Since 2009 I’ve written a lot of blog posts. This may be the most important one to date. If you’re like most people, you started CrossFit to get or stay in shape, perhaps lose a few pounds of body fat, gain a little lean muscle, and just look and feel good. So you start CrossFit and although it’s challenging you like seeing your workout numbers improving. Somewhere along the way, after a few months, or maybe a year or two of doing CrossFit you find that your pushing yourself to your absolute limits, each and every workout, perhaps it takes a while before you’ve fully recovered and feel normal again post workout, and who knows, maybe you’re also trying to learn how to link hang power cleans, or be faster on your kipping handstand pushups. And just like that, the lines between CrossFit as a health and fitness program, versus the sport of CrossFit have become very much so blurred. CrossFit as a health and fitness program, “constantly varied, functional movements, performed at relatively high intensity” yields excellent results in terms of fat loss, muscle gains, muscle stamina, endurance, as well as health markers such as fasting blood glucose. The sport of CrossFit, like many other highly physical sports, can take a toll on the body when done at a competitive level. And just as those that compete at a high level in sports must push their bodies to their limits (and sometime beyond), so too do those that compete in the sport of CrossFit. Here’s where the line gets blurry with CrossFit. In the NFL there aren’t average joes training alongside the professional athletes. In a CrossFit gym you may be working out alongside someone that is training for the California Regionals, or even the CrossFit Games… and they may even be doing the same exercises and the same workout that you’re doing! While this can obviously be motivating and inspiring, to some it can also be misleading. Our primary goal is for our Sweat Shop members to become healthy and happy individuals. One could mistakenly think that the end goal, on the journey to becoming as healthy as possible, would be making it to the CrossFit Games, or making it to the California Regionals, or perhaps having the top score on the whiteboard at the Sweat Shop, or maybe it’s being able to do handstand walks, squat snatches and muscle ups. It’s not. Being healthy (in terms of exercise) is getting 3-5 days of exercise each week, some of those days should involve resistance training, some of those days should be done at a high intensity.
When training to be competitive in a sport we must push our bodies as close to the limit as possible. While the reward, in terms of training effect, is high, the risk for over-training and injury is also high. This is a necessary evil for those that want to be competitive. This however is not necessary for those looking to simply reap the health benefits of CrossFit as an exercise program. Exercising for health needs to still be challenging, but it should leave you feeling good and looking forward to coming back the next day to do it again! It’s okay, even if you’re just doing CrossFit for health, to occasionally find yourself laying on your back at the end of a workout gasping for air. If however you find yourself here too often, such that you are stressed out about coming into the gym, or your body is too banged up to make it into the gym, remind yourself why it is you began CrossFit, and make sure your day-to-day approach in the gym supports your “why”.