Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CrossFit Risks and Rewards

If you’ve been into the workout scene at all for the last decade, you have probably at least heard the word “CrossFit.” Maybe you’ve seen the increasingly popular CrossFit gyms that have been popping up like daisies in the past few years. If you’re brave, maybe you’ve even tried it.

CrossFit has been around for a while now, but in the past few years it’s become one of the most popular workout programs. There can be no question that CrossFit will, in fact, get you fit—but like any workout routine, there are some things you should know about CrossFit before you jump on the bandwagon.

Know the facts before deciding if CrossFit is right for you.
Image: Shutterstock
First off, CrossFit is intense. Like, really intense. The CrossFit method works to improve muscle strength, cardio endurance, and flexibility through a mix of aerobics, body weight exercises, and Olympic weight lifting. Classes are usually an hour long and include a warm-up, a skill-development segment, a workout of the day (WOD), and group stretching at the end.

There are some really great benefits of CrossFit. First, it provides a full focus on safe and effective movements, fitness, and eating right. Second, one of its goals is to prepare trainees for “any physical contingency—not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.” Third, CrossFit classes provide trainees with a community. It connects people to each other as they push themselves toward a new level of fitness, and that’s a powerful thing.

But due to the sheer intensity of CrossFit, there are also a few things to consider before diving in. WODs are timed, and your job is to complete a list or circuit of exercises within an allotted amount of time. Rest is minimal, so you’ll get tired. As you attend more classes, the goal is to improve upon your previous times and scores, so it’s a constant race against time. Like any workout, your body will begin to fatigue, especially the muscles you’re using the most. And that means your form will deteriorate as well.

Good form is essential for avoiding injury, especially when dealing with intense workouts. Bad form is the reason so many people end up injured practicing Zumba—they’re not doing the movements correctly, and so they end up hurting themselves by straining muscles and twisting in odd ways. The same concept applies to CrossFit, so focusing on good form is a must.

Another downside of CrossFit is that because it is such an intense workout, it is more difficult for beginners to get involved in. If you’ve never weight trained before, you may not even be able to do many of the movements at the beginning. Once you build some muscle, though, that will change. Whether you want to use CrossFit to gain those beginning muscles, though, is up to you.

CrossFit is a powerful program that can take your fitness to a new level—just be sure you understand the risks and are willing to take them before you commit.