Exercise is a primary component of a healthy lifestyle. Here at MHLC we believe that only nutrition is as important as exercise for helping us be happy, healthy, and vibrant. There are as many different ways to exercise as there are people on this planet. Let’s take a look at a popular relatively new addition to the world of fitness, CrossFit.
What Is CrossFit?
CrossFit is what the creators call “the sport of fitness.” It a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that uses functional movements, variety, speed, and endurance challenges to build strength, muscle mass, and conditioning.
CrossFit measures fitness and proficiency by ten general physical skills: cardiovascular endurance, stamina, speed, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility, power, balance, and accuracy.
CrossFit uses constantly varying, extremely challenging workouts that are from 45 to 60 minutes long. Each workout tests a different part of one’s conditioning or functional strength. It is usually recommended that people exercise in a three days on, one day off rotation. CrossFit “specializes in not specializing,” which means that it strives to offer well-rounded workouts that would appeal to anyone.
Who Is CrossFit For?
Officially, CrossFit promotes the idea that its workouts are for everyone. Each day a single workout “prescription” is given, that is designed to be used by anyone doing CrossFit that day. Intensity and load (amount of weight lifted) will vary greatly among each person, but in theory any adult can do CrossFit.
In practice, CrossFit is most suitable for people who are new to weight training but have some body awareness, at least some dexterity and strength, and are free from injury. Former athletes, people who are seeking community, and fitness fanatics also get a lot out of CF. You have to like working out in a group, and being told exactly what to do in your workouts, to enjoy CrossFit. You also need to thrive in, or at least be okay with, conditions that support competition and pushing yourself to the edge of your strength and endurance.
Is CrossFit Dangerous?
The short answer is – it depends. In general, with experienced trainers and careful students, CrossFit can be safe for almost anyone. But in certain situations it can be very dangerous, and even cause severe injuries.
For CrossFit to be safe, it is imperative that the trainer be experienced and attentive. There is a risk of injury with any exercise form, especially one that uses high weights and high repetitions.
The danger lies in the fact that speed is encouraged and rewarded in CrossFit workouts, which can lead to injuries. Proper form is crucial with any kind of weigh-bearing activity to keep everything safe. If people sacrifice form for the sake of speed, they may be sacrificing their joints, tendons, cartilage, and muscles.
Scientists that study athletic performance and the body mechanics advise either training with moderate weight and many repetitions, or high weight and few repetitions, to build either endurance or mass. Many CrossFit prescriptions include both high weights and multiple repetitions, which can cause form to suffer.
The competitive atmosphere and extreme intensity can cause people to push past their bodies’ limitations and injure themselves, if they do not have a keen trainer monitoring their safety.
CrossFit for Kids
Consistent exercise is important for children, and helps them learn good body mechanics and increases cognitive function. Recent scientific evidence indicates that moderate strength training is helpful for children at least 8 years old.
CrossFit Kids offers age-appropriate prescriptions that can support children to be more fit. For younger kids the workouts include games, and older children and teens start to lift weights. Some detractors of the system say that most CF workouts are still emphasizing speed over form and setting up children for injury, but most experts agree that properly modified CF is excellent for children under experienced supervision.
CrossFit advocates a healthy, balanced diet that includes mostly vegetables, lean animal protein, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Other than the animal part, it is very similar to what we recommend for most of our clients here at MHLC. An ideal CrossFit meal would include 30 percent lean protein, 40 percent low-glycemic carbohydrates, and 30 percent high-quality fat. High-glycemic foods (sugar, refined or processed foods, bread, rice, etc.) are to be avoided.
CrossFit offers the most benefit to people wanting a well-rounded workout. It trains people to be able to do a lot of things moderately well. This translates to an overall greater proficiency at most physical tasks. With a skilled trainer, proper form is taught and encouraged, which helps people who would not otherwise do strength training learn how to weight lift safely and effectively. It also offers camaraderie and a team spirit that helps many people who have trouble staying motivated stay up with their workouts.
CrossFit is a relatively new type of workout that has only recently been recognized as an official exercise form, but is already very popular. There are CF “boxes” in every major metropolitan center around the world. This intense HIIT workout genre appeals to people who want to push themselves very hard in a community environment. While not for everyone and dangerous in some contexts, CrossFit can support the health of people for whom this kind of extreme exercise is enjoyable and effective.