6 Major Takeaways from my Experience with CrossFit
This article is mainly for the purpose of sharing a part of my fitness journey that I have recently embarked upon. Furthermore, I felt as though it was appropriate to write this as the 2017 open season is nearing its end. Similar to many other people, I discovered CrossFit through the internet and online videos. My initial reaction was to believe that this was another fitness fad that would eventually pass away. I remember scrolling through an endless list of negative comments such as “it’s too dangerous of a sport!” “These guys do not know how to exercise.” Although many of these comments discouraged my view on this training methodology; somehow my interest continued to grow and I found myself researching countless videos and articles until my friend mentioned a documentary called “Fittest on Earth”. This film follows a number of CrossFit athletes from all over the globe who compete in rigorous workouts to see who the fittest individual on the planet truly is. My mind was absolutely astonished at what the first event entailed: athletes begin with a 1 mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, followed by 200 push-ups, followed by 300 air squats, and finally another 1 mile run.
After being inspired by this film, I discovered an internship opportunity at a local CrossFit affiliate through my school program where I also obtained a membership. The knowledge I have learned was invaluable and extremely worth the effort. My body feels more functional and most importantly FITTER than ever. It’s safe to say that my experience with Windsor CrossFit has completely redefined how I want to train and feel.
Here are the six most valuable lessons I learned from CrossFit:
1. Lifting moderately light weights can still elicit high intensity.
Correction, lifting light weights can still annihilate you too. When I began my initial on ramp session, I had no idea about the amount of pain that was about to unfold. The beginning of the session focused on mobility and building basic fundamentals of the front squat, rowing, and box jumps. Luckily for me, I was quite familiar and comfortable with these movements. We eventually moved on to the main workout which consisted of a 500 meter row, followed by 15 front squats with just the barbell, and 15 box jumps. If I could describe how this workout felt it would be most accurate to say it was borderline torture. My body had never experienced this type of intensity and I felt an incredible burning sensation through my entire body, especially my legs. I was in such an intense state of delirium that I had to wait thirty minutes before I could go drive my car home. This fateful event taught me to never underestimate any amount of weight placed on a bar again, regardless of how insignificant it appears.
2. It is much more important to focus on what your body can do, rather than how it looks.
Never judge an individual’s capabilities solely based on their appearance. There is a major misconception amongst many individuals that fitness is purely measured through physique and how heavy one is capable of lifting. “That guy has small arms, clearly he’s not fit!” This general belief was quite common among my peers & acquaintances earlier in my life and I confess I was once guilty of this belief myself. This outlook completely changed when I was outmatched by everyone in my first CrossFit WOD (workout of the day). The most vivid memory I have from that workout was weary panting as I struggled to keep up with the rest of the class. As I continued to participate in WODS, I discovered women who just came off a pregnancy performing reps at an unbelievable pace, bulky men that moved with incredible agility, & even adults in their late forty’s/fifty’s doing handstand push-ups. In other words, the majority of these participants were primarily focused on improving their skills and abilities in order to become as well-rounded as possible. Looking good is a secondary effect to CrossFit athletes.
3. Mental toughness should really be considered being added to the ten components of physical fitness.
A few weeks into my membership, I realized a common aspect among many of the members who worked out here; they were not only trained physically, but mentally as well. In other words, they were being taught to learn how to tolerate pain and suffering during workouts. I found this individual resilience within each member to be incredibly admirable and inspiring for one major reason; this confidence obtained from exercise is vital to contributing to success outside the gym such as sports, education, and especially the workplace. In order to truly become a well-rounded individual, mental toughness should be trained regularly along with other fitness components such as speed and strength.
4. A strong sense of community is a powerful weapon to enhance your performance levels.
Camaraderie, a strong support system, and a band of individuals that will cheer you on during those horrendous final reps. All of these are common features that are unique to CrossFit affiliates and difficult to find at another gym. During my time working out in classes, I found myself growing at a much more efficient rate in comparison to when I trained alone. I had coaches who were adept at explaining basic fundamentals, holding me accountable for rest/reps, fellow members that push me farther than I would normally push, and many others that did a wonderful job at making everyone feel welcome.
5. Form is the most emphasized skill in a CrossFit gym.
The greatest stereotype that people associate with CrossFit is that form is completely disregarded during workouts. From what I have experienced, this could not be any farther from the truth. During every single CrossFit class coaches will always structure a portion of the class focusing on form, regardless of whether the class is full of beginners or advanced participants. These sessions includes general cues aimed at building basic fundamentals, followed by individual feedback to each participant from the coach. Moreover, it is mandatory for all people who wish to begin a gym membership at a CrossFit gym to complete a series of on-ramp sessions. These sessions are personally taught by a certified coach and are designed to introduce movements essential to CrossFit and to ensure that they are being performed with proper/safe mechanics.
6. There is a major difference between CrossFit as a sport & CrossFit as a training methodology.
The unfathomable workouts performed by professional athletes at the CrossFit games are by no means an accurate portrayal of what training at a box (this is what CrossFit affiliates refer to their gyms as) looks like. These athletes are trained to push themselves to the absolute limit and past ordinary breaking points. It’s important to understand that these athletes did not make it the Games by mere flukes because they all share one common characteristic; they have mastered the basic fundamentals needed to achieve a strong foundation. This is where the distinction between CrossFit as a sport and as a training methodology occurs. The CrossFit Games is the ultimate competition for world class individuals to test their fitness against other top athletes after perfecting every single movement; whilst the majority of individuals who train at a CrossFit box do not necessarily aspire to actually make it to the Games. Alternatively, these individuals may strive for a variety of other goals such as improving their overall functionality, performing more efficiently in their respective occupation, or even just learning how to pick up a barbell.
Written by: Brandon Hang
WCF Intern/St. Clair College Student- Fitness & Health Promotion Program