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CrossFit – Expanding Brain and Body Capacities

Lifestyle & Opinion

By Olga Kiryakova

If you are from this planet, surely you’ve heard of CrossFit. It is booming since its creation 15 years ago and is rapidly spreading worldwide. There are just as many CrossFit haters as there are loyal and addicted CrossFit enthusiasts. Whether you’ve recently seen CrossFit games on TV (quite inspirational for getting up from that couch) that are held every year since 2007 where athletes of both genders come prepared to face every and any challenge and compete for the title of the fittest person on Earth, or you’ve seen the ad about another CF gym opening in your neighborhood, the new fitness trend is here to stay. Prior to deciding what club you want to join, it’s time to set things straight, get the questions answered, set myths apart from the facts, dig into what the fuss is all about, and most importantly, see whether there’s anything in it for you.

CrossFit is a high intensity workout that combines interval training (alternation of two or more activities, which require different rates of speed and degrees of effort) and Olympic weightlifting. Californian based Trademark CrossFit Inc. was founded in 2000 following the creation of the program in 1996 by Greg Glossman and Lauren Jenai. The trademark describes its program as “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains,” which includes cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. You are practically working towards becoming a superman or a superwoman, with gender distribution of CF participants running at almost equal 50% female and 50% male. You work on it together, as a group, which creates a community feeling and significantly increases accountability for showing up and performing at one’s best. That, in a nutshell, what makes cross fit drastically different from any other fitness program.

It might sound quite intimidating at first, especially if you hear a stream of jargon at a rate of 10 “who knows what that means” terms per thirty second speech from a ripped CF veteran, but as CF Defined founder claims “anybody who has body can be an athlete.” “People from all walk of life, all ages and fitness levels are joining our gym,” says Lindsay Alvestab, certified CF coach at CrossFit9. With WOD (official term in CF community, which means work out of the day) under the supervision of qualified trainers and fellow crossfitters, anyone and everyone will gradually work their way towards the set standards of each exercise, whether it is a box jump or kettle bell swing. Glassman’s equation: CVFM @ HI + Communal Environment = Health. A regimen of constantly varied (CV), functional movements (FM) performed at high intensity (@HI) in a communal environment leads to health and fitness.

Living in the day and age of a never stopping giant information stream, the “fitness is beneficial to one’s physical health” claim is an axiom that no longer requires a proof. Now we are digging into new tiers of a fitness pyramid. Combined with dedication and a diet plan, the effectiveness of the CF program has proven itself time and time again. Are there other benefits to CF? In the modern fast speed life, chances are you have a lot on your plate to the point of a circus performer envying your ability to juggle school, family, a job or two, community work, occasional social appearances, just to name a few. Who has time to get into a newest workout trend? According to Lindsay Alverstab, “…it takes 3-5 one hour classes per week, depending on what your goals are versus 45 min of isolated weight lifting topped up with another 30-45 min of steady cardio taking a standard gym workout. So it’s great for busy people. I actually wish someone told me about CF when I was in college!”

Speaking of academics, in 2008 an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School wrote the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. It inspired research that shows a direct connection between implementing CrossFit (Kids version of the program) into curriculum of 400 schools nationwide and pupil’s test scores. “We started realizing that this body of research was out there, that brain function was influenced by exercise,” – says Jeff Martin, creator of CrossFit Kids program.

A fit brain in a fit a body is appealing reason to join rapidly growing CrossFit community. With that being said, it’s only fair to mention its downsides. Newbies should be aware of high levels of personal injuries amongst crossfitters and take their approach to this type of so called “extreme training” quite seriously. People push themselves far and beyond, often scarifying a posture to meet the time and amount of repetitions that the CF concept of intensity calls for. It can and does result in frequent injuries amongst participants. It takes years for elite athletes to build a right form for heavy weightlifting exercises, and form should always outweigh the time and weight. It is crucial for beginners to get educated on proper form and be supervised by a qualified trainer.

With rapidly growing interest in CF, more and more gyms are opening, which naturally increases demand for new coaches. There are thousands of highly trained professionals in the industry, however, presently it takes two days to get certified as a CF coach, and seeking monetary gains (CF membership isn’t cheap; It ranges from $100 to $200 per month on average), many new gyms sacrifice quality for quantity. So whether you decide to join one of the local CF gyms, like CrossFit StPete, CrossFit9, or CrossFitBug, just to name a few, or use open source information on daily CrossFit workouts from www.crossfit.com, be smart, and remember that no fitness goal is worth a bad injury that can potentially take you out of the game permanently. So stay brain fit, whether or not it brings you to CrossFit!

Header photo from Arctic Warrior (flickr creative commons license)

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