As with any sport, CrossFit pros and cons can be debated for days, but the most important thing to look at is… is this type of exercise right for you? Do you have what it takes to do the routines? Is your level of fitness sufficient? Will you have the funding to engage in this sport, and is it convenient and fun for you?
What Is CrossFit?
Before discussing CrossFit pros and cons, let’s take just a moment to delve into the history, concept, and essence of this exercise phenomenon called CrossFit.
CrossFit began as the brain child of former gymnast Greg Glassman. His idea was to combine a number of functional movements taken from many different sports and combine them into a new hybrid program. He chose exercise modalities from powerlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, and more and morphed them together to form a specialized training circuit combining aspects of each practice.
The workout consists of you performing the “WOD” (i.e., workout of the day) which includes a set number of exercises and repetitions done within specified time periods. These short time periods are displayed on a centralized clock. Coupled with a race against time, your goal is to continuously do faster, more intense workouts with more weight over time.
Since CrossFit involves aspects of many different types of workouts, a common motto is “our specialty is not specializing.” Every workout is fresh and different, and this tends to keep people interested and coming back for more. The wide variety of exercises performed seems to fuel the fire for CrossFit enthusiasts.
CrossFit Pros and Cons
CrossFit practically has a cult-like following, and here are some reasons why:
- Camaraderie-one of the best things about CrossFit fitness is the supportive group of fitness-minded people you will meet. It’s typically a fun group of dedicated fitness enthusiasts who will help you bring out the best in yourself. There’s something to be said for competing with yourself and also with others to blast through personal records and set the fitness bar higher.
- It’s a great workout—no matter how you slice it, you’re going to leave a CrossFit session feeling tapped out. The timer will have you pushing your boundaries and boosting your fitness level all while enjoying energizing music in a room full of motivated athletes.
- You can find it anywhere—practically everywhere you go, you’re going to stumble upon a CrossFit gym. The availability of this type of workout is great as there is a large following of “CrossFitters” across the country, and there are many locations to choose from if you’re searching for a CrossFit gym.
- A focus on healthy nutrition—most CrossFit programs will include guidelines on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet. With more of an emphasis on a Paleo type of nutrition plan which includes lean meats and fish, plenty of veggies, and healthy fats and frowns upon processed foods and sugar, proper nutrition will help you achieve your fitness goals across the board.
Of course, as with any fitness program, there are also some drawbacks.
- Injury—unfortunately, the chance for injury is great, especially for those who are new to working out or have pre-existing injuries. CrossFit exercises are typically high intensity and very jarring on the body, and many folks have injured themselves unnecessarily. Depending on your instructor, pushing your limits can be good or bad, but it’s important to keep your individual limitations in mind and find a balance between a great workout and going too far or pushing too hard.
- Not enough individualized attention—this is a workout that is closer to a legitimate boot-camp with a drill sergeant than it is a group personal training session. The coach won’t typically have the time to correct your form and make sure you’re not overexerting yourself. You may need to scale back the workout on your own to better suit your level of fitness.
- Could be expensive—often, CrossFit gyms are stand-alone entities and thus can become quite pricey to join. This may not be the case if you are lucky enough to have a fitness facility that includes CrossFit-type classes, but if not, you could find yourself shelling out more than $100 a month for this type of workout.
- Uncle Rhabdo—this fictional character is a nickname for a condition called “rhabdomyolysis” that can occur when doing excessively strenuous CrossFit workouts. It is perhaps the scariest of the cons when it comes to looking at the benefits and drawbacks of this sport. Basically, when you push yourself past your max, too much muscle tissue is broken down, which triggers the release of myoglobin. This muscle fiber byproduct has the potential to rise to toxic levels in the blood, which can cause serious kidney problems, electrolyte imbalances, extreme pain in your muscles, brown urine, weakness, and swelling. Researchers say such Extreme Conditioning Programs (ECP) like CrossFit can literally kill you if you don’t take measures to prevent these conditions.
CrossFit Pros and Cons: A Recap
So, what’s the bottom line when it comes to CrossFit pros and cons? In all honesty, you should approach these types of workouts with caution. If you are a very advanced athlete, then you will most likely already have the basics down and be able to perform the exercises with the precision and good form needed to stay injury-free.
If, however, this does not sound like you, then by all means, start slowly, focus on proper form (it’s a great idea to work with an individual trainer with many of the exercises to ensure you learn proper form), make sure you are doing the movements properly before adding weight, and slowly work your way up to more intense workouts as your fitness level improves over time—even if the atmosphere is super competitive, it’s up to you to determine what your body is capable of doing. Finally, don’t forget to have fun!