I remember the first time I heard of Crossfit. I sat in a weekend seminar in Boston, and we were discussing physical fitness and how it affects the body’s expression of health. While we were discussing the basic movements that the body utilizes for most things, someone brought Crossfit into the conversation. The instructor readily brought up videos of the workouts….WOW! I was instantly entertained and decided that I had to try it.
When I returned home, I began regularly looking at the Crossfit homepage (www.crossfit.com) to see what the next “Workout Of the Day” (W.O.D.) would be. Each day brings something new and different. Some days Crossfitters will run a 10K. And then the next day, they might be performing a 1-repetition maximum weight snatch seven times. The program utilizes a broad spectrum of equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, gymnastics rings and jump ropes to create unique workouts each day.
Many of the daily workouts are given names. Some are just simple names like “Fran” or “Diane.” And others have great stories like “Fight Gone Bad.” And then some are given names like “Murph” or “Bull” after soldiers that lost their lives in battle.
Crossfit’s workout program is different than most typical workout programs. In the Foundations Document , founder Gregg Glassman says “Crossfit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of ten recognized fitness domains. They are Cardiovascular and Respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy.” Most Crossfitters pride themselves on the physical completeness and versatility. Crossfit “delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing.”
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the Crossfit program for the average person is its scalability. Each W.O.D. can be altered to allow anyone to do it. Sometimes it is decreasing the repetitions and other times less weight is used. This allows everyone from the world’s top athletes to your grandparents to benefit from the program.
The Crossfit program has a lot of upside, especially for those who enjoy feeling tight and sore in the days following a workout, but it is important to understand that a program that focuses on intensity and little to no rest can be dangerous. There are plenty of stories of people who tried these workouts after not training for months and they ended up in the emergency room because of a condition called Rhabdomyolysis.
(Editor's Note: This, in fact, just happened at the University of Iowa. Read more on that incident here.)
Rhabdomyolysis is a condition where the muscle fibers are broken down so far that they are released into the bloodstream and are toxic to the body. Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition that requires treatment immediately. If left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can lead to kidney failure and death.
It is easy to see the appeal of the 20-minute crossfit workouts, but it is also important to understand your level of fitness before jumping on board. When beginning any new fitness programs, it is important to consult with your physician. Also, when performing exercises that you have never performed, it is important to consult with a trained professional on technique in order to avoid serious injury.