What Is Crossfit? (Part I)

You can ask 10 different people to define Crossfit, and you will likely get 10 different answers. And they might all be correct. Some answers will hint towards Crossfit the training methodology, others will talk about the Crossfit Community, still others will refer to Crossfit as a Professional Sport. In this particular blog post we will ignore the Crossfit skeptics’ answer which typically goes along the lines of “A dangerous fitness fad, that injures people, and can’t do real pull ups.” I will address this naughty crowd at another time, because I have lots to say to them.

Back to the three most common descriptions of what Crossfit is. We will begin with Crossfit the training methodology. Constantly varied functional movement performed at relative high intensity, will be recited by most Crossfit Level 1 Certified Coaches. Breaking down this definition we can see that in Crossfit routine is the enemy. “Constantly Varied” means that you will frequently be performing different movements/exercises. Let’s not assume that this means every workout is just random movements mashed up together. While there may be some who approach it this way, this is not the case in high quality Crossfit gyms that have/follow a well structured program. Okay so we have frequency in variation, but variation of what? Functional Movement.

“Functional Movement” refers to movement patterns that will benefit the individual in everyday life, sometimes directly and other times indirectly, but always in some way, shape, or form. Think about your everyday life, the tasks you perform. Tasks that when we’re young and healthy we often take for granted. Sitting, standing, walking, going up and down the stairs, carrying groceries into your home, mowing your lawn, shoveling your driveway, etc. You get the point, I hope.

When you run, squat, push, pull, hold, etc. you are performing functional movements that will translate to your everyday life. And when you do this consistently throughout your life, you will remain independently functional on basic human tasks. It shouldn’t be the norm to assume as one ages one will be living in a nursing home and that’s just the way life is. We can help prevent that, and Crossfit can be one of the tools used to do so.

“Performed At A Relatively High Intensity”. The scary part of Crossfit. Keyword will be “relatively”. What this is saying is that every single body will be at a unique place in their fitness journey. Even though many will be in a similar place, none will be at the exact same. Take the prescription and adapt it to your personal needs. High Intensity for a younger fitter athlete will likely mean a heart rate over 180 bpm. An amateur 44 year old woman who is lifting a barbell for the first time in her life may define high intensity as ten back squats with that same empty barbell.

Depending on your fitness experience and your current fitness level you will approach the intensity paradigm uniquely. It’s important to note that an elevated heart rate of 70%+, weights above 80% of 1-Rep Maxes, and/or maximal rep efforts every time you work out is not what Crossfit is. If we did do that, we wouldn’t be fulfilling the Constantly Varied requirement. Lower intensity days, aerobic work, movement quality practice, etc. are required for a well structured balanced program.

If you are thinking about giving Crossfit a try and seeing what all the fuss is about, make sure that you are going into a gym that provides quality coaching, follows a quality program, and more importantly a proper onboarding process for new athletes. Throwing someone into a group class with little to no experience is unsafe, irresponsible, and a disservice to the athlete. In the next piece we’ll speak about The Crossfit Community definition of What Is Crossfit?

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