CrossFit: Fit Happens

*If you already do CrossFit I’d love it if you left a comment here on your experience/what you love about it for those who may read this and like as many opinions as they can get…thanks.

Clearly, exercise and nutrition go hand in hand for many health minded individuals. We always say that nutrition is the most important factor for lifelong health and longevity (avoiding disease!) but what about physical adaptations that can make you more capable today and physically strong for the long haul? How about agility/flexibility/balance/et cetera to benefit you in your fight against aging and decrepitude (physical incapability).

This is where exercise…things like CrossFit come in. Not for “melting body fat” or burning off calories – those are myths for other articles – but for building strength, confidence, and fortitude. I am realizing that there are probably a large number of our readers who are “CrossFitters” but likely a large portion that aren’t…I want to take the time today to describe what CrossFit is…why Megan and I believe in it and think you should try it…and what we believe makes it work so you can implement these techniques on your own if getting to a CrossFit gym simply isn’t in the cards.

I don’t intend this to be too scientific or CrossFit jargon laden (although it is in there)…simply our take on CrossFit…why we do it…and why you should consider doing it too…or something like it.

My personal journeys with exercise and nutrition have both been meandering paths. My nutritional interest began in college when I was starting to cook for myself. Growing up I seemingly was able to get away with eating anything and I certainly never thought twice about what I would put in my mouth. I remember our meals being mostly meat based…good ‘ol southern meat and 3 type plates mixed in with all your other typical American fare. I cringe now when I think about the cereals I thought were synonymous with “breakfast”. None of that changed until my early twenties when I just decided I wanted to look great (read: get more ripped) and maximize my odds for a clean bill of health for as long as possible. I did the Men’s Health conventional wisdom, low fat and lots of whole grains plan for a few years.

From there I first read Cordain’s The Paleo Diet sometime around 2006 and did a lean protein paleo (what I call politically correct paleo) type plan for quite some time but I still didn’t “get it” the way I do now. Megan and I then read books by Pollan and discovered the Weston A Price Foundation and sites like Slow Food  and added sprouted grains back to our diets along with some dairy. But it wasn’t until we found sites like Mark’s Daily Apple, Archevore, and Chris Kresser…read books and articles by Taubes…and watched documentaries like Fat Head that we really began to get a much better “big picture” on food and maybe more importantly began to “unlearn” conventional wisdom. All these opened our eyes to “beyond Paleo” scientific explanations that help explain and support a “Paleo template” and allow more adept application of such to a modern lifestyle in lieu of aiming for a Paleolithic reenactment. All grains went back out as we came to see even the properly prepared as merely “tolerable” not “optimal” and we added high quality dairy back on occasion. That’s the abridged version of how we ended up eating a low-moderate carbohydrate, low sugar (especially fructose), high fat (except omega 6), no grains, moderate protein diet that flies right in the face of nearly all conventional wisdom.

Megan and I have been together virtually this entire time. We have grown in this together and shaped each others grasp and application of the subject. When we met I was more nutrition than foodie and she was much more foodie than nutrition. She even worked under highly trained chefs as a pastry chef for a while after we met and was dead set on going to the Culinary Institute of America after getting her undergrad. She was accepted but I selfishly talked her out of it. I became way more interested in cuisine and she in nutrition and Health-Bent was eventually born from our new mutual growth together as the outlet for the things we really do take the most pride and enjoyment from.

What the hell does that have to do with CrossFit? I’m getting there I promise.

Megan and I both grew up playing sports…at the time exercise and “practice” were the same thing. I played baseball and hockey and Megan swam and played volleyball. Physical activity wasn’t designed for the sake of activity but for getting better at your sport…I don’t remember ever thinking it was “work”. Funny how that happens isn’t it? I was introduced to weightlifting around 10th grade and began to actively “train” for sports by doing things other than those sports. Some team mates and I went to a personal trainer, there were after school “conditioning” programs leading up to each sports season. You know the drill. Lifting weights and “cardio” (running and “sucking wind”) were always separate. I carried this philosophy right on through college. I was no longer playing organized sports so I decided I would get very serious about weight lifting and I did. I favored pumping iron over cardiovascular-respiratory endurance and I gained 20+ lbs of muscle my freshman year of college. Megan spent her college days going to the gym, lifting some weights and punching the clock on the cardio deck…typical protocol for most people. As a side note we wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for the gym at our University…in a roundabout way it’s sorta how we met.

After a few years at this I was realizing that when I would actually run my shins and legs would hurt and I felt that the increase in strength was causing an inequality in endurance. I graduated from college and almost took a 180…I started running more than lifting and became interested in mountain biking. My natural inclination for competition led me to 5ks and 10ks…then mountain bike racing, off road adventure races and triathlons that included a lot of canoeing and kayaking as well. I got faster but I shrunk. I’m about 6’-2” and in the course of two years I went from about 210 lbs to 185 lbs at the same leanness…which means I lost all that muscle I spent years trying to get. My endurance days peaked right around the time Megan and I got married in 2008…a typical race I participate in and trained for was 3-6 hours. I was riding 50 mile training rides on my bike and running at least 6 a few times a week. I still lifted weights but it was infrequent and when I did I was noticeably weaker. Weights I’d used years prior for many reps had me spent at just a few. I didn’t really like it. Now I’m not saying that either way is necessarily bad if that’s what you love to do but it’s certainly specializing on one side to the detriment of the other. Fitness can be a roof peak in which you can slide down either side…but what if it doesn’t have to be that way?

Discouraged about my loss of strength I discovered CrossFit and decided to give it a try. I wanted to gain my strength back and wondered if I could even improve my endurance too.  It looked like good “circuit training” to me. Demanding and challenging…I had no idea.

So Megan and I went in to our local affiliate in June of 2009 (she wasn’t as enthused as I was). We were taught the “CrossFit warm up” which consists essentially of 2 rounds at your own pace of: 10 pull ups, 10 push ups, 10 dips, 10 sit ups, 10 back extensions, and 10 overhead squats with a pvc pipe. Mind you…I was still believing that I was a very capable person…knowing I wasn’t as strong as I once was but built up on the idea of “how far I could go”. The current fitness paradigm most subscribe to almost implies that fitness is defined as endurance and I was under that assumption at the time. This “warm-up” whipped our butts. I was able to do all the movements with full range of motion without modification but barely. Megan was shown how to modify them to her ability level and still use proper form and range of motion. It’s worth mentioning that she (along with a large percentage of first time CrossFitters) couldn’t do 1 pull up.

We were then instructed that we were going to try a CrossFit “benchmark” workout…that would show us what it was all about. I was already spent but determined. The workout is called “Helen”. These workouts are named after some of the original crew of the gym that has since trademarked “CrossFit” and it’s said girls names are so fitting because they are like named storms. These workouts are benchmarks because they are used to show progress when you repeat them (although any workout could if done exactly the same). We were shown the required range of motion, depth and extension for the movements of Helen and how to do them safely…3 rounds for time (as fast as possible!) of: 400 meter run, 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull ups. With a big red interval timer and a countdown of “3,2,1…go!” we took off down the mangled pavement outside the gym toward the 200 m turnaround. I believe this was really the first time in my life that I had demanded my body to “suck wind”, move weight, and do gymnastic body weight strength movements at the same time and it showed. Megan modified the workout as she did with the warmup and I was able to somehow get through it Rx…which in CrossFit lingo means as prescribed. For Helen that means a 53 lb kettlebell for men (36 lb for women) and pull ups without assistance. It took us both 15 minutes and some change.

It was uncomfortable. Lifting weights while talking to buddies OR riding and running at a pace you can maintain was much more cozy. But when we looked around and saw CrossFit members completing the “warm up” and making it actually look like a warm up…we knew there must be something to it. Megan always recalls how inspired she was watching the female coach (shoutout to you Bobbi) show her how to do pull ups by effortlessly jumping up to the bar and doing a few. If you have any sense of “if they can do it then I can do it too” in your body…then this experience is all it will take to sell you. There was still apprehension for what was to come but we dove right in. If that wouldn’t be enough for you…I’m going to go on.

I went through our journey in nutrition above. We were familiar with and practicing a Paleo diet (though still tweaking…and still are!) when we started CrossFit. At the time I felt as if we were the only people in our entire state who had even ever heard of such a crazy thing as eating like hunter/gatherers (I admit we aren’t in the most progressive state). Imagine our surprise when we found out that CrossFit was teaching and promoting a paleo diet and many folks at the affiliate were getting into it. I bring this up because I know you’re here because of the food side. But CrossFit promotes a paleo diet because it is for the most part (and used to be even more so) driven by grassroots evidence based performance. CrossFitters and the CrossFit mentality was to embrace whatever made the most sense and got the best results…no matter how unorthodox or unconventional. So the CrossFit community is putting the same kind of scrutiny on nutrition as you are and has been looking at exercise under the same kind of microscope.

CrossFit is really nothing more than a combination of other things. Each item is not unique…it’s the combination of them that is unique, it’s the shifting of expectation that’s unique. So CrossFit is about looking at human movement, exercise, and exertion the same way Paleo/Primal/WAPF dieters look at food. For food we say: What is food? What should we eat? What should we avoid? Why? Are there individual nuances? With fitness its: What is fitness in the first place? What should you do? What should you avoid? Why does it work? What are the benefits? Individual nuances?

What is fitness in the first place?

This part is a little bit of a synopsis of what you’d get if you went to a CrossFit certification. I told you about how I had been on both sides of the apex of the roof of the “fitness house”. On one hand I was strong but it hurt to run and on the other I could run but lost a lot of muscle and strength. In fitness we can call each end of the spectrum being a “specialist”. Phenoms at cycling like Lance and of bodybuilding like Arnold would be specialists. Society rewards them for being the best at what they do and they have certainly had to sacrifice one side for the other for that success. That’s all fine and good…if you stand to make a lot of money for specializing it would make the decision look a lot different, but what if you simply wanted to be the best you could at everything you can think of and even things you haven’t thought of or anticipated yet? If you specialized you’d know that you would be limiting your success one one side or the other.

But if you decided that fitness was defined as your competence in 10 general physical skills (something CrossFit borrowed from Dynamax):

1. Endurance

2. Strength

3. Stamina

4. Flexibility

5. Power

6. Speed

7. Coordination

8. Agility

9. Balance

10. Accuracy

You would see that being fit means being more “well rounded”. I certainly experienced a shift in my competency based on my training. Since I didn’t forsee a paycheck from either side how could I maximize all of them? Well, that’s by specializing at not specializing. One could argue between being average or above average at lots of things vs. being great at 1 or 2 things…but think about it this way. If you’re eating a paleo/primal diet for health and longevity…then you should be exercising for that as well. So if you’re really strong and powerful but don’t have endurance, flexibility, accuracy, or balance for example…how’s that going to help you play with your grand kids? And if your have lot’s of endurance and flexibility but little strength…how long will you be able to continue to do what you like to do as you get weaker as you age? CrossFit strives to build “functional fitness”…the kind of stuff that translates to your life…anything and everything that could ever be.

So what do you do to become functionally fit?

I told you CrossFit was a mashup of things that aren’t unique on their own. Those things are:

gymnastic and bodyweight movements – pull ups, push ups, hand stands and handstand push ups, air squats, sit ups, back extensions, ring movements like ring dips and muscle ups, climbing rope

traditional conditioning methods – running/sprinting, rowing, sometimes stationary biking

weight lifting – Olympic weight lifting (clean and jerk, snatch) with all variations, power lifting (deadlift, bench press, overhead presses, squatting), kettlebell movements, dumbbells, and other unique combinations of lifts like front squat + push press = thruster

plyometrics – box jumps, burpees, jump rope (singles and doubles)

medicine ball training – med ball cleans, wall ball shots, slam balls

The equipment is actually very minimal compared to what you’re used to seeing if you are a member of a big box fitness type gym. You’ll see pull up bars, wooden boxes, medicine balls, barbells and bumper plates, some rowers, a place to run, medicine balls. CrossFit gyms are commonly called “boxes” because the you just need space for your body and the basic tools to elicit the response. Combining these things into all different patterns and variations and performing them at high intensities is what makes you change in a small amount of time per session. Sure you can mix these things together anyway you like and call it whatever you want…CrossFit is simply the brand that has already done it and makes it convenient for you…and in many ways standardized which is helpful. You’ll come to find out that those fancy machines with cables or levers and cushy seats are just taking up space and slowing you down. See, those machines and equipment reduce and isolate your movements in ways that aren’t conducive to the way you’ll be moving in life. You want to move yourself in different planes and have great body control and balance AND be able to move weight (FREE WEIGHT) efficiently and properly. Unless that bag of potting soil or wheel barrow in your yard has a pulley system attached to it how are those machines helping you? We want your bones to bear weight demanding your core to give you stabilization and strength. This minimal equipment makes our core strong…and you’ve heard this before…your core is where real power comes from.

Exercise performed free of seats and tethers promotes “midline stabilization” which makes you strong all over. You’ll learn to translate that newly found core strength into “core to extremity” translation through these movements. I know it sounds daunting…and this is why I recommend finding a CrossFit affiliate over starting on your own. At least to get the fundamentals down. Most affiliates have great coaches who would scale you (pick the right weights and modifications for you) while teaching the proper form so that your body is safe since they’re teaching you to move it along natural patterns that your body likes and avoiding compromising positions.

Most CrossFit workouts are between 2 and 30 minutes long. And believe me, this is plenty if you are doing it right. Some days are simply strength and technique and the rest are all out “metabolic conditioning (metcon)” workouts…mash ups of all those exercises above. Sometimes two of them, sometimes three and occasionally more. Sometimes heavy weights, sometimes light…higher reps and lower reps…you get the idea. Metcons are usually set to a clock (like Helen) or done in a fixed amount of time for as many reps as you can do in that time. This is going to shock your system so to speak and eventually you’ll be able to do more work in less time. That means higher power output. (Force x Distance) / Time = Power. Now, if you can get well rounded in many movements so that you “increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains” you’ll really be in business. What that really means is that you are becoming competent in those movements and those skills and you can do them with good output in short time windows and long ones. It’s no wonder many military, law enforcement, and life safety personnel are using these methods. Their life literally depends on their abilities in many, many circumstances. Now, the probability of them being in these situations is surely higher…but don’t all of us face these hardships in some form at some time? How can becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable ever be a bad thing?

What should you avoid?

Being static. Being sedentary. I love fitness and nutrition because in many ways they are the things you cannot buy. Health cannot be bought. Sure you could have a chef and a trainer…but you cannot buy the results, you have to earn them. I don’t know how to explain to you how the machines in the gym are holding you back without you trying something like CrossFit. But they are. Isolating and artificially supporting your movements are dampering your results. Putting a divide between “cardio time” and “strength/lifting” time is holding you back from your potential. CrossFit OR some form of “functional movements performed at high intensity” is the only way I have found to see the best of both worlds. I rarely bench press anymore and yet I can bench close to the most I ever did back when all I did was lift. I squat and deadlift much more than I ever did, my 5k is as fast as when I was an endurance racer. I have put back on that muscle and currently sit at 210 lbs again but I can do so much more with it. I can do a 150 lb weighted pull up and run a 6 minute mile. Overhead squat 285 lbs and then do 100 jump rope double unders in a row. In many ways I surpassed my capabilities from each respective “specialist” avenue I went down but now I have the things from the other side as well.

I told you Megan couldn’t do 1 pullup on day 1. Now she can do a ton. Dead hang, kip and butterfly. And she could do more than 100 in several minutes. She can do muscle ups and handstand pushups. She can squat and put more weight over her head than she weighs, and has recently run several half marathons. Before CrossFit, 5 miles was the farthest she had ever run.

I told you about our first workout “Helen”. Megan now does this with no modifications in around 10 minutes and I am right around 8. How is that for being able to do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time?

*And before you go and start thinking this is only for men or girls who want to get big…think again. Ladies, if you’re afraid of looking more fit…well I can’t help you…but getting big typically requires special and often illegal supplementation in women. Everyone has a general homeostatic point of muscle they reach…it doesn’t just keep going forever. Women can gain muscle doing this (and that might cause weight gain) but in almost ALL cases this actually translates to a much better body composition/look. Unless runway skinny is your thing.

Why does it work?

Put simply…if you want to get better at something…doing it often usually helps. If you don’t use your body you’ll lose it. One less than obvious reason CrossFit works is because people will stick to it. It’s that simple. If your fitness plan is only interesting enough to keep you at it for a week or a month it doesn’t really matter how good it is now does it? If you join an affiliate you’ll be doing your workouts with a group. You’ll get to know people. You will all be required to do the same things (with different modifications mind you) and you will look over your shoulder and compete. CrossFit will set the stage for you to compete with yourself and give you so many more metrics to do it with than just a 5k time or something. You’ll be in an environment where you see what people have become capable of and it will change your definition of “normal” for the better. “What seemed beyond me becomes me” will start to make sense to you. You’ll be inspired and maybe a little embarrassed all at the same time. Don’t let it get you down…PLEASE. Understand that this really is a sport in and of itself. If you take a liking to it working out will be like “practice” was for me when I was a kid. Yeah you’re working out but it’s about more than just getting work done. But if this is really a sport (the sport of fitness) that takes away the idea of just “getting a burn” for the hell of it you still have to realize that you can’t be great at any new sport on day one. You’re going to have to pay your dues but there will be others there paying them with you.

If you join a gym you’ll never have to wonder what your workout is going to be and plan it for yourself…because your gym will be doing it for you…and for the most part…these gym owners and coaches know what they are doing. It will be like having personal training and direction all the time. It will hold you accountable and push you.

It works because you’ll stay with it…but beyond that it works because of the intensity. The time frame of 2-30 minutes seems short. But going hard for that amount of time makes you better in the medium time energy pathway you’re in (glycolytic) while pushing you out on the short/strength pathway (phosphagen) and the long/endurance pathway (oxidative) all while minimizing time requirements by you. This is how you get the best of both worlds if you do as above and stick with it. Strength, power, and speed WITH endurance, stamina, agility…sprinkle in some coordination, balance, accuracy, and flexibilty. Ta da.

What are the benefits?

I think I inadvertently covered most of these already. I think it’s good for you in case you haven’t noticed.

Naturally, it can help you shed unwanted body fat too, especially if coupled with a Health-Bent diet. And it can do it by improving your insulin sensitivity…and how your body uses/stores nutrients (or doesn’t).

It makes you feel good (even when you’re sore). Of course any exercise is supposed to improve mood and give you that natural high and improve energy…all the more with CrossFit.

And you’ll really feel like you are accomplishing things. One thing I haven’t mentioned is the mental strength CrossFit instills. Many people talk about this but I think it’s still somewhat overlooked. There is undoubtedly a confidence that comes with pushing through what you thought were your boundaries. Starting CrossFit with a lot of hesitation and self doubt is normal…but sticking with it literally forges stick-to-iveness that translates to much of your outside life. For more on the mental aspects of CrossFit and the gusto that physical preparedness can provide I’d point you to some of my favorite articles on the subject by Blair Morrison. The series is called “Fitness Is”...check out Potential in particular.

Individual nuances and caveats?

People with existing injuries and no exercise experience can do CrossFit. In fact, it might benefit those folks even more than people in decent shape. I’ve talked about how it’s infinitely scalable. Don’t let your age or background be an excuse…nobody is good at it when they start and it’s never too late to start improving yourself…you will scale down and take baby steps if you have to. Find a good gym and you’ll be shown how to do any movement at your current level and how to progress from there. Injuries present similar problems but a well trained staff can work around those no sweat. Many times injuries you thought would get worse with exercise and full range of motion movements actually improve a lot with the strengthening and stabilizing that CrossFit promotes. If your coach doesn’t promote form first and THEN intensity…do it anyway, though they probably will. Learn how to do it well with light weight before you ever try to do it fast with more weight. The minimal equipment idea makes it great for doing at home with a relatively small investment BUT we hear time and time again from people who tried to learn it on their own that they really were not “getting it right” until they got coaching. It can be done individually but you’ll miss out on the inspiring and motivating atmosphere and the coaching and probably on meeting some good people. But if there’s not one anywhere near by…try CrossFit.com exercises and demos. Take a look at some of the free articles…see the daily blog for programming and BE SAFE.

Mark Sisson’s Primal Fitness moto will suit you well if you’re trying to design workouts for yourself at home. Move around constantly at a slow pace, lift heavy things on occasion, sprint, and avoid injury. You’ll want to include some days that are just slowly practicing the movements mentioned above, some days where you lift heavy and nothing else, sprint from time to time, and some days that combine the movements into an intense workout you try to complete as quickly as you can. A race to finish your variable amount of work basically.

Whether you’re at an affiliate gym or at home…listen to your body. Overdoing it and overtraining is not good…it’s easy to think more is more in terms of improving – it’s not. You’re going to be sore. You need to recover adequately and recovery is what makes you better. If you’re feeling badly don’t work out that day. 3 days on 1 day off is standard but there is no right way. To start 2 days in a row is plenty unless your gym has beginner workouts to ramp you up (on ramp program). You’ll figure out what works for you and how you feel when you need to rest and recover with time…but just make sure you don’t get overzealous and hurt yourself or put unhealthy stress on your system. This is supposed to be for better health not worse!

I’m not going to lie to you – IT HURTS. But to Megan and I it’s just one of those things in life that is worth having either BECAUSE OF or INSPITE OF it not coming easy. Eating well can be a huge pain in the ass too but it’s worth it. CrossFit can change everything you thought you knew about exercise and physical preparedness just like Paleo changed what you thought you knew about food. If you are like us you’ll wish you had only known about it sooner and you’ll wonder why you ever did anything else. We’ve been at it for almost 3 years now and while our program always evolves we’ll never go back to our old ways. Here is the link to see if there are CrossFit affiliates in your area. And here’s a local article that recently featured Megan and I about our gym.

A program like this can literally double or triple what you’re able to do (sometimes more depending on where you start). It can affect you mentally in profound ways. What are you waiting for? Let fit happen to you.

Again, please share your thoughts in the comments for all those considering giving it a shot.

Here is my latest attempt at “Grace” (a CrossFit benchmark workout)

For Rx Grace a 135 lb (95 lb for girls) barbell must travel from the ground to locked out overhead, 30 times. You do this workout as quickly as possible. My latest time was 2:04. Next time sub 2 minutes. Megan’s latest Grace was 2:34 Rx

Don’t you like my shirt? I know where you can get one.

 

32 thoughts on “CrossFit: Fit Happens

  1. b4 Reply

    Hi guys! I’d love to comment about Crossfit. My only problem is keeping the comments short. I’m in my 40’s started less than a year ago. I’m not a jock. Have wasted money on many many fitness programs and gotten nowhere. I’m GETTING in the best shape of my life, I have a long way to go. (It took me a long time to get OUT of shape). The Crossfit culture is positive, active and inclusive. Constant encouragement and the only competition I ever feel is personal. My goal this year is pull ups. Not everything is for everyone but I love this program and the staff at SaskPro Crossfit are great people.

  2. Chuck Reply

    I’ve never played sports really. I never did anything for a long period of time that one could consider “strength building”. The people I’ve seen kick ass in Crossfit are folks that come in with some sort of prior steeping in GPP via athletics or something similar.

    I mean I didn’t start seeing any meaningful gains until I paired my mass consumption of ancestral foods with lifting heavy shit (relative to me…) 3 times a week (1 day each of full body, upper body, lower body), then doing 2 days of crossfit style WODs at the box I go to. And I give myself a hard stop for those WODs at around 15 minutes.

    So if you can, get into a box that doesn’t follow mainsite WODs. One that does shorter WODs in the style of CFFB. One that asks you what your goals are and doesn’t answer that with rhetoric about only having 1 WOD for the whole gym, just scaled differently for each person. So for my specific goal of getting strong, pure mainsite programmed crossfit 4-5 times a week isn’t gonna get me there, IMHO. My sense is there are just more crappy boxes than good ones. It just happens that even the crappy ones are more engaging than any globo gym experience. Just know your goals and know your limits.

  3. irescotswelsh Reply

    Here’s my two cents worth: I’m a 55 year old lady who began CrossFit and eating Paleo in July 2009. Both have changed my life – for the better. As an avid road cyclist, I was in decent shape. I’d never lifted weights, had read for years that I needed to add this to my routine, and was looking to up my strength-to-weight ratio for climbing hills. I joined a garage gym, The Athlete Lab, in January 2009 and began attending the bootcamp. Seven months later, the coach/owner began offering CrossFit and talked us into it. We were nervous, but she was great with ensuring we were lifting correctly & safely. Next she introduced changing our way of eating. We had baseline body fat measures via the BodPod facility located at the nearby university and have had subsequent tests. Everyone who followed the Paleo diet, including myself, has had great reductions in body fat. I can now do things I never could do in my youth, like climb the rope, sprint fairly fast, and do a handstand. I’m just starting to get double-unders. I feel younger. I’m often told I don’t look my age – what “older” woman doesn’t like hearing that?! But more important than any of this, is the sense of community. I’ve been to other CrossFit gyms in other states and it’s the same thing. You walk in the door, and it’s an ageless, non-judgmental, supportive environment. Lastly, I’ll share that I’ve learned how you fuel is a bigger determinant to how you look/perform than the exercise. So if you get your eating squared away, you’re more than half way there, friends.

  4. frugalportland Reply

    your review was thorough and helpful. I think that in order to be successful, one should enjoy their gym. I climb indoors. It’s a total body workout and it’s really fun.

  5. Emma Reply

    I’ve only been doing Crossfit since November 2011, but I’m hooked! I used to be seriously overweight at 107kg (235ish pounds) and have been gradually trying to get down to a more healthy weight for many years, I’ve tried running, swimming, walking, normal gym classes, you name, but Crossfit is the one thing I can see myself sticking to for the rest of my life.

    Some of my male friends were doing it and had been hassling me to try it for ages, but I was way too scared and thought that there was no way I could do it, that I was too unfit and too crap at exercise to even step foot inside there, but eventually they persuaded me and I did my first session in November and I haven’t looked back and I’m so glad that I got up the courage to try.

    The reasons why I love Crossfit are that the trainers are awesome, every workout is different and you have no idea what you’re going to get until you get there, so there’s no chance of being bored, everything is scalable to your abilities and most importantly, you feel an amazing sense of achievement after you get through a workout that scared the pants off you!

    Yes it’s intimidating at first, yes it sucks when you’re midway through a set of 50 burpees with no end in sight, and yes you’ll be sore, but after you’ve finished that workout you will be so proud of what you’ve achieved that you’ll keep coming back! It really is so rewarding :)

  6. Primal Kitchen's Family Grokumentarian Reply

    This totally sums it up for me. Such a great overview, I’ve emailed it to my relatives who are wondering how it is that my brother and I have turned into such enthusiastic CrossFitters. Eating paleo and Crossfitting 5x/week I’ve dropped 20 lb. of baby weight since Black Friday 2011. I still have well over 20 lb. of baby weight left, but now I have no doubt that I’ll eventually get there because of my love for the way that the community and the exercise shape my body and my character.

  7. Sophie Reply

    CrossFit totally changed my perspective on what a workout really is. I can’t EVER imagine going back to a regular gym and getting on the elliptical. Actually, I’m pretty angry at myself for all the years I wasted doing that. It never got me anywhere and I never saw any improvements. With CrossFit, I know I’m going to push myself. The environment in a “box” is super motivating and makes me want to perform. I know when I leave the gym that I’ve given it my all. I have left many MANY sweat angels on the floor of the gym and am proud that I can finally do full on push-ups. CrossFit takes everything I’ve got AND gives it back to me 10 fold in strength, energy, and it’s changing my body. I love it!

  8. Kathy F Reply

    I have been Crossfitting for about 18 months and, as a general rule, I’m still a little bit scared before every WOD. But about 6 months into it, although my palms would sweat and I’d feel a fleeting wave of nausea when I saw what the WOD was, I realized I could do it. Maybe not real fast. Maybe not Rx. Maybe not real pretty. But I could do it. And knowing that was cool.

    One of the things I love about Crossfit is that it’s measureable. You see improvements you make. You see that you’re lifting heavier stuff. You see that you’re cranking out more rounds and reps. You see that you’re getting faster. You see that you’re doing things you couldn’t do before.

    And yes, in the middle of a WOD, there is a little bit of misery. Or a lot. But because the workout is clearly defined – 20 minutes or 7 rounds or whatever it may be – you just work till you’re done. I have one consistent thought that goes through my brain during every WOD: “Just. Keep. Going.” And when I’m CERTAIN that I cannot do another single box jump or deadlift or burpee, I Just. Keep. Going. Not to get too philosophical, but you take that into your life outside Crossfit, too. When things are hard or scary or you’re facing something you don’t really want to face, you Just. Keep. Going. Because you already know that you can.

    The atmospher in each box is amazing. I mean, it’s hard and it’s not warm and fuzzy. But these people know exactly what you’re going through, so when you get your first unassisted pull up or set a PR for Fran, everyone celebrates. I’m not totally sure how or when it happens, but when you’re part of a group who’s doing more or less the same thing, all challenging yourselves and struggling, a real bond forms. Which makes it really fun.

    And I consider myself to be a total sloth. I could lay around all day watching TV and be perfectly happy. Not especially competitive, don’t like to run, would prefer to take a nap. But I love me some Crossfit.

  9. Lori O Reply

    I’ve been CrossFitting “officially” since May of last year. I had been doing some metcons on my own for a few months before that, but with no coaching or doing any of the more complicated movements or strength. I was previously a workout video junkie and runner. I used to workout purely for the vanity of it, but was usually unsuccessful because that didn’t keep me motivated. When I started CrossFit, I was instantly hooked on the fast but intense workouts, and the variety. I rarely had to “dread” doing a workout again like i used to with my videos that I had memorized. Of course I now dread some of the named benchmark workouts like Fran, but I also look forward to them to see how I’ve improved, so it’s still motivating even though I know it’s gonna suck. I’ve done Fran 3 times and every single time moved up in my abilities (heavier thrusters, less assistance on pull-ups) while maintaining about the same time to complete, and next time I plan to attempt it RX! I’ve been most impressed by the consistent “gains” – I’m 30-something and learning to do awesome things and getting better and stronger all the time. It’s done wonders for my confidence and self esteem to surprise myself at what I can do. But it’s humbling at the same time. And I’ve made so many great friends at the box – if I’m dreading a workout, just going to “suffer” through it with my friends is enough to get my butt there. I have also been wishing and wondering “where has this been all my life?” I no longer focus on working out to look good – I focus on working out to get better/faster/stronger. In the process, I’m inadvertently looking better than ever!

  10. Kendra Reply

    Great story! I started CrossFit May 2011 in our backyard because my husband and a few friends were planning to open their own box and started holding practice WODs (work-out of the day). I had no choice but to try it because I had no excuse for not trying…if that makes sense. I had a 2 year old and a 10 month old at the time…never worked-out, no sports background and could not even do one sit-up because of lower back pain. (Freakishly enough, I could do pull-ups…I was recently reminded that I was one of a handful of girls who could do pull-ups at my junior high). Fast-forward 10 months and I am now able to knock out sit-ups and weighted sit-ups, straight hang/kip/butterfly pull-ups, muscle-ups, dead-lift twice my body weight, climb a rope, flip a tractor tire….and SO much more. Coming from someone with absolutely zero athletic background, all I can say is you cannot afford not to give CrossFit a shot.

  11. Rene Forestier Reply

    Its awesome that you do CrossFit. I’ve had your banner up on my web-page for a long time along with Food Renegade. I also often refer to the WAPF site…I’m all about butter and good meat!

    Thanks for your site!

  12. Kathy A Reply

    I guess I’m going to be the first to ‘boo’ CrossFit. I joined my local CrossFit gym at the beginning of the year. I was not given proper instruction, nor did any of the trainers correct my form. As a result, I have severely aggravated a 25 year old injury which, nearly 6 weeks and $600 later still has me in severe pain. The 2nd time the kettle bells came out, I told the trainer of the difficulties I experienced in the workout and the pain afterwards. I was told it was normal and to push through. BAD ADVICE. I will be returning to a gym with one on one personal trainers who can spend time with a client rather than pushing a class harder and faster.

    • megan keatley Reply

      we have read our fair share of bad crossfit experience articles. it’s unfortunate, but admittedly, bound to happen, as crossfit just requires a 2 day lecture and a passing grade on a multiple choice test in order for someone to open up their own affiliate. at the end of the day, if your body hurts, you should only listen to yourself, and NO ONE else. it’s not their body and it’s not their decision. i hope that your old injuries heal up.

  13. Kristy Reply

    Hey guys!! My husband and I just joined crossfit back in October and November. It’s soo addicting. I have a love/hate relationship for it. We also put our daughter in crossfit for kids. Its a good outlet for her and teaches her how to ba active and coordination among other things as well. She LOVES it. We are still working on the Paleo, we’ve done pretty good (I should say ive done pretty good at all the cooking and my husband with the eating). But I find myself cooking the same things over and over. I found your website and I must say I love all your recipes. Well, I hope I love them. The pictures look fantastic :) Some of your meals are on my menu for next week. I hope this helps me get out of the slump of cooking chicken and veggies every day. I need variety and flavor to help me keep going. I look at some of the meals I make and wish it was Pizza or something unhealthy. Oh, by the way, the pizza snacks on your blog look amazing. Im making some for my kids tonight after crossfit :) Thanks for all your inspiration and dedication to this site and helping others who might be struggeling. Kudos to the both of you!! You’ve just helped me to keep going another week. I don’t know you, but I already think you guys are pretty awesome!! Thanks!!

    Kristy

    • brandon keatley Reply

      thank you so much kristy! glad we could help.

      eating the same bland thing every day is for prisoners! it would drive most people crazy. we believe that wanting to enjoy food is innately human. all you gotta do is be wise about it and you can have the best of both worlds.

      hope we can make the score: Health-Bent -1, slump – 0

      thanks again.

  14. Alison Reply

    been cross fitting for 7 years. it’s the only way.

    it’s complex. multi faceted. grueling. fun.

    prior to learning about it, i had intuitively began working out like this…so it was like coming home.

    i discovered most of the ppl who are drawn to it are kind of “out there” when it comes to exercise–in a good way! example: when i was 12, i broke my arm. but i was planning on running a 2 mile foot race. yup…you guessed it! i ran the race with a purple cast on my arm.

    anywho, to anyone who’s thinking about it….just go and do it. it’s gonna be insane. i am not going to lie or sugar coat it. but, if you want a new lease on life…this is an avenue to attain that.

  15. Jena Reply

    I’ve only been doing crossfit for 3 weeks (Paleo for 2 months), but I can’t stop :) I was one of the apprehensive beginners, with an existing injury. I have a herniated L5 and atrophied surrounding muscles, and hadn’t done any form of exercise in about 10 years. I’d been reading and hearing about crossfit for awhile and then a new box opened right in my town. With the first 10 days free, how could I say no? I’ve been working one-on-one with the trainer this whole time and I’ve had such a vast improvement in strength, endurance, and just basic getting around (I couldn’t even bend over without pain or stand without assistance when I started out) that I’m almost ready to join in the group WOD’s. My first day I couldn’t do 1 squat, I could only hold a plank for 6 seconds, I fell on my ass trying to step up on the plyo box and I could barely hold form for a deadlift. This morning I completed 25 squats, several 30 second planks, 21 medicine ball deadlifts, 30 step ups on the box, plus a bunch or rows and push press reps. I am constantly amazing myself :)

  16. TFoots Reply

    Hi H-B!!

    I have only been doing CrossFit for 5 months (started Nov 2011), but I can already say that it has SAVED my life. I am assuming that statement requires an explanation so I will try to keep this brief.

    I am 31 years old, I used to be an AVID athlete, and I was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2004. Being 6 years out of grad school, living in a new part of the country because my home state lost all its jobs in 2008, and feeling progressively helpless as my narcolepsy started to take over my life like ivy vines on an old brick building, I found CrossFit and my life drastically changed.

    -Ahem-

    “CrossFit has changed my life in the following ways…”

    – I have decreased the time I spend comatose by about 78%; from an average of 6 required daily naps per week to about 2…TWO!!
    – I have regained my ability to move and do things dynamically; instead of experimenting on how long it will take for my genes to develop chameleonic traits and pattern my flesh to match my “napping couch”
    – I found paleo eating and the potential it holds for helping manage my narcolepsy in addition to numerous other systemic difficulties (i.e. acne, IBS, etc.)
    – CrossFit has likely saved my marriage; I have more confidence, am more active/awake, certainly less depressed, and I am taking an interest in the food we are eating now. Before, my hubby would decide the meal, prepare it, serve it (sometimes I would be asleep and it would be sitting there for me when I woke up), and he even put up with those days when I couldn’t even help him by cleaning and the dishes would wait for me for days. Seriously, I couldn’t see how much longer he could put up with a life like that.

    Plus, the community at CrossFit RTP is AMAZING!!! Being new to the area, everyone has been so incredibly warm and welcoming and we all get together regularly to hang out and support one another. Not to mention all the encouragement we toss around in the gym. It’s not a gym; I am actually at a loss for words on how to describe it…you just have to experience it a couple times. I did, and I will never look back.

    Thank you! I am burning my fire bright after a period of thinking I didn’t even have any fuel anymore…

  17. Marie Reply

    I am not a Crossfitter, but want to be…
    When I was in university I was a rower and after I graduated I let my self go a bit… 20 extra lbs. Over the past three years I have gotten my self in better shape, I did P90X and Insanity and now I want to do cross fit I love strong women and I want to be one again…
    The problem is I live in a remote community (Arctic Canada) so I’m pretty much on my own. I have alot of equipment but I need some advice on how to get started.
    Any resources you can point me to? Thanks

    • brandon keatley Reply

      hi marie. i think i can help get you started.

      first off…here is how crossfit headquarters recommends starting: http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/start-how.html

      in that article they link you over to the exercises and demos page where there are tons of instructional videos.

      so…you’ll have to decide where you want to get your programming from. http://www.crossfit.com is what crossfitters call “mainsite”. their programming fits the main crossfit description of “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” not every day is a high intensity “metcon” (metabolic conditioning) day though mind you…as some days are dedicated to lifts only for a strength base.

      you will run into acronyms and exercises you’ve never heard of even with a strong background in fitness. google is your best friend (as well as other areas of the main site).

      ex: amrap means as many rounds/reps as possible

      so once you decide where you want to find what your workout will be you’ll just use crossfit.com and other youtube videos etc to figure out what the hell they’re talking about. if something is prescribed (that’s what Rx means fyi) that you don’t have access to…simply google what a good substitute would be.and if something is programmed that you know you’re not able to do at the moment…google what a scaled version or modification of said movement would be.

      then you’re going to want to scale to a place where it’s very hard for you…but you still move at a decent pace. in time you’ll start modifying less and less as you progress. and that is one of the things that is so appealing and motivating about crossfit.

      no doubt you will be at a disadvantage learning the nuances of the movements (like kipping pull ups for example) without a trained eye to watch what you’re doing and give you cues. BUT…as long as you use common sense…start off with weights that you can handle and try to make sure you are not putting yourself in unnatural positions under load i think you can feel it out.

      there are tons of places you could get programming from (WODs – workout of the day). crossfit.com of course but pretty much every gym has a blog where they post the daily wod. if you had a friend at an affiliate anywhere in the world you could follow their daily workouts and message them and ask them questions about the movements and even compare your times to theirs. there are also sites that offer programming on certain biases. crossfit football has a strength bias, crossfit endurance…well an endurance bias.

      you get the idea…if you poke around crossfit sites long enough you’ll run into references for all these things.

      almost done. i’ll also have to recommend paying the yearly $25 and subscribing to the crossfit journal (all electronic) at journal.crossfit.com . there is a ton of free information on crosfit.com but there is lots lots more in the journal.

      without even subscribing though you can get the beginners guide: http://journal.crossfit.com/2004/10/a-beginners-guide-to-crossfit.tpl

      and basically the certification training manual:
      http://journal.crossfit.com/2010/05/crossfit-level-1-training-guide.tpl

      download both of those pdfs and devour. i think this will get you off to a great start.

      but do keep this in mind. you need to have your form correct before you really pour on the intensity. without having someone watch you…i hope you’ll take the time to make sure you go the extra mile to find videos about the pitfalls of crossfit movements (what you want to make sure you don’t do). (example DON’T round your back when you deadlift). getting hurt won’t make you more fit that’s for sure.

      oh yeah and make sure you learn what the range of motion requirement is for crossfit standards. if it’s not to the crossfit standard…it’s not crossfit. (on a squat the hip crease must pass below the knee. on a pull up you must lock out at the bottom and chin must be clearly over the bar.) every movement will have specific standards which are the other part of the Rx.

      with the background you have a lot of it will probably come to you naturally and that’s great. c2 rowing is very common in crossfit!

      it’s gonna be like trying to do that whole p90x video as fast as you can. excited?

  18. Debbie Girard Reply

    ditto. i love it too.
    and love the information on your site.
    my sweetie and i have been cross fitters for about two years. and we love it.
    he more than me. but we both love it, and go as often as we can…

    doing the paleo and zone way of eating..
    on a challenge now to do both together, eat mostly paleo, but try to make it zone..
    challenging, but fun… :)
    we love it.. :)

    above is our crossfit gym. if you live in the area. trry it out. tell them norm and debbie sent you…
    thanks..
    you wll thank us..

    debbie and norm

  19. Tracy S Reply

    I’m 47 and started CF about a year and a half ago. No one should say they cannot do CF because of age. Old dogs can learn new tricks and keep making gains in fitness. When I started at CCF (Megan and Brandon’s gym), I was unable to do one pull up, and now I can do quite a few and was even able to Rx Murph last Memorial Day (it took FOREVER, but I did it!). That said, I still have lots of things to work on. But it’s fun and challenging and never, ever boring.

    To the person who had a bad experience: you have to make clear to your coaches what your limits are and know when enough is enough. No one is going to force you to do the WOD Rx; you can scale/sub anything. You know your body best. I hope you find a great trainer to work with, at a CF box or elsewhere.

    I personally lucked out in the coach dept. :-)

  20. OneThickChick Reply

    Yesterday was my first time with CrossFit. Of course I’m sore today, but it seems to be all I can think about! I’m on a weight loss journey and have already lost 50 pounds (thank you Paleo) with 50 or so to go, and kept running into CrossFit on every blog about paleo food, so I looked up a local box. I found the environment VERY positive, VERY supportive and each person who took time to work with me only encouraging and motivational. I was the absolute last person to finish, and the instructors stayed with me the entire time along with all the others in the class- can’t get more support then that!

  21. PatrickP Reply

    I did CrossFit for one month. Tore the meniscus in my right knee. Had surgery eight weeks ago. Never doing it again. Also, it felt too much like junior high P.E. which was not a good experience for me. (Picking partners, competition, group fitness, etc.) Too many emotions during the workouts. I was thinking, WTH am I doing here? Then I hurt my knee and figured it was a sign. Back to lights weights and moderate cardio. Still doing low carb/high fat as I have for nearly two years. Lost 22 pounds and I have easily kept it off.

  22. NJ Paleo Reply

    A year and a half ago in a raffle I won a gift certificate to a local functional fitness gym. It isn’t a CrossFit affiliate, but we do all the same things. The owners are a man in his early 60s and a woman in her late 40s, both teachers and certified trainers. Their philosophy is to move the body the way it was intended to move (functional fitness) and to eat real food. It was through the gym’s website that I was introduced to the paleo diet, and in the beginning I thought it was way off-base. I started as a distance runner (I still do it though not as many miles per week) and was carb-addicted. But I read Robb Wolf’s and Mark Sisson’s books and realized that what they said made sense. I gave it a go, and after a few days of feeling like garbage, I emerged from the “carb flu” feeling 10 years younger (I was 42 years old at the time). And suddenly, perhaps it’s concidence, perhaps it isn’t, my performance in the gym increased dramatically. I LOVE functional fitness/CrossFit type workouts more than I have ever loved distance running, and I haven’t had this much muscle mass or confidence in years. I started out as a skinny runner type with no upper body strength — I look totally different now. And I love the fact that anyone can do this — people in my gym range from high school athletes to people in their 60s and 70s — I’d say the average age of people at my gym is 45 years old. For me it was never about weight loss — it’s about “what new challenge can my body complete today”.

  23. shattuckceliac Reply

    I was a softball player in high school. I worked out with weights since I was 16 years old. I came to college and there was nothing for me. I tried everything. When I turned 40 I ran a 1/2 marathon and thought that was great then I found CrossFit. CrossFit is everything I need and so much more. At first I was intimidated, then I was motivated and now at 43 years old I am kicking the butts of people half my age. It’s not that I care to beat them, it’s just that I am glad that I am getting stronger and better everyday and there is always something to work on, to strive for, to be better at. I like to do things fast so this works perfectly for my personality. I am in the best shape I have been in my life and I actually revolve my schedule around CrossFit. It is a great community of great people that simply want to better themselves and see you reach your goals. I have drank the Kool-aid and am in for the long haul!

  24. Matt Marten Reply

    Yep CrossFit for 120 days now! I am turning 49 this week and feel more in touch with my body than I have for a long time. I am becoming physically able to do things like handstand pushups… who would have thought! Our bodies (and minds) are capable of more than we think. Once I finish a WOD (workout of the day) I feel like I can take on anything that comes my way. Muscle, balance, confidence… can’t wait to turn 50!

    BTW I am loving the website! Great information and love the look of it (I’m a designer and those things are important to me).

  25. Mark Wrzeciona Reply

    I totally agree with you about CrossFit. I’ve been doing it for about a month 1 week in a formal Box and I thought I was fit Boy was I wrong. CrossFit kicks my butt everyday and I’m better for it! I am doing strict paleo now and have for about 8 weeks and it has been amazing!! Thanks for the article!

  26. Kasey Reply

    I’ve always been into sports, and a tomboy while growing up and while I now like high fashion and nail polish/lipgloss galore I’m still a jeans and T-shirt gal who appreciates muscle, tone, and has never been afraid of weights. I’ve kept up being active with 7 half marathons, and a beach body DVD junkie (I’m giving those away no) however when I found Cross Fit just over a month ago I found home. Many of the moves (other than Olympic lifting) I was at least familiar with but what I love is how the techniques/proper form and not necessarily the amount of weight or how quick you could complete a WOD was the focus (at least at my gym which is a good one). CrossFit will inevitability help me with my endurance running, and my overall health especially since I decided eating clean was the perfect compliment to the sport. Faster, Stronger, More Mobile!

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