Crossfit has taken the world by storm over the last few years and now it seems you can’t really talk about exercise without it coming up in conversation. People say pretty polarizing things about the fitness fad, ranging from ‘it’s the best thing you can do for your body’, all the way to straight up ‘don’t do crossfit’. While a lot of it has to do with the location and your paticular trainer and experience, I find that the idea of crossfit in and of itself is polarizing.

So what is Crossfit, exactly?

The short answer for this is real simple: do a lot of very hard things to do, very quickly in succession, often. The long answer is a little more complicated; a guy named Greg Glassman (founder and CEO of the program) decided that he would try a workout based entirely on functional movements, that reflect the aspects of the bodies natural abilities. Things like running, lifting, rowing, stretching, you get the idea, all the great things the body can do that no one really has to do anymore. Then he decided turning the intensity up to 11 was the best option for the data needed to “measure your power output”.

Most importantly, Crossfit is apparently driven by the aforementioned data, keeping accurate records of you and your classes power and abilities so that you can get an idea of what it is you need to work on most. Community and teamwork is a large part of the program too, as apparently “the competition and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means”. Hey wait, don’t stop reading yet, I didn’t make that up, this is language from the official site.

Crossfit can be extremely good for getting you into the shape you’re hoping for, the aforementioned bursts of movement is a metaphor for the entire affair. Crossfit will get you into amazing shape if you follow a good instructors teachings to the letter, move fast, lift heavy, and don’t stop. But it isn’t training per se.

The Difference Between Training and Exercise

As your body becomes used to your workouts, you need increased intensity as you get stronger. When we apply this to a program designed for you to start and finish with extremely intense routines, we can see how this might become a problem in the long term. There is inevitably a ceiling for Crossfit. Once you have pushed yourself as far as it can take you, you are no longer technically “training”. You’re not being challenged, and you’re not getting any stronger. Yes you’re in better shape now, but you’ll stay in this exact shape, a snapshot of the payoff for your work in the program. This makes crossfit amazing exercise.

CrossFit copies the effects of real training, because it’s designed to be extremely difficult and your body is forced to adapt. But as progress slows because your body gets used to the stress, and you get stronger and more fit, the more difficult it becomes to get more fit, as you’ve already gone through the more extreme level of CrossFit’s “beginner exercises”.

A true training regiment however, is supposed to take you time. You build strength and understanding of your body and it’s limits and strengths over time, and there is no ceiling to this. You continue train as a part of your life, consistently applying yourself to get better and better. This is the more casual approach, the one most people are doing every day in the gym.

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So the real answer might be “Try Crossfit for a while” if you’re really interested, and want a sort of grueling boot camp-like boost in your body and fitness level. Who knows, you might love it so much it does become a part of your life. Odds are however, you’re not going to be the next Crossfit sensation that swears by it, but you don’t have to be. Once you’ve put yourself in the place you want to be with a local program, ditch the intensity and move to training your body regularly. The answers to most things in life can often (not always) be summed up with “try both”.

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