CrossFit Training: an elite program for everyone

A CrossFit class at CrossFit Inferno in San Luis Obispo, CA

Fitness is the reason everyone works out.  Weight loss, muscle gain, mobility, functionality, flexibility and a general disposition toward health and wellness are all parts of the idea of fitness.  But with all the gyms out there that use the word fitness, there is only ONE program that actually defines fitness and sets up a recipe to achieve that definition of fitness:  CrossFit!
CrossFit is a lifestyle fitness program that blends the line of cardio work and strength work in the hopes of achieving ultimate fitness.  Started in Santa Cruz in the late 1990's, CrossFit creator and CEO, Greg Glassman, wanted to come up with an idea of how to be a better all-around athlete.  First, he defined his parameters by looking at all the great athletes and listing what made them great.  From his list he came up with 10 different physical characteristics that showed “fit” athletes: cardio-respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, speed, power, flexibility, balance, coordination, accuracy, and agility. 
His definition of fitness then became “a high level of aptitude in all 10 physical traits of fitness,” “the ability to do ANY task job, sport, or life related,” and that an individual “would be able to do more work over broad time and modal domains.”  In short, fit individuals are ready for anything!
How could one possibly improve in all of those areas?  Most workout programs were either strict cardio based in “long-slow duration training” (long runs, swims, bikes, walk, etc at low to moderate intensities), or isolated muscle work (curls, tricep extensions, calve-raises, crunches, etc). 

The Crossfit recipe for fitness is unique:                       
Constantly Varied:  changing the types of movements, the time frames and intensity levels of a workout on a daily basis so that the body does not get used to the program and cannot prepare itself for what is about to happen.
Functional Movements:  1) movements that mimic actions in everyday life: picking objects up, squatting down, jumping up, putting objects overhead, pulling self up, climbing, running, etc. 2) movements that are innate to us: meaning we are “made” to do them.  Joints have particular ranges of motion so that they operate a particular way.  3) They are SAFE if done correctly: if one moves correctly, then the chances of injury are greatly reduced. 
High Intensity:  When working at high intensity for a short duration, muscle tone and strength will increase and one will gain all the cardio benefits of a much lower intensity, long duration workout. If one only works at low intensities, he or she will only be prepared for that level – and unprepared to ramp it up if needed.  Also, the harder the workout, the more calories will be burned over time even when the body is at rest.

Many elite athletes, military groups, public safety organizations and high-end athletes have prescribed to this type of training.  But is it made for everyone?  And can everyone and anyone do it? Absolutely!
Every single movement, every single rep set, and every single workout is infinitely scalable.  In a CrossFit class, there can be an advanced athlete and a “new to working out” grandparent both working out at the same time, doing the same basic workout in the realm that they are able to handle.  One may be doing dead-lifts at 315 pounds while another may be doing dead-lifts with a PVC pipe bar set up on low platforms.  If someone had physical limitations, then the trainer would have them move as close as possible to the full range of movement, building strength and flexibility at that level and then slowly pushing them to gain more range in the proper position. 
There is also learning that needs to occur with the movements: how to move properly so that one develops flexibility without injuring oneself. To enhance the safety of these workouts, CrossFit Trainers will stress 1) learning of a movement, 2) consistency of that movement, and 3) increasing intensity with that movement.  This ensures muscle memory in correct positions no matter the weight – and correct muscle memory leads to increased safety.
CrossFit is not just throwing together some moves and saying go.  It takes a skilled trainer who is experienced and trained in CrossFit methodologies and movements who will watch you and make those finite corrections so that you are safe and can gain the maximum benefits from your workouts.  The highest level of coaches in CrossFit is Level 2 CrossFit Trainers There are only approximately 300 Level 2 Trainers worldwide – one of whom (the author of this piece) is a trainer in San Luis Obispo.
It's up to each individual to find the CrossFit box (that’s what CrossFit gyms are called) that fits you. Find the best level of trainer to ensure your safety.  Find one with a community of people that you would like to be involved with. Find one that is able to give you what you are looking for. The workouts will be hard.  You will be breathing heavy and you may be a little sore in the beginning but you will soon see the benefits of better movement, a more toned body, and an increase in confidence to do things you have never thought possible before! Check into it and see what true fitness is all about!
by Bill Grundler
Founder, Co-Owner of CrossFit Inferno, San Luis Obispo
Level 2 CrossFit Certified
CrossFitter Since 2005