Real review: CrossFit

The good. The bad. The down-right ugly: Crossfit

The low-down

CrossFit is a multi-disciplinary form of training that includes powerlifting (for example deadlifts and squats), Olympic lifting (for example snatch and clean & jerk), gymnastics (chin-ups, handstands) and other more familiar exercises such as kettlebell swings, box-jumps and running).  When you turn up to a given training session (usually 60-minute sessions) – generally you don’t know what is in store. It could be working up to a single heavy dead-lift – or it could be 40-minutes of pure cardio that could be any combination of disciplines as mentioned above. A CrossFit gym is actually called a “Box” (which gives this immature brain no end of joy).  I’m telling you this so if someone asks you which “Box” you train at you don’t start pulling down your pants.

Thank me later.

The good

Variety. So. Damn. Much. Am I doing a single squat today and that’s it? Am I doing a 400m run, followed by 40 box-jumps and 40 sit-ups 5 times over? Am I learning how to do a handstand? If you are particularly OCD about your training, then maybe this would sit under the bad heading. If you live by the motto: variety is the spice of life then this element of surprise is a very good thing.

When we train, we tend to favour the exercise we are good at. In a CrossFit session there is no such luck. Do you suck at squats? Too bad. That’s the session. Again this could be seen as a negative, but maybe you aren’t good at squatting because *news flash* you don’t ever do them. Perhaps you have never been properly shown how to do a squat? CrossFit in a way forces you to train certain disciplines which in turn will improve neglected areas.

Being held hostage to a training session also means you will do movements that you never thought you would do/be able to do. For example, a handstand or learning to snatch (tee-hee *snatch* ahhhh CrossFit). Do you remember what it’s like to master or even learn something new in the gym setting that is actually quite complex? It’s bloody magic, and not many disciplines other than CrossFit will expose you to such a wide variety of skills to master.

And to be fair any of the good points mentioned above, could just as easily be another person’s bad. CrossFit is dividing like that.

The bad

If you’ve had a shitty day at work and you just want to go to the gym to blow off some steam and bike like a maniac, smash some ropes around, fling some kettlebells…and the workout of the day at your CrossFit is 5 sets of 7 shoulder presses with 3 minutes in between; that’s one shitty therapy session and unsatisfying in the extreme. So after the session, not only are you more shitty, your shoulders are now fucked. The unknown of the session also means that you can’t mentally prepare for the workout ahead (i.e. not turn up if it looks too hard). 

If you are a beginner at CrossFit, you might find yourself getting fucked-off at not being able to do all the movements. This isn’t a problem per-se, as all movements are scale-able (for example if you can’t do a handstand, the scaled option might be holding a push-up position with your feet on a raised surface) – but you could find yourself getting demotivated/fucked-off that you are scaling every damn thing and not moving closer to the full movement. Success is a major motivator at turning up again to the next session– and sometimes you may not feel that success is forthcoming in CrossFit.

Depending on how the Box programs classes – you might find you miss out completely on a certain move. For example, a Box might program a session based around squats on a Monday, if you can never get there on a Monday– you miss out.  And because of the nature of CrossFit – variety – you might not see progression as quickly as you might like as you can’t focus on the one movement for extended periods.  

The down-right ugly

Coaches: this is where CrossFit can get real ugly. And real painful. The quality of the Coach in CrossFit is a minimum of 7-million times more imperative than any other discipline. We’re no longer talking about the difference between a fun/not-fun session, we are talking serious injury doing complex movements. Make sure the coach can appropriately scale the exercises based on your fitness level and experience and provide meaningful tips to move you toward mastery of the movement. If they can’t. LEAVE. STAT. You’re paying fuck-tonnes of money to be there.

Sometimes the ratio of Coach to participant in a session can be high. While at times this isn’t too much of an issue if the movements for the session are simple, but when a session requires complex movements and you aren’t being monitored as closely as you should, you could be at real risk of injury.

Extremists. Ugh. We get it. You do CrossFit.

Final word

I would recommend CrossFit if you need to graduate from your current exercise regime. You are guaranteed to get the shake-up and challenge you need. For those put off by what you see on social media about CrossFit: the horrific injury where an arm was torn clear of a torso (I made that up) or the dude that looks like he could literally crush your skull like a coke can, is about 1% accurate. There are normal people there, doing normal things just enjoying the variety and community that CrossFit has to offer.

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