I’m sitting here with sore shoulders from the CrossFit workout yesterday, so I decided today would be a good day to answer the question my sister asked me a while back: “So why do you do CrossFit?”
It’s a good question when I come home sore, feeling like a noodle, and just downright exhausted.
When people find out I do CrossFit, I get a variety of responses. Some people are like, “Wow! I could never do that!” Other people frown and say, “I’d never do that. It’s not safe.” I even had one person tell me CrossFit is too cult-like. What does that even mean?! Some people feel intimidated by CrossFit. Other people think they’re not fit enough to try or are scared to try because of some physical condition.
True, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before you start an intensive exercise program. And I totally get that CrossFit isn’t for everyone. Just like running’s not for everyone. But today, I want to tell you about my experience with CrossFit and why I keep going back for more. You can decide for yourself if this is an activity you want to try.
I was informally introduced to CrossFit about 9 months into my weight loss journey. I was exercising at least 3 hours a day, wearing myself out, but not losing any more weight. You can read about that here. Desperate for help, I signed up to work with a personal trainer at the gym I belonged to at the time. My trainer was a CrossFitter and so the workouts he designed for me contained a lot of CrossFit moves. In my whole life, I had never sweated so much that I left puddles of water on the floor, but after one workout with Manoah, I was dripping on the floor. His workouts were intense and pushed me past limits I’d never crossed before. But I felt amazing after the workout was done, and I saw my weight start to decrease again.
When Manoah moved away (sad day for me), I thought about his workouts, his own strength, the change in me, and I decided I had to try CrossFit.
One workout later, I was hooked. Here’s what I love about CrossFit and what keeps me coming back for more:
- I love the community. That’s right. CrossFit gyms feel like a community. The coaches know your name. You get to know the members in the gym, and they become your friends. So going to CrossFit for me is more than just getting in a good work out. It’s about seeing my friends. It’s a social outlet of sorts.
- I love the camaraderie and friendly competition. I’m not super competitive, except with myself, but a little competition keeps me motivated. CrossFit workouts are usually set up to do as much work as possible in a specified amount of time or to do the workout as quickly as possible. Obviously, no one wants to finish last, so that drive to not be last keeps me going hard. But what I love about CrossFit is that those who finish first cheer on those who are still working. I’ve been the last place finisher, and to have the rest of the class cheering me on as I struggle for one last thruster or one more power clean gives me strength I didn’t know I had. It’s competition, yes, but it’s more about celebrating your effort and the fact that you completed the workout.
- Everyone can do it. CrossFit is totally scaleable, meaning if you can’t do a certain move, there’s an alternative. The coaches will find a movement that you can do that will serve the same purpose. I have a curve in my spine between my shoulder blades. It’s caused a lot of upper body weakness and mobility issues. When I first started CrossFit about a year ago, I couldn’t even pull an empty barbell (35 pounds) much above my waist. The coach helped me scale the movement, and now my strength and mobility have improved to the point that pulling those 35 pounds up to my chest feels like nothing. I still have trouble with overhead work. It’s taken me a lot longer to progress with those moves because of my spine, and I may never be able to lift as much overhead as other girls in the gym, but I’m doing more than I ever thought possible.
- One workout is a full body workout. When I was going to a traditional gym, I usually had workouts broken up into cardio, leg day, and arm day. What I love about CrossFit is that every workout targets the entire body and because of the intensity of the workouts, you get a cardio workout as well. Plus, CrossFit also incorporates balance and agility work. So in one workout I get everything I need.
- The challenge is limitless. I think this is the thing I love most about CrossFit. It’s what I like about running. In running, I can always challenge myself to run farther and faster. In CrossFit, the workouts are always different. The moves are similar but because they are done with different weights, different number of repetitions, different speeds, and in varying combinations, my body is constantly challenged. And there’s such a sense of accomplishment when I finish the WOD. It makes me hungry for more!
- Workouts are planned. I don’t know about you, but in a traditional gym, I just kind of did my own thing, and because I wasn’t sure how all the machines worked, I tended to do the same exercises over and over. In CrossFit, the workouts are planned. All you have to do is show up and do the work. And the workouts are coached. I love that there is someone there, a CrossFit expert, encouraging me to pick up the bar, to keep going, to correct my form or technique when I need it.
- It’s as safe as any other exercise. I know that a lot of people think that weight lifting is dangerous, but what I’m learning is that technique makes all the difference. At my gym, the coaches demonstrate each lift before we do them in the WOD, and then have us demonstrate the lift with a PVC pipe. During the WOD, I’ve had coaches guide my technique, helping me to get proper form so that the lift is safe. I appreciate that they will tell us to go down in weight if needed to not sacrifice technique. They are focused on safety. And just for the record, in one year of running, I lost 3 months of training and spent over $1000 in medical care because of a severe case of iliotibial band syndrome, developed bursitis in my shoulder from lifting weights improperly in a traditional gym, and sprained an ankle when I stepped on a rock. The most that’s happened to me in my first year of CrossFit are some bruises on my shin from hitting my legs against the barbell and a few blisters on my hands that are now callouses.
- I am strong! I think the thing that makes me excited to go to CrossFit every day is that I see my strength increasing. When I run hills, I usually pass other people now, and it’s not because I’m a better runner; I’ve just gotten stronger. Every day activities that involve moving and lifting things are not as difficult. And that right there is what CrossFit is all about–functional movements. I like what the owner of the gym told me as my face was in contortions during a WOD, “Remember. This is so you can do a cartwheel when you’re 90.” CrossFit is not about looking good, although toning is an inevitable result; it’s about overall body fitness and conditioning to keep you strong and healthy into your latter years. So there you go. That’s why I do CrossFit. Strength training is an important part of overall health and a great way to bust through a plateau, but whether you decide to take up CrossFit or not is not important. What’s important is to find an activity you love, something you look forward to doing, and just do it!
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