Saturday, 19 December 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the (Holy Church of) Crossfit.

Howdy! We are on the slippery slope toward Chrissy! I hope you are all feeling cool (ha) calm and collected.

So I have blogged a bit about CrossFit here. Naomi said she didn't know anything about it, and it can sometimes draw quizzical glances from people.

Some people think I spend I lot of time on this kind of contraption.

That is a Cross Trainer.

Ha! They are sooooo 2003. But seriously, very gentle on the joints and a good way to get a good cardio workout.

The whole idea behind CrossFit is as such: constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains. It is performed in specialised affiliate gyms, called "Boxes". The owners of the Boxes pay to use the CrossFit(TM) name. The coaches have specific CrossFit certification, and usually some other form of fitness qualification. Hence, while the philosophy is the same the world over, there is variability in what goes on in different Boxes.

Each Box has a timetable with multiple classes per day, it is not like a gym where you just rock up and slog it out in your own time on the equipment.

The classes go for an hour, and are formatted roughly as follows:
1. Warm up - can be skipping, running, rowing, mobility or light strength exercises, or plyometric exercises (burpees).
2. Skills - usually concentrating on strength training - for instance we do bench press, dead lifts, pull ups, clean and jerk and snatch.
3. The Workout of the Day, or WOD - a high intensity cardio or mixed session, usually of between 8 and 20 minutes duration. For instance, last week, we did a 500 metre row followed immediately after by a 400 metre fast run. 3 rounds of that with rests as needed in between. It may utilise weights, or  High Intensity Interval Training, or Tabata.

I try and go 4 or 5 times per week. I have noted a big improvement in my speed and strength. I can lift heavy things safely. I know more about my body than I ever did.

CrossFit is heavily associated with the Paleo movement. Hence there is sometimes a religious fervour of participants.

First rule of Fight Club....

They are also very anti "big soda" and "big sugar" and "big food".

There has been a lot of criticism of CrossFit, mostly in terms of its safety. I actually thoroughly researched it on the internet before I started. Some websites said that injury was inevitable (how scary). I had a chat with the owner/head coach before I started and outlined by concerns. He effectively put them to rest. The gold standard of exercise safety is whether the exercises can be scaled to suit pregnant women, and yes, definitely they can. In fact, given the fact that I have been trying to get pregnant, that was one of the first things I asked. I also have issues with the back and knees that occasionally niggle, and that is always taken into account with the programming.

Anybody's experience in exercise is very dependent on those who coach them, and the environment, unless of course they just like to slog it out in the gym in solitude. I have to say that my CrossFit box is very highly regarded in the area (shout out to Charge Crossfit) and I love going there.

Here is why I feel this is the best health related activity I have done in a long time (or ever):

  • The exercises are scalable to everybody, and can progress to a full movement. We are encouraged to scale back our exercises as necessary, for practical purposes and for safety. We are never ever made to feel bad for scaling. For instance, there was no way on earth that I could do a pull up, so I started with a ring-row. I am now onto pull ups assisted with bands, and the band is getting lighter as I get stronger. There is an exercise called a box jump which I am working on. I am very scared of the box, so I jump on weight plates, and I am building up the height slowly. I have made significant gains in strength and speed.

  • The coaches are brilliant, they know their stuff, are friendly and approachable, and are always on hand to suggest adjustments to the exercises. They are liberal with their praise when we improve, and this is something I respond well to.
  • The environment is friendly and supportive. Everybody cheers everybody else on. The last person to finish a workout will be encouraged until they finished. Some people don't respond well to this attention, but again, I do. I have made some good friends at the box as well.
  • The environment is body positive. The focus is, in the main, getting you performing to the best of your ability. Occasionally we have 6 week "challenges" where there are points given for healthy eating, exercise, stretching etc, and the person with the most points wins a prize. This is a great motivator to getting me eating well, but it is not about weight loss. There are people of most shapes and sizes there, and I have learned that athleticism is not always related to a certain body type. As a result, I have become more confident in my own skin, and proud of what my body can do. 
  • Getting "out of my mind and into my body" is very therapeutic. There is nothing like a fast workout, or a complex movement to do this. It has helped me managed the stress of the year.
  • It puts me in touch with my masculine side. It feels good to lift a heavy weight, grunt, drop it loudly and swagger off. It feels good to "smash" a workout, and give it everything you have.  The macho blokes are onto something. However, I always check myself before I wreck myself.
  • The movements are highly functional. I used to do distance running, at the expense of other modalities of exercise, however I can see no reason why I would ever need to shuffle 10 kilometres. Instead, I can lift, I can jump, I can push, pull and sprint. If ever I needed to, I could run 5 kilometres without any stress. For the first time in my life, I have guns (biceps).
So that's me on the topic.

Any questions?


  1. This sounds very similar to what my gym does, but it's just not under the cross fit branding. Same kind of concept though, which I liked as being left to my own devices in a room full of weights in a standard gym just never worked for me. You're right too - so many different bodies, sizes, ages doing it and being able to do it at their level so it's very inclusive which is a positive. I enjoyed reading about this as I'd wondered what the difference was… and having been on a health retreat a few years ago this was the kind of exercise they recommended - short bursts of all the elemental movements. Not doing repetitive lifts with weights as we'd all thought the way to go for so long. xx

  2. It sounds like what I used to do with my trainer 15 years ago. I am thinking of working out soon. Can't go on the way I have. I miss being fit and strong!

  3. Thanks for the run down and the demystifying, C. I'm trying to do a combination of this on my own but without a trainer or group, I cut myself alot of slack! Nevermind, will get into it more seriously when I have more child free time.
    SSG xxx

  4. Very impressive. I feel tired and achey just thinking about it. But good on you!

    Happy Christmas! Pammie

  5. It's very controversial isn't it much like paleo but good to hear from someone that has researched and done it :)

  6. Cool. I'd always thought of it as a bit cult like too but it makes sense the way you explain it. I guess, like most fitness stuff, it depends so much on the instructor. You can get some real dingbats who think they know everything after doing a TAFE course. Listening to your clients is not something that can be taught.