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CrossFit, a workout and training program designed by Greg Glassman in 2001, is rapidly becoming the new way to get moving and into shape. Unlike fad diets, slim-quick schemes, and dusty gym memberships, CrossFit is a trainer-led program that focuses on strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and “…simply to ensure the broadest and most general ﬁtness possible” as stated by Glassman in The CrossFit Journal Classics.
The program is so general that military training and police academies use it, yet the average man or woman is still able to pick up the routines.
CrossFit is a brand name, and the program works out of 5,500 affiliated gyms and through over 35,000 certified CrossFit trainers, according to the official website.
So how and why does CrossFit work? The first thing those looking into it should know is, that the method is intense. Each day the official website puts up a Workout of the Day, or WOD, and an explanation. Though it is possible to do at home, CrossFit trainers at affiliated gyms run most CrossFit programs, which means no more incorrect or ineffective workouts stemming from lack of know-how. The trainer leads and everyone does the same workout all together, like a group class, just at different speeds or with augmented actions to compensate for individual levels of fitness. The idea is to push your workout and yourself to do more than you could before.
The exercises, which require short periods of speed, lifting, gymnastics, and endurance, are designed to build power and energy seemingly through exhausting them. Workouts are in circuit form, one following immediately after the other, so calories are burned quickly. Unlike cardio-focused workouts, muscle is also built, but without the single-minded bulk of pure weight training. Workouts change daily, and are never quite the same twice consecutively, resulting in a continued interest to members. No muscle group is overlooked, no jump or kick left out, and every moment is a challenge for both the body and the mind.
One of the main differences between traditional gym time and CrossFit, is the community that has developed internationally and within individual gyms. Followers of the program actively aid one another through encouragement, offering support both on the mats and online through the company’s website. Sometimes, this atmosphere of encouragement and the never-quit mentality found in the program, can be more than a little intimidating to new-comers; but the program stresses that everyone can do the exercises with a little bit of prep work. After signing up with an affiliate, there is a one-month initiation course which serves to bring everyone to the necessary baseline fitness needed to successfully complete the circuits without serious risk of injury. This is a smart way to ease the body into the intensity and teach participants important workout basics they would not be taught in the traditional gym setting. Once complete, people join the general class and set the work building their bodies and some new friendships.
As with all workout programs, there are risks along with the rewards. Instead of the normal risk of losing interest or not seeing results due to lack of trying, CrossFit has the odd problem of people pushing themselves too much. Exhaustion and dehydration are the top problems seen in workouts, which by medical standards are easily preventable through drinking plenty of water and by not letting the ‘never-quit’ mantra be taken too literally.
CrossFit affiliates and locations can be found here, on the search page.