What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is an effective way to get fit. Anyone can do it. It is a fitness program that combines a wide variety of functional movements into a timed or scored workout. It includes pull-ups, squats, push-ups, weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, and a host of other movements.

A typical class usually lasts an hour and consists of:

  • a warm up routine that is specific to the days programme
  • an element of skill and/or strength development, such as back squats, deadlifts, snatches, cleans etc. (these last two are Olympic weight lifting movements)
  • a WOD, or workout of the day, which is always at a high intensity and can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 40+ minutes
  • Finally, there is a cool down and stretching element which might have to be done after the class. 

The overriding principle is that every class is different, and every movement can be scaled down (made easier) making it something that everybody can try.

And this is my CrossFit story...

Wednesday 19thJuly 2017.  For some reason, the date of my very first CrossFit class is etched on my mind.  It was 5 months since I’d had my second son and I was ready to get back to exercise.  When a friend mentioned that my local CrossFit gym would let me take the baby to classes, I was sold.  I had tried strength training on my own before having kids but the majority of my training had mainly involved cardio; lots running, cycling, swimming and triathlons. 

My second pregnancy hadn’t been too kind to me and although the ‘morning’ sickness faded away at about 17 months I had little energy or time to exercise (with a two and half year old to look after), so I just kind of, well rolled with it. I didn’t stress or worry about the weight I was gaining as I had bounced back well after my first pregnancy. 

Although I can remember the date, I can’t really remember the class. I must have enjoyed it though, and little L must have behaved, because I went back, first once, then twice, then at least three times a week, every week (sometimes more).

Fast forward to today, and I’m still going.  I feel stronger and fitter than ever.   I turn up, get told what to do, work up a sweat with a great bunch of people and then head home with an endorphin rush that leaves me looking forward to my next class.

Maybe I got lucky and just happened to walk into a great gym (or Box as they are meant to be called), or maybe, just maybe there is something about CrossFit that might be worth trying.  Here are some of the reasons I have stuck with it:

  1. Coaching and Programming – I have tried workout classes before and frankly they just weren’t for me. I always felt like I was playing catch up with the regulars who seemed to know the movements off by heart.  With CrossFit every class is different.  Ideally they are programmed in cycles that build on specific movements so if you come regularly you start seeing improvements.  The classes are small and there is a strong emphasis on technique so you always get individual feedback from the coaches. 
  2. Atmosphere and Community – if loud music, fast workouts and tons of team effort and motivation are your thing then CrossFit is for you. Whilst there is naturally a slight element of competitiveness, everyone is incredibly supportive of each other and this gets you pushing yourself harder than you thought possible.  But don’t be put off, the main person your competing with is yourself and that goes for everyone else in the room.
  3. Strength versus Aesthetics – As you get to grips with all the new movements, you can start getting stronger by building up the weights you lift. All this has the added bonus of switching your focus away from aesthetics towards improving those new movements whilst working on your strength. I also found that I became more conscious about what I was eating because it seemed natural to start thinking about my nutrition in relation to performance. 
  4. Effective – When you only have three one hour sessions a week to dedicate to exercise you want to know it’s making a difference - to your fitness levels, your waist size and your general mojo. Nothing I have done before, including endless hours or cardio, Spinning, Les Mills Body Pump, Body Combabt or Zumba, has had as dramatic a change to the shape of my body and the way I feel as much as CrossFit – It really works!!
  5. Functional movements getting you fit for life – when I started CrossFit I had a historical back injury that pre-dated my pregnancies and only got worse once the kids came along. I was doing my physio exercises religiously and although it improved, the pain just kept coming back.  In those first few months of training I was super cautious, kept the weight low and badgered the coaches about watching my technique to make sure I was doing everything as safely as possible.  As I sit here now, my core has strengthened to a point where I no longer have any back pain.  It seems counter intuitive that strength training would improve a bad back, but it really worked for me.

So there you have it.  I am stronger, leaner, probably faster and definitely fitter than ever (and don’t tell anyone but I turn 41 in a couple of weeks).  It might not be for everyone, but it is certainly working for me and the fact I genuinely have fun every time I go keeps me coming back. 

If you have a local CrossFit Box in your neck of the woods, I would recommend you give it a go.  It might just be what you have been looking for!!!

By Melanie Munialo, 26thSeptember 2018