Please note that I am not a licensed trainer. I am simply sharing this post based on my own experiences. Please consult with your doctor about any medical issues or concerns before starting a new exercising program.
I’ve wanted to write this post for quite some time, but waited because I wanted to really demonstrate how I’ve benefited from CrossFit. I joined a CrossFit gym in May 2013, and, while there are tons of articles now describing impressive improvements from CrossFitters as well as several negative articles trashing the sport from naysayers, I wanted to share my personal experience on how CrossFit has helped me.
Let’s get to the best part first! CrossFit has made me stronger! Yay! Am I sporting a six pack? No. Not yet at least;) But have I seen improvements? Yes.
I’m sure there are lots of people out there who think CrossFit means you need to fully commit to it five days a week. I’ve heard as drastic as people calling it a cult, which makes me laugh. Yes, plenty of people devote much of their time to CrossFit and perhaps that includes going several times a week. But CrossFit CAN and WILL provide improvement even if it’s a secondary part of your fitness program. And I’m proof of that!
I am a runner and I run three days a week (most weeks), four if I’m training for a race. I do CrossFit only twice a week. It’s the strength training that supports my running. And it has done a phenomenal job in supporting my running!
Here’s my proof:
In September 2013, I did a 10K test for a half marathon I was running the following month. My time was 1:01:12 minutes. In April 2014, I did the same 10K test (meaning ran the same route) for another half marathon and my time was 57:11. Four minutes faster!!! My training program was exactly the same for both races, but I was getting stronger in CrossFit which helped my running. In September, I had only been doing CrossFit for about 5 months, by April I had been doing CrossFit for nearly a year. In a year’s time I’ve moved from running a pace of 10 and over to consistently running a pace of 10 and under.
Whatever your focus is for getting healthy and fit, adding CrossFit to my routine (even at only twice a week) has greatly improved my strength! Imagine how strong I’d be if I went five days a week!
I used to be a religious gym goer. One of the things I sometimes found hard though when I arrived at the gym was finding the right motivation to complete a kick-ass workout. Getting to the gym was never the problem. But once I was there, it was all too easy to do a light workout. So for awhile I attended classes. I love group exercising and classes used to help ensure that I would get in the workout I knew I was capable of.
Well, that’s what CrossFit has done for me. It’s become my motivator! All I have to do is show up, and the coaches and other CrossFitters help motivate me so I work my butt off (even if I don’t quite feel like it every morning). The other people I’m working out with push me just enough for me to reach my absolute potential each and every day.
You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish when others are working along side you AND encouraging you at the same time! (See Note #2 below)
There was once a time when I took a notebook to the gym. I documented the weights and exercises I did each day. It’s a fantastic practice to get into. But after awhile, and perhaps it was just laziness, I got into the habit of just going to the gym. Exercising for health, rather than with a specific goal in mind.
CrossFit has helped me get back to tracking my progress. Not in a competitive way, just in a let’s see how we did this week and if I’ve improved from the last time I did a particular exercise kind of way. Now, I said above that it has helped build strength, which I’m thrilled about, but it’s more than that. Improvement comes in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps it’s about increasing shoulder mobility, hitting that perfectly parallel squat, or finally getting into a handstand. CrossFit encourages improvement in all forms.
CrossFit coaches want you to improve, not just show up, but get better. Coaches by definition are motivators, and that’s exactly what they do. They praise, push, and encourage each member to do their best. It’s great to hear other members hit a personal record or realize you’ve increased the weight on a specific exercise.
promotes clean eating
“CrossFit itself is defined as that which optimizes fitness” [source]. And one of the key components to optimizing fitness is ensuring our bodies are benefiting from what we eat. You’ve probably heard, perhaps tirelessly, that a paleo diet and CrossFit go hand-in-hand. And while many CrossFitters may follow a paleo diet, it’s certainly not mandatory.
What I like about CrossFit is that it promotes clean (healthy) eating. And whether that includes paleo or just making smarter food choices, this is the first gym I’ve belonged to that actually actively promoted, educated, and informed it’s members about the importance diet plays on our performance and health.
Do I follow paleo all the time? Heck no! Do the coaches keep a tally of my daily food intake? Absolutely not. And thank goodness, because Mondays would just be embarrassing if they asked what I ate over the weekend (mmm…ice cream!). But do they encourage their members to eat healthy? Yes. And I like that. Because it’s a friendly reminder and motivator to stay on the right path toward great health.
A couple of notes if you’re new to CrossFit and thinking about giving it a try.
- Not all gyms are the same. Coaches and members make a huge impact on your experience. I equate it to yoga. I love yoga, but some instructors are wonderful and others not so much. Most friends I’ve encouraged to give yoga another try (after a bad first experience), loved it once they found the right class. So if you’re not thrilled with how things are going, try another CrossFit gym. It could just be the coaches and/or crazy members;)
- Also, I mentioned a few times how CrossFit has helped me push myself to reach my potential in a workout. However, all WODs (aka Workout of the Day), are scaleable. If you can’t do box jumps, do step-ups instead. Don’t injure yourself just because you aren’t quite at a certain level. There are plenty of CrossFit moves I have yet to accomplish, so I do the alternative. CrossFit can be done by almost anybody. Just be smart and recognize the difference between reaching your full potential and just being careless. Please don’t be like this lady who severely injured herself, because she tried to keep up with a member who was at a very different level than her.
Have you tried CrossFit? How has it helped you?