I grew up with CrossFit. I started at my CrossFit gym (called a “box”) when I was 13, after my mother introduced it to my sisters and me as an alternative to running.
My family has a history of heart disease, and exercise has always been an integral part of my life, but CrossFit transformed exercise from a necessary chore into my favorite hour of the day, and I’m here now to tell you a little more about it and encourage you to give it a try too.
What Is CrossFit?
The official definition of CrossFit is “constantly varied, high-intensity functional movement.”
A functional movement mimics common tasks we need to do each day, such as sitting in a chair, picking up groceries, or climbing stairs. In more technical terms, functional movements do three things: They use the full body; they begin at the core and move toward your limbs; and they engage multiple joints.
What this looks like can range from climbing a rope, to pushing a sled, to lifting barbells overhead. CrossFit combines these movements in new ways every day. You’ll see a lot of familiar movements, but you’re always adapting to changes in weight, reps, duration, and pairings with other movements. You’re also performing the moves at high intensity to gain power.
How Did CrossFit Begin?
CrossFit began with Greg Glassman, a former high school gymnast who trained police and firefighter clientele at Gold’s Gyms in the Los Angeles area. When he added gymnastics movements like handstands to more traditional weightlifting routines, Glassman “noticed pronounced gains in strength, flexibility, and overall function and coordination,” according to health and fitness writer Roy M. Wallack. It was a pattern that became even more evident with the addition of full-body movements like medicine ball throws and aerobic exercises like running.
From this, Glassman started posting his Workout of the Day (WOD) online, and it grew from there. Now, there are more 15,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide.
What I Love About CrossFit
CrossFit produces results. There is no way around it: If you want to be fit, you must work at it. CrossFit provides just the place for that to happen. There are no gimmicks, tricks, or shortcuts. I know people who avoided gastric bypass surgery by committing to six months of CrossFit, people who have lost more than 100 pounds, and others who have transformed sendentary lives into active, healthy ones. CrossFit workouts fortify strength, endurance, and mental fortitude.
I’m currently a college track and field athlete, and CrossFit has provided me with a base strength and fitness that allows me to run, jump, and throw competitively.
The constant variation of CrossFit makes it possible for me to pick up new events quickly because I've trained my body to adapt, and adapt quickly. It has also given me confidence in both physical and mental abilities. I know I can power through any ordeal, whether it be an 800-meter race or a week of grueling exams, because I know I'm capable of pushing myself beyond what is comfortable.
The CrossFit Community
Strength, fitness, and confidence aside, what draws me to CrossFit is the community. I’ve known people at my CrossFit box for years, including coaches, and I see many of them nearly every day. It's a supportive community. I've done Workouts of the Day in boxes across state and national borders, and have been welcomed with the same warmth I receive at my home box.
Some criticize CrossFit as “cultlike” or “extreme,” but I’ve found it to be one of the most influential, supportive aspects of my life. There’s a reason people joke about CrossFitters who talk your ear off at every opportunity: Their box has made their lives better, and they want to give you a piece of that happiness.
Exercise Safety Tips
As you would for any new exercise regimen you plan to undertake, consult your healthcare provider before beginning CrossFit workouts. Be sure to warm up for five to ten minutes before working out, and cool down gradually when you finish. Listen to your body: If it hurts, stop. Don’t train so hard that you set yourself up for injuries. Use good form when strength training. Drink plenty of water before and during your workout.
“CrossFit is a cult: Why so many of its defenders are so defensive" by Cliff Weathers, www.salon.com
“CrossFit Training Guide” by Greg Glassman et al., www.journal.crossfit.com
“Why are Americans so fascinated with extreme fitness?” by Heather Havrilesky, New York Times
“A workout that's fast, furious and not for the faint of heart” by Roy M. Wallack, Los Angeles Times
“10 tips for exercising safely,” Healthbeat, www.Health.Harvard.edu/healthbeat