In 2011, I was in India on a business trip with two friends. We woke up the first morning, jet-lagged and weary, but ready to face the day. My friend announced, “let’s do some CrossFit!” Right there in the dusty courtyard, with Indians staring and smirking at us, we did air overhead squats, push-ups, and box jumps (onto a bench). The challenge, camaraderie, and competition was awesome – I was hooked.
Back near Chicago, I found a CrossFit box near my house and started going. Made great friends. Learned the basics. Got even more hooked. As I studied it more, I came to the conclusion that Crossfit is one of the best ways to achieve fitness. I enjoyed it so much that I also became a Level I CrossFit Trainer in March 2015 and started coaching informal classes with my friends.
What I’ve particularly enjoyed about CrossFit:
- It’s for everyone. It can be done by anyone at any fitness level. Even my 7-year-old kid will ask me after school, “Can we do a CrossFit workout today?” And yet it’s extremely challenging for the most elite athletes in the world. Easy to do, hard to master.
- It can be done anywhere, anytime. No equipment or machines needed; we are the machines. And most workouts are strategically short.
- It’s effective – I could go on and on about the growing set of empirical data on the effectiveness of high-intensity interval training. Or how fitness is defined. But, get this. There are big-money pro athletes in every sport doing CrossFit to get fitter. Elite marathon runners are running less, CrossFitting more, achieving better times, and experiencing lower injury rates. Elite military force leaders are incorporating CrossFit into their core strength and conditioning program. Grandmas are getting their hips back because of CrossFit. Personally, I lost about 25 pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of muscle. More importantly, I’m more flexible, mobile, and energetic as ever. I’ve had a few falls and near-falls where I walked away knowing that without CrossFit, I would’ve broken a bone or ended up in the hospital.
- It’s measurable – yup, I’m a nerd, I like data, and I’ve entered 600+ of my workouts into a tracker. I can see how I’ve done compared to thousands of others who’ve done the same workout. I can track my progress and let me tell you – progress is very motivating.
- It’s communal. At my first workout at a CrossFit gym, I was next to a soccer mom, a CEO, a high school soccer stud, a lifeguard, and a church worker. Over the months ahead, these people became my friends. Going to the box a few times a week, I saw these folks more than I saw my good friends. Pretty soon, we were grabbing coffee afterwards, doing life. There’s just something about sweating, working together, facing something new together, fighting against the common enemy (the workout) that brings people together.
So, what is CrossFit is, exactly?
CrossFit is defined by 3 elements:
- Constantly varied – Workouts are never the same. This varied stimulus keeps our bodies guessing and accelerates fitness. It also makes workouts fun and challenging, making CrossFit something I can stick with for a long time.
- High intensity – Oh yes, I like going all out and the feeling of fighting through a tough workout. I love moving a lot of weight long distances in short time periods, again and again. What’s great about this is that high intensity is relative. We can all be doing a workout with different weights and at different pacing, but every single one of us can hit the same level of high intensity. And after high intensity workouts, your body’s metabolism is elevated all day long, even when you’re not working out (say it with me, people, “fat. loss.”).
- Functional movement – If we took the time to study human anatomy and to understand how our joints and tendons are designed, we’d see that our bodies have been designed to move a certain way. Functional movement. CrossFit emphasizes moving this way, and typically it’s the exact opposite of exercises that isolated one muscle (like bicep curls). It’s compound, whole-body, muscles-firing-in-sequence, coordinated movement. Functional movement can be categorized into 3 large categories: cardio (running, jumping, swimming, rowing), gymnastics movements (pull ups, push ups, sit ups, musle ups, pretty much any ups), and olympic lifting (clean & jerk, snatches, deadlifts). It’s all about efficiently moving weight – our own and external.
So, why do I CrossFit? Because I enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie, and the competition. But especially because of what it enables me to do and be when I’m not doing CrossFit.
Oh, and for those who want a little more inspiration, CrossFit is now a sport. Can you actually design a test that will yield “the fittest” on the planet?
In the end, CrossFit is more than fitness – it’s stewardship. I believe we’ve been given 3 T’s – time, talent, and treasures – to steward well and multiple wisely and bless others. But we can’t do that without stewarding the 4th T – our temple – our bodies.