This post is a follow-up to my earlier “Why Fitness?” post. If we know that we need to have this elusive concept called “fitness” because it benefits our overall lifestyle and well-being, what is the best way to gain fitness? There are many ways to define fitness and likely just as many ways to go about achieving it. Powerlifters might suggest getting as strong as possible, runners might suggest running often in many different environments, a swimmer might suggest swimming, etc. While all of these disciplines contain elements of fitness, each of them ultimately comes with certain sacrifices. Powerlifters sacrifice aerobic capacity (cardio) to get as strong as possible, and runners sacrifice strength to gain as much aerobic capacity as possible. This is obviously a huge over-simplification, but it simply illustrates the sacrifices often made in pursuit of one aspect of our physical fitness. I think we have all met the person who can squat 400lbs but could not run a mile to save their life or the person that can run all day but has trouble picking up a heavy bag of groceries.
CrossFit seeks to avoid having these sacrifices by creating a program for General Physical Preparedness (GPP). In a simple sense, this means engaging in as many different types of movements as possible – lifting weights like a weightlifter, running like a runner, swimming like a swimmer, doing bodyweight movements like a gymnast, etc. Over time, CrossFit has biased itself towards particular movements which were seen to create a large amount of positive change in athletes in a short period of time. Some of these movements include squats (of all sorts of variations), pull-ups, push-ups, thrusters, snatches, clean and jerks, and muscle ups. Why are these movements so effective? The simple answer is they are DIFFICULT. The reason that they are difficult is that they are multi-joint, multi-muscle movements that require both flexibility and strength and mimic real world activities (for example, negotiating an obstacle or moving objects in your path). Therefore, these movements are functional – they make us better at real world tasks – and they require us to move weights over (relatively) long distances quickly – generating power. The more power you are able to generate, the more types of activities you will be able to complete.
Right now you are probably thinking, “that’s all well and good: flexibility, strength, power, being better at real world tasks, yada yada. But all that stuff sounds really hard. How will I ever do all that?” My response is one word: Community. Each CrossFit gym’s community includes coaches, who will teach, explain, demonstrate, cajole, bribe, plead, tease, and in short, do whatever it takes to make sure that you learn the movements safely and get the most out of each and every workout. Equally important, it includes the other members of the gym, who quickly become companions in suffering, listeners of gripes, competition during workouts, and people to socialize with outside the gym. With both coaching and mutual support, seemingly impossible achievements quickly become surprisingly possible.
To summarize, CrossFit allows us to complete as many real world tasks as we can think of by forcing us to complete functional movements and to learn to generate a high power output. This is made possible by the support and competition of the coaches and other members of the CrossFit gym. These things all add together to produce a truly potent combination.
Let that marinate for a bit,