The words “Crossfit” can have a bad connotation in some circles and to be completely honest, for a long time I blew it off as a way for people to get injured doing work outs they have no business doing. For many years my good friend Carlos tried enticing me into joining and a few a times I did consider it but would eventually back out and stick to my old gym routine. I had been doing the same workouts for the past 10 years and managed to stay relatively fit. But once I started my mountaineering journey, my fitness goals changed drastically. Bench pressing 250lb wasn’t going to get me up to the top of the mountain so that meant I had to re invent my fitness routines. This was followed by lots of trial and error. Every climb I took a different approach to my preparation and work outs. Eventually I gave in to Carlos’s cry to join him in the cross fit club. Ever since I joined my fitness has never been better.
Now before I start going off on the pros and cons, I’d like to start by saying that I am not here to promote or defame crossfit. The sole purpose of this article is to give my honest opinion and experience. As with everything, cross fit is not perfect by any means but for those who are limited on time, have a good base fitness and are looking to take their athletic abilities to the next level, I believe this is a great choice. It has sure as hell helped me in a lot of aspects. This with the addition of intermittent fasting (More on this in my IM Article) has brought me to my leanest shape yet. I am more athletic; with the most mobility I have ever had. Here are my pros and cons to consider for adding cross fit to your training regimen.
- Very time efficient
- Well Balanced
- Pre planned
- Sense of competition
- High Energy Atmosphere
- Prone to injury
- Lack of endurance work
- Technical Movements
- Should require solid fitness foundation
As a full time business owner, I usually work 12-14hrs a day and the other 12hrs I’m thinking and planning for my business. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to map out my weekly work out routine or to even be focused working out on my own at 6pm in a crowded gym. Due to the time constraints I seek efficiency where ever possible and cross fit provides me just that. Not everyone might have the time constraints I do but for the ones that do, having the flexibility to know that every hour on the hour there is a class taking place makes it very convenient. The classes usually run from morning to night in most outfits which hardly gives you an excuse ever to miss your work out. Each WOD last 45 min to an hour and wont require a minute more of your time. This includes warm ups, stretches and the actual movements of the day.
After working out on my own for so many years at a traditional gym, my primary focus became staying in shape and getting stronger. This worked for a while until I decided to try out mountaineering. I realized my strength played a very little role in getting me to the summit, whereas my flexibility, endurance and mobility played a much larger role and to my surprise that’s where I was lacking the most. Crossfit wont turn you into an “endurance monster” but it will help become more versatile. Most WODs are constructed in a way where it will target many aspects of fitness. A lot of the WODs require tons of mobility and flexibility in order to perform them correctly. You are basically forced to fix any flexibility or mobility issues if you want to have any chance at performing the movements correctly. This has over all made me a much better athlete in where my strength and endurance have become much more versatile as well as training auxiliary muscles that you wouldn’t normally train within a traditional gym. All this combined makes for a fairly well balanced work out where you wont be lacking in any areas (except endurance).
Given enough time all routines can become boring and consequentially you become robotic in doing them. Same goes with gym routines. I’ve found that I train much harder in a cross fit WOD than on my own. Everyday the work out is pre planned and different than every other day. Rarely do you repeat an exact work out. This makes it fun and exciting to see how well you do on any given day but more importantly keeps you refreshed and always looking forward for the next WOD thats going to kick your ass.
Sense of competition:
Most crossfits are in a warehouse with a bunch of funky equipment you typically wouldn’t work out with. It has a large open space where all the members perform the WOD together. For me it makes for a competitive environment that always keeps you on your toes. Ten, fifteen, twenty or more people all performing the WOD at the same time. It pushes me to become better because other wise I know the guy next to me will beat me. Given my competitive nature, that’s a no-go. So I make sure to give every work out everything I have which in turn makes me better, faster and stronger.
High Energy Atmosphere:
This might be one of my favorite aspects of Crossfit. The music blasting, the weights bouncing off the floor, the grunts from the near by crossfitter giving it all he has on that final rep of the front squats. Its like a shot of adrenaline every time I start the work out. What ever my mood was before I got there regardless of how my day was, get thrown out the window the moment I step foot inside the warehouse. My focus turns to the WOD at hand and I instantly get a boost of energy that carries me through the whole routine.
Prone to injury:
Given the nature of crossfit, the high intensity and the technical movements, it is very injury prone. If you don’t listen to your body and don’t take the time to learn the techniques and movements correctly, you will definitely see your self sitting out on the sidelines while you recover from an injury. Another issue becomes the repetitions of very technical lifts while in a state of exhaustion. Performing 5 dead lifts then running 400 meters for 5 sets for time, will leave you exhausted and using very poor form near the end. If not very self aware, you can end up hurt. Also the sense of competition can lead to lifting more weight than you should while using improper form just to beat your buddy next to you. While a lot of this is preventable, the nature of the sport can bait you in to these situations.
Lack of endurance work:
Crossfit isn’t sport specific. But It will make you very fit, proficient in many movements, agile and fast. The issue for me is that it lack in the endurance department. Given the time constraints of 1 hour per WOD, you will mostly run 200-400 meters per class. In the case where you are training for an endurance sport such as mountaineering, you will end up having to do your runs on your free time. Most of the work outs are high intensity using intervals
This is where I suffered the most when I first got started. It took me a long time to be able to correctly perform many of the movements used in cross fit. Till this day, there are still some movements where I need some tweaking. Crossfit uses a lot of Olympic lifts that require a high level of technicality and flexibility to perform correctly. If you are just a little bit off on most of these movements, you are surely risking injury. Starting off this can be frustrating, wanting to lift more weight but being constraint by the technicalities. It sure got the best of me in the beginning and it felt like I was making little to no progress.
Solid Fitness Foundation:
Some may argue with me on this one, but I don’t think crossfit is for everyone. I believe you should have a solid fitness foundation before you begin. I had been training for 10 years and relatively fit before I started and I struggled with many aspects of cross fit. The intensity is high and the work outs are tough. A lot of people haven’t had a single work out or put on running shoes in years, suddenly starting in crossfit could lead to injury.
That’s my take on crossfit. I personally enjoy it even though I do recognize the draw backs, I believe with only an hour a day it will make you a well balanced athlete and leave you enough time in the day to focus on supplementing in the areas you might feel your lacking. My goals are high altitude mountaineering which require a very high level of endurance. This is only achieved through long and boring runs or real life hiking or climbing. I will continue to use cross fit as a training tool as I believe it has made me more fit than ever before.
For more mountaineering training be sure to check out the Training page.