CrossFit is many things, depending on whom you ask – a modern workout protocol, a lifestyle, a new sport, a community of people with the common goal of working out til they puke/get fit, constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity, etc. Each of these answers is correct in its own right, but the combination of these answers is greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s examine what this means and why it’s so.
The official definition of CrossFit – “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity” – simply means that CrossFit athletes perform a wide variety of movements you might do in real life, and that they go real hard when they are performing these movements. We vary our movements in order to be better prepared in life and sport for whatever may come our way – “the unknown and unknowable.” We use functional movements because the human body is meant to do them; the adaptations, both functional and aesthetic, that result from functional, natural movements are far more potent than the adaptations to any isolation movement you could come up with, or any ispolateral-balancing-on-a-ball-on-one-leg-while-doing-a-curl sort of movement you care to invent. The movements draw on those of gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, racing sports like running and rowing, and so forth. In other words, CrossFit consists of the best practices of other disciplines in order to create the most complete, well-prepared athletes possible. And finally we go hard because, once again, the greatest fitness and aesthetic adaptations result from intensity.
Of course, these ideas aren’t really new. People have been using big compound movements for ages to get fit, for example. What is new is the combination of these ideas, and the context in which they are employed. Context? you ask. What context? Simple: community. That is, rarely has a group of hard training people created such a strong community to which the members are so committed. If you’ve ever bought a pass to the gym and then never went, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to go to the gym when you know your friends are there waiting for you. And not just waiting for you because they want to say hi to you (though that too), but also because they want to compete against you. And therein lies another innovation of CrossFit – formalized competition. The majority of CrossFit workouts are like races in that you are trying to finish before the other participants (or finish more work in an allotted times than the other participants); indeed, this aspect has become so popular that there’s an entire new sport in the form of competitive CrossFit and the CrossFit Games. Don’t like competing against other people? Fantastic – the real competition is against yourself anyway, as in CrossFit, we record all our workout results (weights, times, reps, etc.), thus allowing us to track our progress and try to break our own records. Once again, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how motivated you become to get the gym so you can keep breaking your PRs.
And that’s one of the biggest CrossFit innovations of all: exercise stops being a chore and becomes a lifestyle for many CrossFitters. Trainers always talk about accountability, but if you have to guilt yourself into eating well and exercising, those things will never happen naturally – they’ll always be a chore. When your friends are leading healthy lifestyles, however, and when you yourself are leading a healthy lifestyle because you care about achieving positive results rather than avoiding negative ones, you will naturally lead a life in which you look, feel, and perform better.
Does all that sound a bit esoteric and confusing? Not to worry: as with so many things, trying it is way better than reading about it, so fill out the box to the right for more info or to sign up for Fundamentals!