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crossfitCrossFit, you might have heard of it, you might even have done a CrossFit WOD at some point. What’s a WOD? Well if you’re asking that then perhaps you have managed to evade the CrossFit phenomena somewhat – it stands for workout of the day,  and if you Google it you’ll get loads of examples. CrossFit is these days feels like it has an almost cult-like following and is associated with exercising till you feel like vomiting, eating like a caveman and throwing enormous weights over your head. Is it really all that?

What is CrossFit?

Greg Glassman started CrossFit in 2000, when he was trainer for the Santa Cruz Police Department. Glassman’s aim was to create a training program that would prepare his “athletes” for any kind of physical activity. The people he had in mind were firefighters, police, armed forces and sports people who needed to be able to physically capable in lots of different situations. So, with a background in gymnastics and weight-lifting he created a completely randomized program and that is one of the central tenants of CrossFit, the aim to train “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” CrossFit focuses a lot on Olympic weight-lifting as it is proven to increase explosive power. You can read coach Glassman’s description of CrossFit here.

It’s important to note that he also encourages his “athletes” to explore a variety of sports and use the strength and fitness they gain from CrossFit outside the gym.


crossfit-breathe-fireCrossFit workouts are most often performed in groups and can be measured in terms of sets completed, time taken, weight lifted. This ‘competitive’ nature means that people tend to work harder. Glassman wanted to try and harness the comraderie and fun of ‘sport’ and use this in the gym to create the “sport of fitness”. As a trainer, I can tell you that this is an element of CrossFit that I agree with wholeheartedly, I train people in small groups and I know that it works. I have seen people who have plateaued make great improvements when they start training in a group. There is something about our slightly competitive nature that makes us work harder next to others.

Unfortunately it seems like Glassman’s “sport of fitness” has turned into a sport in itself and CrossFitters don’t train to get strong and fit so they can do other stuff, they get strong and fit so they can be good at CrossFit. The first CrossFit Games were held in 2007 and the prize was $500. With the growth in popularity of CrossFit and sponsorship by Reebok the 2011 prize-money was $250 000 and this year the prize totals $1 million!

So where’s the danger?

Like any sport or exercise program there is a risk of injury, there’s a risk of injury when I cross the road too, but I keep leaving the house in spite of it. I think the main danger with CrossFit is that really competitive people (and these could the kind of people who are attracted to CrossFit) will risk injury in order to win. If you are that kind of person then you might  get injured doing CrossFit. I don’t think the CrossFit program is dangerous – I think the way that some people behave is dangerous and there are probably trainers out there who let their clients do dangerous things. CrossFit workouts are tailorable to people of differing fitness levels – as long as you have the right coach. Olympic weight-lifting is quite technical and you need good instruction to get it right. You also need a good instructor to tell you how much you can and should be moving around.

Is CrossFit just a fad?

CrossFit has been around now for close to 15 years, it’s not a fad, it does get results….but different forms of exercise are always gaining and then losing popularity. Our most popular class these days is a RETROSWEAT, which is a total throw back to the 198os aerobics moves complete with grapevines (for those of you, like me, who still remember) and leotards. CrossFit is here to stay, but it’s already evolved from where it began and something else will come along.

This is a quote from Coach Glassman, which sums up the best bits of CrossFit training ” Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports. ”
~Greg Glassman

Check out this video – it’s funny!

See you in the gym.