will you see sales staff looking to sell you everything under the sun while asking for all your friends' email addresses.

A CrossFit gym (or 'box') is typically a warehouse space filled with pull-up bars, barbells and weights, jump ropes, rowers, and kettlebells.

After you lace your runners in a CrossFit box, you warm-up, then wait for the WOD as prescribed by either CrossFit HQ in California, or by the CrossFit trainer at your local box.

My first workout is one I will never forget. I entered the box and written on the wall was this: 3 rounds of 50 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, and 100 bodyweight squats with a 40minute time limit.

Next to that wall (common in most CrossFit boxes), is a painted picture of a clown projectile vomiting across the wall, with names/dates/WODs of the CrossFit members who most recently lost their lunch. I wondered whether my name would be next on that wall, then Rage Against the Machine blared and we all started the WOD to compete against the clock and each other to record times.

Many CrossFit WODs are named after women. 'Fran' sounds like an easy workout, but try putting your body through three rounds of 21 reps, 15, and then 9 of two exercises: 40kg squat thrusters followed by pull-ups. (At The CrossFit Games, Scott Panchik performed this workout in 2 minutes and 41 seconds).

But while it is hard core, it's not exclusive, because right next to me were men and women of all levels of fitness. Some were CrossFit junkies as fit as anyone on the rugby field, while others were weight loss clients, grandparents, and even some with physical disabilities looking to build strength.

But like all things, CrossFit has its critics. Donal Carr, from Place of CHI, is a Paul Chek lecturer, presenter, and former training and development manager for personal trainers at Fitness First.

He said, "I appreciate CrossFit as a sport, watching elite athletes perform intense workouts, however I am not a fan of CrossFit expanding at the local level where personal trainers are learning Olympic lifting in a weekend course. Complex movements within WODs are being picked out of a hat in the morning, and poor exercise selection with improper technique is leading to injuries."

I was fortunate when I learned CrossFit, because I was taught by Steve 'Commando Steve' Willis and Mick Shaw – some of Australia's top CrossFit trainers. But I understand Donal's point, because varied and intense workouts with a weighted load can lead to injuries for the average Joe and even for elite athletes.

But as CrossFit continues to grow (3,400 worldwide affiliates and climbing), I will always be a fan because the workouts don't require machines and there's no popcorn and popstar atmosphere. It's about moving your body with functionality and intensity via WODs that aren't lead by tanned gym bunnies. CrossFit is simple, intense, and guarantees results… and it will bring your mind and body to the pain threshold where you'll ask yourself: 'Do I continue on with this WOD? Or do I quit and hit the couch like everybody else would?'

CrossFit will take the average gym enthusiast on a ride they have never ridden to push the mind and body to the limit.

So is CrossFit a fad? I say no way. It's here to stay and expand worldwide.

Do you think CrossFit is just a fad?

122 comments so far

  • There will always be critics; the most common is on form vs speed due to the emphasis on completing the WOD in a certain time. While this may appear to be the case, there's no reason why form can't be maintained at the expense of time if that's a concern.

    It's definitely a hard regime that requires dedication particularly during the first few month as you get used to it.

    The only other issue is doing it at normal gyms when you need different equipment at different time; trying to 'hold' and area or piece can be difficult. Some gyms don't like you doing it either.

    Commenter
    Steve
    Date and time
    July 18, 2012, 11:30AM
    • CrossFit - The Fittest Woman in the World: Thor's Daughter - YouTube
      www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtk2dSphI_Y

      Commenter
      anto27575
      Date and time
      July 18, 2012, 11:39AM
      • CrossFit is awesome, been doing it for about 6 weeks now and never have felt better. The criticism about trainers learning Olympic lifts in a weekend course is misleading, you make it sound like they, the trainers, have just decided they want be a CrossFit coach and banged out a quick course (eg most commercial gyms employees/PTs) these people, in my experience are competent Oly lifters who have been extensively coached beforehand and understand the mechanics and techniques of the lifts before they do the cert 1 course. I had more instruction in my first day at CrossFit then I had as a newbie at a commercial gym in 6 months where I regularly injured myself, Wrist, neck twice, and lower back. Crossfit also has a sense of community similar to that of sporting team as everyone does the same WOD and everyone actively encourages each other.

        Commenter
        Snatch is Paleo
        Location
        A box near you
        Date and time
        July 18, 2012, 11:54AM
        • Are you saying ALL the trainers are Olympic coached lifters? You are dreaming.

          Commenter
          Growler
          Location
          The Couch
          Date and time
          July 18, 2012, 12:30PM
        • The key here is "in my experience" which is limited to the crossfit gym I use, in no way am I claiming that all crossfit trainers across all 3500 crossfit gyms worldwide have been trained in Oly lifiting. My point is that the ones I have had contact with are expericed lifters and someone who has just done the course is not left in charge of teach the lifts to new crossfiters.

          Commenter
          Snatch is Paleo
          Date and time
          July 18, 2012, 12:52PM
        • I think the day that gyms moved away from staffed floor instructors to personal trainers is when the gym became more injury prone than ever. People can injure themselves much easier in a normal gym than under the supervison of a crossfit box. For those that want a slightly lower intensity try outdoor functional training. It's a fantastic way to raise metabolism and get in shape. Clueless personal trainers and gyms full of flashy machines that do the work for you are the next type of exercise that will become extinct.

          Commenter
          Try it.
          Location
          The Box
          Date and time
          July 18, 2012, 6:09PM
      • I don't think CrossFit is a fad or necessarily even "bad" but I just think individuals need to carefully consider their fitness goals and then choose the most appropriate activity for achieving those goals.

        For example, depending on your goals, 2 or 3 yoga sessions a week plus some light cardio might be ample. If you're trying to get BIG, then you're probably looking at 3-4 heavy lifting sessions a week with minimal cardio... its all about cause and effect.

        I think CrossFit is very intense (yes, all you CrossFit junkies will claim that its scaled down to fitness and expertise levels) but it is just not necessary for the average joe who wants to hit the gym 2-3 times a week and keep the beer belly away.

        You want to be a super fit athlete, then sure, try CrossFit. If not, look at your other options, there are plenty.

        Commenter
        Adrian
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        July 18, 2012, 11:57AM
        • I personally still have to laugh when I see people paying to go to a gym to get fit like these guys.

          Hasvbing trained in Martial Arts since I was 6 the local park is my gym. I have yet to see one of these junkies including from cross fit match me in a full workout. Even my lightest low workout, hanging from a tree by just your arms for an hour or two is to much. (To build up my arm strength and mental pain barrier).

          And I do help train a lot of my local children at no cost to them, why because its my duty to teach anyone who is ready the proper means of martial Arts and/or fitness.

          Commenter
          ltl
          Date and time
          July 18, 2012, 12:03PM
          • Oh please tell us which Park you go to Zen master. Hahahahahahahahahahaha

            Commenter
            Sam
            Location
            Bangkok
            Date and time
            July 18, 2012, 12:25PM
          • GOSH - I wish I was like you.

            Commenter
            sw
            Date and time
            July 18, 2012, 12:28PM

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