Zami Salaria in Toronto asks, “Is CrossFit a good way to stay fit for a person who likes intense workouts? Is it appropriate for folks in their 30s and what alternative (same intensity) exercise regimen would you recommend?” Kathleen Trotter, Globe Health‘s fitness expert, says she has been to CrossFit a handful of times, mostly when traveling. “I like that regardless of where I am I will get an intense workout that includes multi-joint strength exercises like squats.” But she says CrossFit is absolutely not for every body:
Is it for you? As I’ve written before, CrossFit is not for you if you are currently injured, or prone to injury. During my first class I did advanced exercises like deadlifts. If done with bad form and / or a bad back, advanced lifts can cause serious injuries.
If you are new to lifting – maybe a runner or an ex high school athlete – CrossFit might not be the place to start your weight lifting career. CrossFit advocates will tell you that people of all fitness levels are welcome, but the competitive atmosphere doesn’t make it easy to scale back a workout and since the exercises start at an advanced level, for many the scaled back version is still too advanced. Injuries are way too common.
(Sure – injuries are not unique to CrossFit, and any form of exercise can be unsafe and result in injuries if it is not done properly, but the typical demands of a CrossFit workout are greater than the typical demands of many mainstream exercise programs.)
If you do decide to try it, consider getting some one-on-one instruction first and do some research first: Learn about the coaches, make sure the ratio of coaches to students is appropriate, and that your coach is certified and knowledgeable. Most importantly, don’t let any instructor guilt or shame you into doing something that doesn’t feel right.
Lastly, CrossFit is not cheap. The facilities are not fancy. You pay for the intensity of the workouts and the non-traditional aspect of the gym. If you want frills, like nice showers and change rooms, CrossFit is not for you.
Unless you are an experienced lifter and not easily intimidated, I think the negatives of CrossFit outweigh the possible positives.
That said, CrossFit has training concepts and strategies are worth borrowing for your regular workout routine, Trotter says:
- Instead of relying on traditional machines, use barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls. Prioritize multi-joint exercises like squats, dead lifts, bench press and pull-ups.
- Vary your routine. At CrossFit, the workout changes daily. Every class has a different ‘workout of the day’, or WOD.
- CrossFit gyms fosters a friendly yet competitive and therefore motivating environment. Learn from CrossFit – being active with others can be motivating. Establish an active social circle within your fitness world.
- CrossFit encourages athleticism. Participants focus on getting stronger and achieving a personal best. Stop associating training with achieving a certain aesthetic. Instead, focus on giving your best physical effort.
Check out more fitness tips, instructional videos (like the one below) through our Fitness Basics series.