A workout at CrossFit
So you’ve decided to start a fitness program. Now you have to decide which one. Here’s a quick guide to two options.
The CrossFit Program
CrossFit was developed in 2000 by Greg Glassman. The term CrossFit refers to the importance of being fit in a variety of physical skills, but the term itself is a trademark of CrossFit, Inc. According to its website, CrossFit serves as a strength and conditioning program for some police academies, tactical operations teams, and professional athletes. Proponents are quick to point out, however, that CrossFit claims the program can be scaled to provide appropriate levels of training to any person regardless of current fitness level, age, or medical condition.
In CrossFit, there are ten recognized general physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, ﬂexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. The program also encourages the use of the Zone Diet or similar plans like the Paleo Diet, both of which stress lean proteins and vegetables while excluding as much as possible grains, legumes, sugars, starches, dairy products, and fats. Some of the tenets of this diet go against the recommendations of most dieticians and nutritionists.
Is CrossFit Safe?
Don’t try to do too much
Specific exercises, some generic and others unique to CrossFit, are arranged into the brand’s iconic Workout of the Day (WOD). WODs are short – anywhere from five to 15 minutes – intense workouts that can be performed at home or in a CrossFit class, under the eye of trained personnel. Many of the brand’s exercises involve power lifting or explosive, plyometric moves. These exercises must be done with correct form to avoid injury.
Interestingly, although CrossFit’s website encourages you to seek out a certified trainer, it also provides you with videos of the exercises that make up the WOD. Because some people try the WOD at home, there are persons who are attempting the exercises without any certified trainer to correct their errors in form or to counsel them on their level of effort. Additionally, there are uncertified trainers who try to utilize the principles of CrossFit without a full understanding of the program. Obviously, these people would be less likely to understand how to scale the exercises to the person’s abilities.
Is CrossFit Right for Me?
Critics of CrossFit, including Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at Canada’s University of Waterloo, maintain that CrossFit may encourage the use of poor form, particular during timed workouts, increasing the risk of injury. A skilled trainer, who fully understands the exercises and proper way to scale the exercises, would alleviate Dr. McGill’s concerns. WebMD also cautions that all CrossFit coaches may not “have an appropriate educational background in sports conditioning,” particularly when it comes to doing explosive plyometric moves and heavy lifting, both important components of the CrossFit system. Other experts caution that the gung-ho spirit of CrossFit, while engaging and fun, may push inexperienced exercisers to injuries caused by stress and overwork.
If you choose to try CrossFit, do your homework. Be sure the gym you go to is affiliated with the company and that the person who introduces you to CrossFit is certified to do so. Remember that the gym’s affiliation does not guarantee that all the instructors working there are certified. Know your limits, and although you will want to push yourself a bit, do not allow competition with others to push you to the point of injury.
How Personal Training is Different from CrossFit
Working with a personal trainer is exactly that: personal. The advantages of a personal trainer include:
Personal attention from a good trainer
- Having a one-on-one relationship with a person who creates a plan that is designed for you and only you, based on your specific goals, desires, needs, and limitations.
- Exercising according to your level of fitness instead of working with a class full of other people who urge you to exercise more intensely than you’re able to.
- Working with someone who pushes you to make progress but who has the specific training to help you avoid overtraining.
- Getting a well-rounded training regimen that will always include the proper balance based on your individual goals of cardiovascular fitness, strength, agility, and flexibility. In addition to meeting common fitness goals, a trainer can offer sport-specific conditioning.
- Gaining access to someone who can offer lifestyle counseling like nutrition advice based not on a fad diet but on fact-based, scientific principles.
- Keeping you safe and free from injury during your workout.
Again, there are a lot of people who call themselves trainers with little justification. No matter what system you use, look for a trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine or another top-quality organization and ask about education, experience, and background as well as references. See if you can get together for a free consultation before you start training to discuss an overall plan, determine if you are compatible with the trainer or group, and talk about goals and limitations.