To CrossFit or Not to CrossFit: A Guide

CrossFit is a popular form of exercise and is practiced by some people almost religiously. Despite its popularity, it’s hard to determine whether this style of exercise is going to be one that works for you.

Founded in 2000, CrossFit is typically practiced in specifically built gyms. In fact, there are over 13,000 official CrossFit-affiliated gyms located around the world.

Today, we’re going to explore this unique form of exercise. As such, we will give you enough information, so you can decide whether or not you’re interested in trying it out yourself.

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a unique fitness regimen that was developed by the founder and CEO of the CrossFit organization, Greg Glassman. He claims to be the first person in history to create a workout where the impact can be measured in a meaningful way.

The goal of CrossFit is to encourage each person to constantly improve. Essentially, Glassman developed CrossFit as a type of workout routine that would allow for progress to be easily measured.

During a CrossFit workout, a variety of movements borrowed from many different sports and other disciplines are performed at a high intensity. This is thought to encourage a higher power output, which leads to much faster fitness gains.

When you join a CrossFit workout, your progress is tracked so you can see how much you’ve improved over time. The whiteboard for tracking your time score is as essential to a CrossFit gym as any of the weights or exercise equipment.

Who Can Benefit?

CrossFit is great for someone who doesn’t mind intense workouts and thrives on the two pillars of CrossFit: competition and sweat.

The average CrossFit workout is much shorter than a fitness class. CrossFit athletes believe that the combination of functional movements and intensity leads to fitness gains that would be impossible to achieve in a more traditional style of exercise.

The other benefit of CrossFit is the camaraderie and community-based aspect of the routines. CrossFit organization espouses that the spontaneous sense of camaraderie that arises from doing the day’s workout together is essential to your own personal success. Pushing yourself in a fun and competitive way is a great way to shake up an otherwise-boring exercise routine. However, this style of fitness may not be for you if you don’t enjoy working out around other people.

Why Is It a Great Workout?

Every day, CrossFit athletes take part in the “Workout of the Day” (WOD). It is a high-intensity interval circuit made up of various activities like powerlifting, heavy strength lifting, and calisthenics.

The WOD is intense. Most of the time, people who participate feel nauseated or completely exhausted at the end. This is due to the heavy toll the WOD takes on your body.

CrossFit will work for you if you’ve already had some experience working out and lifting weights and aren’t afraid of a bit of healthy competition and sweat. The average CrossFit workout targets your anaerobic system. This system produces a substance in your body called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is responsible for the contraction of muscles. The harder we work our anaerobic system, the greater the amount of ATP it produces. This builds our capacity for more intense workouts as time goes on.

If you stick with CrossFit, you’ll be building your workout capacity on a regular basis, which will help your body tolerate a variety of physical strains. These workouts are great for people who want to see quick fitness gains in a short amount of time and are able to work hard to fulfill that goal.

How Can I Find a Gym Near Me?

If you’re interested in joining a CrossFit gym, the first thing you’ll have to do is find a gym near you. That shouldn’t be too difficult as there are 4,507 gyms or affiliated gyms in the eastern part of North America alone.

If you need some help, the official CrossFit site has a search engine. Plus, you can check out a Groupon. It often has a lot of great deals on introductory classes and first-time offers. Gyms like to get people in to try a class, so they can sell you on a larger package once you get hooked on the style.

If you live in a city, chances are there are a good number of different CrossFit gyms that you can choose from. If you’re unsure, you can always try each of them to see which one you like best. Since you’ll be working out in such close quarters with all the other athletes and trainers, it’s best to pick one that has a demographic that works for you.

Look for a gym that has a beginner program — also called an on-ramp or elements course — which will start you off with the basic skills necessary to participate in the regular WODs.

What Should I Bring to My First Class?

Once you’ve picked out a gym, you should start to prepare yourself for your first workout.

Most CrossFit trainers recommend comfortable clothing that’s not too baggy or loose. You’ll want the trainer to be able to easily see your form and muscles working without having to move clothing aside. Plus, oversized items can get caught on machinery and are more likely to hamper our movements.

When choosing a shoe, most experts recommend a training sneaker rather than a running shoe. Training sneakers are designed for a full range of motion. On the flip side, most running shoes are engineered to facilitate only the standard heel-to-toe motion.

You don’t necessarily need specialty socks for CrossFit. However, you’ll likely want to reach for seamlessly constructed socks. These are made with as few seams as possible to eliminate chafing. Preferably you want them in a lightweight, synthetic material designed to wick away sweat.

What Should I Expect from My First Workout?

Before you head to your first CrossFit workout, most trainers recommend fueling up with a small, protein-rich meal.

Once you arrive at the gym, you’ll check-in at the front desk or with a trainer. They’ll be able to get you set up.

If you’re participating in a beginner program, it’s likely the class will be slower and more focused on learning the proper form.

Once you start participating in the WOD, you should expect to see many participants huffing and puffing as they struggle to push beyond their exhausted anaerobic system. This is a normal reaction as our bodies struggle to supply our exhausted muscles with much-needed oxygen.

While CrossFit trainers will encourage you to push beyond your endurance, you should never do anything that makes you uncomfortable.

How Can I Take Care of My Body Post-Workout?

Once you’ve taken part in your first CrossFit workout, you’ll probably be feeling a little sore. Especially if you don’t have much workout experience.

After you get home, eat a substantial meal. Make sure it has lots of lean protein and plenty of healthy carbs and fat. Any good CrossFit studio will have trainers who are comfortable giving recommendations on what to eat after each individual WOD. Additionally, you should continue drinking water throughout the day; not just until the workout stops.

If you’re feeling stiff and sore, the best solution for that discomfort is to keep moving. But, don’t push your sore muscles too hard. Go for a walk or jog or go to the gym to use a machine like a rower or elliptical. Keeping your body moving encourages blood flow to the muscles, which will help speed up your recovery time.

Are There Any Specific Concerns Related to CrossFit That I Should Keep in Mind?

By now, you should have realized that the CrossFit workout is intense. Most gyms recommend training at least three to five days a week, which can be intimidating to a beginner.

Each WOD is different. They could involve anything from multiple, mile-long runs to pull-ups, burpees, weight exercises, and everything in between. Many doctors caution patients to be aware that performing high-intensity workouts could potentially lead to injury.

CrossFit has also been associated with a muscular injury known as rhabdomyolysis, where the skeletal muscle becomes so damaged it breaks down. It is potentially life-threatening. To prevent rhabdomyolysis, it’s important that you gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and drink plenty of water while you exercise.

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