The cult-like following CrossFit has developed over the past 5-10 years cannot be ignored. The phenomenon has swept the nation and to date, there are more than 10,000 CrossFit boxes (gyms) in the United States alone. Regardless of your personal opinion toward or experience with the sport, it’s evident that people who are into it are really, truly in it, and want to share their personal stories with the world. What I admire about the sport the most is its ability to transform not only people’s physique, but overall emotional and mental well-being too.
While I have dabbled in a number of fitness hobbies the past few years (spinning, running, distance cycling, TRX stability balls and barre classes, to name a few), I’ve always been in awe — and slightly intimidated — by CrossFit. I sat down with Katie, CrossFit athlete and coach and fellow writer at The Whole Health Puzzle (read more about her HERE) this week, to talk about how she got started with the sport and why she loves it . As she divulges in the Q&A, it goes well beyond the impressive muscles and skills she’s gained in the gym.
CANDICE: For readers who aren’t familiar, what is CrossFit?
KATIE: Ah, the million dollar question! Generally, CrossFit includes moving loads over broad time and modal domains. Totally answered the question, right? HA! When I explain CrossFit to people, at this point, most people have seen it on ESPN by now; however, for those of you who haven’t, I’ll offer a little more explanation. CrossFit is a mix of Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and cardio. (See weightlifting image below for more info.) To break each category down, lifting includes clean and jerk, the snatch (this is where everyone giggles, hehe), back squat, front squat, overhead squat, thrusters (again, laugh it up I know you want to), deadlifts and a variety of presses. Gymnastics is a little more confusing because we are not doing gymnastics in the literal sense. We don’t do floor routines or beam exercises — instead this refers to pull-ups, toes to bar, knees to elbow, handstand walks, handstand push ups, ring dips and muscle ups. Cardio is also a mix of things including rowing, running, burpees, wall balls, double unders, box jumps and more burpees…(there’s also more burpees). Most gyms I’ve been to will typically structure a workout with a warm-up first, then focus on some skill work (usually weightlifting or gymnastics related) and then do a “workout of the day (WOD), all in about an hour. Hopefully this helped clear up exactly what CrossFit entails but if you have any other questions, visit this website — What is CrossFit?
C: How long have you been doing it?
K: I started CrossFit in July/August 2012 so about 2.5 years now and still haven’t got bored with it!
C. Why did you get started?
K: I was bored with my normal fitness routine, which included everything from running, lifting weight, Insanity, P90x and whatever other workout videos I could get my hands on at the time. Everything got boring and I didn’t feel like I was getting any real results. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I wanted something that could push me.
C. What do you love about CrossFit?
K: I love the community the most. I recently moved and was nervous about starting at a new gym, but it turned out I was nervous for nothing. The community is so welcoming. Every gym I’ve been to has always welcomed me with open arms. Everyone cheers you on and everyone wants to see everyone do well. The thing I loved second most is that you can always see improvement. You learn a new movement, set a faster time on a workout, lift bigger numbers. There are constantly things to work on.
C. How has your body, mind and overall health changed since starting CrossFit?
K: My whole life has changed thanks to CrossFit. It’s made me more confident in myself both physically and mentally. I know it seems a little silly but knowing how I can push doing a workout and the lessons I learned at the gym have absolutely transferred over to all aspects of my life. CrossFit helped me tone up places I never thought I could actually tone. My whole life I’ve had what I would consider a weak upper body. After hard work and practice, I can now do pull ups, muscle ups, climb up a rope and all these other things that I was never be able to do. It’s a pretty amazing feeling. The aesthetics are really just a bonus from doing all these functional movements. To no surprise, my overall health has changed a lot as well. Performing well in the gym made me want to perform well outside the gym too and really opened my eyes to what I am putting into my body to help fuel it throughout the day. Nutrition is something I never really researched before. I always tried to eat better but without actually doing research, nothing really got accomplished. When I first started CrossFit, I tried following a paleo diet. After awhile I tried The Zone Diet and now am doing something a little similar called Flex-i-ble dieting. All approaches have pros and cons but definitely helped push me in the direction I want to go. If it wasn’t for CrossFit, I probably would still be pretty clueless about nutrition.
C. What would you tell someone who is interested in trying it out? (Stay tuned for part 2 in this series where we’ll cover tips for getting started.)
K: First, don’t be afraid to try CrossFit. Everything is scaleable and almost every gym I’ve been to has some sort of On-Ramp or beginner class. We never throw new members into a WOD that we don’t think they can handle. Second, leave your ego at the door. I thought I was in great shape before I started CrossFit; however, burpees quickly reminded me that I was not. Be open to coaching and let us help you get fitter! 🙂
For me personally, I gave CrossFit a try at one point and decided it wasn’t the right time in my life for it — but after chatting with Katie, am re-inspired to consider giving it another shot. Whether you are curious about CrossFit or already an avid fan, I hope you enjoyed the interview. Leave us a comment to let us know what other CrossFit/fitness-related topics you would like to read about, and if you have any burning questions we might be able to help answer. In the meantime, check out this recent Tim Ferriss podcast episode with Kelly Starrett on the good, the bad and the ugly of CrossFit if you’re interested in learning more.