Just google Crossfit and you are bound to come across a number of negative articles and memes. After having joined Crossfit and been involved on and off for about 2 years I figured I would give my input as to why I would recommend it for just about anyone.
First, let me give a little background on myself at the point in time. I had been involved in sports my whole life and competed at a high level in track throughout college and competed as a cheerleader for a couple years. Like most athletes out of college, over a decade of training and we either don’t cut it at the professional level or we chose a sport that offers little in terms of a career unless you are top 10 in the US or world. After I started my career I continued to lift at my work gym, cardio, and joined rec sports getting little use out of my dedication to sports for all those years. Even without competing in sports anymore, I probably fit the stereotype of who you would expect to be doing Crossfit.
Like most people, I had heard of Crossfit but not knowing anything other than what I read online, I assumed it was just another marketing hype to bring people into a gym. That was until an old track teammate in California and good friend told me he signed up for the Crossfit Games. He said that it was open to anyone and started that next day. Being in decent health and shape, I found a nearby gym/box, MBS Crossfit, to go attempt the workout since the Games workouts are scored and I could compete against him. I did OK in the workouts despite not knowing much about Crossfit as a sport but it was honestly just fun competing in something, pushing my body, and using the years of athletic training for something. I didn’t have a membership so after the Games, I went back to my usual routine. Months later, my wife was complaining about being burnt out doing workout videos. She didn’t have my background in sports to make her own routine, she liked variation, and she needed a little help in learning how to lift correctly so Crossfit seemed to take care of most of her issues, they built the workouts, great variation daily, and a coach always on hand. That sealed it for her and I told her I would sign up to do it with her for support and as something extra for me to do.
Once we started at MBS Crossfit and doing classes, I started to see the true benefits that I didn’t see during the games. First, MODIFICATION. They did a great job of modifying workouts and making things challenging for the individual. This allowed everyone in the class to have friendly competition or focus on themselves. It created opportunities that I would finish last in the class using weight heavy for me and pushed me to work on my weaknesses, and days my wife was finishing first or doing something new boosting her confidence. In both cases, we were improving at things and getting stronger. The second big thing is the ENVIRONMENT. The coaches, the people, music, variation in workouts, a family place, place for singles to meet etc… I can’t speak for all gyms but at MBS it gave me a ‘team’ mentality and support again. I was enjoying working out with others instead of suffering through staying in shape alone at the gym at 5am. I would do my best to help and support others and they did the same for me. I found myself looking forward socializing, working on things with the coaches, attending upcoming fundraiser events hosted there, and leaning from others. Being in an environment with other nuts up to workout at 5am before work was amazing! There are many other benefits but those are just a few that I connected with the most.
Most of those with negative views like to point to injuries, bad coaching/form, and that even the Crossfit games athletes don’t do the workouts. The truth is that injuries happen when you push your body to new limits. Crossfit makes it easy to push yourself and to me, that is a bigger positive than negative. Usain Bolt is the fastest man to have ever ran on this earth but when he gets injured, there’s no one ripping his form or coaching. Likewise, any elite athlete in any sport has been injured and fights injuries on a regular basis. To athletes, a season without injury is rare. Also, there were a few coaches at MBS that were comparable or better than a lot of college programs. I’m sure there are bad coaches out there but if you know they’re a bad coach, know enough to do it correctly or find a better gym and coach. A bad coach at a Crossfit gym doesn’t make all Crossfit coaches bad. The same way there are bad high school, college, and professional coaches that suck. For those that focus on certifications, there’s coaches at all levels of sport without any certifications. Some of the best coaches I’ve had growing up were the ones that dedicated 20 years to a sport with no certification, not the trainer with a 2-year degree. Likewise, Crossfit athletes usually have to turn to other coaches with serious experience because it’s impossible to be an expert in all areas that Crossfit encompasses. That’s part of what makes it so fun, there’s always something you can improve on.
Now just to be fair, this is all from the opinion of an ex athlete that found most physical activity easy. Well, fast forward to today. A freak accident while on vacation left me paralyzed neck down. I ended up being the focus of one of the fundraisers that I use to look forward to. Through injury, I now understand the other extreme circumstances of people looking at Crossfit. I’m the weakest, slowest, most uncoordinated person when I attend a class. I do know good form and coaching but my body physically, and literally, cannot perform many of the tasks. The fact that I can have bad form, work on improving form, and focus on completing a task anyway possible is actually ideal for me having a disability. My favorite memory and example was one of my first workouts back at MBS with their Coach Pat Burke, who wanted me to do burpees in the workout. For him helping me, it wasn’t about perfect form (which wouldn’t be possible), it was about how could we complete this task and how could we make it work with my current ability. That modified workout of 3 rounds of 2 burpees and 1 rope pull took me almost half an hour to complete but it also pushed me to learn how to get off the ground 6 times that morning when I had only accomplished that task once in therapy. The modification and environment definitely made it possible for me to enjoy Crossfit. I’m still recovering and still enjoying Crossfit at MBS but its more functional and beneficial to me now than ever before. Understanding what it’s like going to classes as an athlete and then as someone with a severe disability, I feel safe recommending it for anyone in between.