Chances are, even if you aren’t one of its many devoted fans, you’ve heard of CrossFit. Like the fitness crazes that have come before it—Pilates, Zumba, yoga—CrossFit has built a passionate following of fitness buffs ranging in age from young twenty-somethings to suburban moms and even those with disabilities.
While almost all fitness routines come with their fair share of criticism, CrossFit’s audience of skeptics have grown almost as quickly as its classes.
“Because CrossFit workouts are a series of constantly varying movements performed at a high intensity, it is drastically different from so many other types of exercise. Because of that, people are often quick to dismiss it as dangerous or unhealthy,” says Josh Davidson, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, CF-L1, physical therapist and outpatient therapy supervisor of the Main Line Health Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers in West Chester, Exton and Shannondell.
Indeed, CrossFit workouts have the potential to be dangerous and put its participants at risk for injury, but only if they’re performed with unsuitable resistance or intensity, using inappropriate form, or without proper training and coaching. And, says Davidson, that’s no different than any other workout routine.
“You can injure yourself during almost any kind of workout if you’re not doing it right or if you’re attempting something that is not suited for you,” says Davidson. “CrossFit is no different. No one should start CrossFit without the guidance of a certified coach or without the proper introduction.”
Every CrossFit class is lead by a certified coach or group of coaches, who are there to watch for unsafe form, inappropriate intensity, or improper movements, and correct athletes as needed.
Not only is CrossFit safe, it is also extremely beneficial. It offers an intense workout in a short amount of time, which can help expedite weight loss and muscle growth, and is a good way to inject some variety into your traditional workout routine, particularly if you’re caught in a workout rut.
“There are so many benefits to CrossFit. The workouts improve participants’ endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy of movement,” says Davidson. “By improving in all of these areas, participants can improve their wellness and fitness.”
And while many critics of the trend often refer to it as a ‘cult,’ CrossFit athletes like to think of their classes as a family, and many value CrossFit for the camaraderie and support they provide.
Interested in starting CrossFit?
Before you decide to take the plunge and try CrossFit, talk to your primary care physician to ensure that you are ready for any sort of exercise. This is important for all fitness plans involving high-intensity exercise.
As you begin your CrossFit classes, remember that the most important component of a safe routine—or any workout routine—is to listen to your body. Your classmates may be using heavier weights or completing their workouts at an accelerated pace, but remember that your routine is all your own. Don’t push yourself to accomplish more than is safe and comfortable for you.