It has been over two years since I started doing CrossFit. After giving birth to my second child, I desperately needed something physical to do and a reason to get out of the house. My husband, who has been lifting weights for nearly 20 years and works part-time as a CrossFit coach, convinced me to give it a try. It took a few months of hard work and very sore muscles to realize that I loved the results, the community, and the physical challenge, and since then I’ve never looked back.
CrossFit may not be for everyone, and that’s OK; diversity makes the exercise world more fun and interesting. In fact, without diversity, CrossFit wouldn’t exist! But CrossFit does have several key concepts that are valuable and applicable to all forms of fitness. These concepts are stated in one of CrossFit’s official definitions: “Constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.” Whether you hate CrossFit or love it, incorporating these concepts into your workouts will make them better and get you in great shape faster.
1. Constant Variation
As humans, we fail at the limits of our experience. Movement in real life is constantly varied, so it makes sense to train your body in a variety of ways. Try doing different exercises and different numbers of rep schemes whenever you’re at the gym. Don’t let your body grow too accustomed to the same movements all the time. Not only will you be better prepared for what life throws at you (i.e. the unknown and the unknowable), but this will also make it more mentally stimulating for you.
2. Functional Movement
These are movements which are described as “compound, yet irreducible.” They also happen to produce more power than isolation-type movements by allowing us to move large loads over long distances, quickly.
As CrossFit coach Blair Morrison wrote on his blog, “Fitness is only as measurable as it can be applied to overcoming challenges in the randomized physical world around us.” In other words, think of the gym as a starting point for building fitness that is then applicable to the real world, i.e. chasing kids, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, moving furniture. To apply this concept while working out, focus on movements that use multiple joints, such as the squat, which engages the back, hips, and legs.
3. High Intensity
You should feel really tired after a workout. While you don’t have to go to the extremes that some CrossFitters brag about, it should be tough, hard work to finish; and if it isn’t, then you’re probably not working hard enough. Working at 100% intensity elicits what’s called a neuroendocrine (hormonal) response, which is the mechanism that drives adaptation. It is this adaptation that results in an increase in your overall fitness.
However, remember the cardinal rule of CrossFit: technique first, consistency second, and then intensity. Don’t sacrifice form for intensity, and make sure that you have professional coaching advice when it comes to lifting heavy weights.
Thanks to Jason Martinko for his input.