For its many devoted trainees, CrossFit – the intensive and comprehensive fitness programme which combines a range of training modalities to promote rapid strength and conditioning – is much more than merely a means to challenge one’s physical capabilities with high-volume gut wrenching workouts. Combing elements from Olympic lifting, martial arts, men’s gymnastics and more conventional fitness protocols in such a way that sessions are never boring, functional fitness is emphasised, progress is routinely measured, and strength of both body and mind is continually cultivated CrossFit seeks to turn average people into elite level performers – hardened gym warriors even! Not for rank novices, CrossFit usually requires the newbie to have a basic level of fitness before tackling one of its famous WODs (Workouts of the Day – frequently changed, they combine some form of strength movement with high intensity cardio intervals to truly test a ‘CrossFitter’s’ physical resolve).
You hear it all the time from those committed to CrossFit. ‘It’s more than just a workout; it’s a way of life.’ In fact, of all the training systems to have emerged in recent times, CrossFit is one that consistently delivers on its promise of maximising functional strength and cardio fitness with brutal efficiency. It also positively influences how its members approach the challenges of daily life. Still, it is not for everyone and the weak of mind are ruthlessly eliminated via the fitness training equivalent of natural selection. But for those who have come to ’embrace the grind’, CrossFit provides the ultimate challenge, a fast track to enviable physical development and means to determining how mentally tough we can become. Incorporating everything from commercial treadmills to the perfect burpee, 10k runs to clean and jerks to failure, this way of life, which has even been referred to by skeptics as a ‘fitness cult’, can change a person’s perspective for the better; a never-say-die mentally is forged through increasingly harder training methods and the high level of personal accountability that is demanded of each participant. CrossFit horror stories are aplenty: members puking after a grueling WOD, involuntarily urinating mid-lift, suffering multiple injuries, passing out. However, such instances are rare and largely confined to CrossFit’s early days. In fact, a major aim of CrossFit is to encourage exercise adherence and training longevity and sessions are structured to push its members just hard enough to reap its many benefits while staying injury free.
CrossFitters begin their training quest with improved physical fitness in mind. Soon enough they come to realise that to excel in their chosen pursuit they must become one of an exclusive and committed group of gym athletes. With each demanding workout participants become a little more confident both inside and outside the gym – or, in CrossFit parlance, the box; as training numbers increase, a corresponding sense of pride in one’s performance is evident; daily life becomes much easier to navigate – for CrossFitters, how the body functions is just as important as how it looks; and the athlete within is awakened. In short, CrossFitters start thinking, eating, sleeping and training like Olympic athletes. Identity is emphasised ahead of behavior and this keeps each member committed to the task at hand; behaviors are established in line with this new identity and positive personal transformations are thus more rapidly achieved. When faced with tough decisions or seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the CrossFitter is more adept at pushing aside doubt and forging ahead. Increasingly more intensive workouts and adherence to the CrossFit ethos has conditioned such people to willingly expose their weaknesses, overcome limitations, and relish difficult challenges. As a result, mind, body and lifestyle are optimized.
This article is written by David Robson in conjunction with Gym and Fitness Equipment. Fitness industry writer, trainer, contest promoter, bodybuilding federation president (New Zealand Wheelchair Body Building Federation), and tireless fitness lifestyle advocate David Robson has, for the past two decades, preached the healthy living message. His many client success stories bear witness to the efficacy of his results-driven training focus. He continues to educate and inform through his numerous written works.