Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CrossFit: The Low-Down

Have you heard of CrossFit or maybe even tried it? CrossFit is a high intensity workout using power lifts and dynamic body movements such as a burpie. A burpie, for example, is accomplished by placing your hands near the feet, jumping both feet out behind the body so the body is in a plank position, completing a push-up, jumping the feet back up between the hands then jumping up and clapping the hands above the head. This is a dynamic movement that utilizes many different muscles for a full body exercise.

Is CrossFit for everyone? No. There is a higher risk of injury when participating in cross-fit. Those with little or no knowledge of power lifts and proper technique risk injury. Individuals with specific health concerns, back issues, etc. should seek training from a qualified personal trainer who can teach correct techniques and movement patterns to avoid possible injury.

CrossFit pushes an individual to perform a certain lift or series of exercises at a high intensity to muscle failure (or to the point where the individual cannot perform another one). Often times, as the exerciser reaches their limit, form is sacrificed to finish the required amount of work. Loss of correct form inevitably leads to injury. The problem is that there are not enough trainers for the number of people. Many people perform the last rounds with improper form. Another problem is the amount of weight to use. Without a good base of weight lifting to pull form, beginners are asked to start with weight beyond their capacity in a repetition situation such as CrossFit.

Warming up is essential. In the CrossFit class I participated in, we were simply told to warm-up on our own prior to our workout. There was no direction at all. It is difficult to warm-up when I don't really know what I am warming up for. A class my friend attended at a different CrossFit gym, however, spend a full 15 minutes warming up before starting in on the workout. While I was participating in CrossFit, one of the women - in excellent shape, had been there for at least a year -  pulled her back out from dead lifts using too much weight.

The cost is prohibitive. It is much more expensive to participate in CrossFit than to have a gym membership. You could get a membership and a few personalized training sessions for a similar cost where you would get personalized help on technique.

The trainers are only required to attend a short certification course dealing only with CrossFit. As I visited with them, asking questions about why CrossFit was the way I should go, comparing traditional training methods with this method, they could not offer me any insight or information. That shows me they don't understand enough about training to be leading such intense classes.

All in all, I am for high intensity workouts as I burn more calories, put my body through something new and get better results. I am of the opinion that we need to be careful if choosing CrossFit. There are many good options out there. Find one that is safe and works for you. A good rule of thumb is to not always do the same type of workout. Sometimes it is good to have less intense, long workouts and other times it benefits us to have high intensity workouts for shorter durations.

Any questions? Let me know.

PS As I researched CrossFit before going, I found that there have been instances where people have been hospitalized because the intensity of the workouts is so high it causes the body to breakdown and the byproducts go into the blood. The body is occasionally unable to expel those toxins fast enough and hospitalization is required. This is the exception.