At the beginning of the year, I made the classic New Year’s resolution to “Get in Shape”. And as everyone who’s made that resolution knows, keeping with a new workout program for the first few weeks is easy. The hard part comes in sticking with it month after month as the enthusiasm fades and the year drags on.
But miraculously I’ve stayed with the same program three months into the year and I’m still (mostly) looking forward to the workouts every Mon, Wed, and Fri morning. Not to mention, I’m probably in better shape then I’ve ever been (sorry I don’t have any before and after pics for you).
The secret is a program called CrossFit.
What is it?
So what is CrossFit? Wikipedia (as usual) gives the best definition:
CrossFit has been “variously portrayed as a fitness company, a grassroots health movement, a nascent sport, a fad, a publishing business and sometimes, disparagingly, a cult.” Classes at affiliated gyms typically include a warm-up, a skill development segment, and a high-intensity workout that lasts around ten to twenty minutes. Affiliates create a new workout each day called the “Workout of the Day” or “WOD”. Affiliates often use scoring and ranking systems to transform workouts into sport. Some affiliates offer additional classes which are not centered around a WOD, such as Olympic weightlifting classes.
By the way, I love the fact, that detractors call it “a cult”. It definitely is a workout program that people get really into. That said, I would like to highlight a couple of the positive aspects that drew me in:
- Full Body Movements: I like the fact that it’s not just doing 20 curls or isolating one specific muscle. It’s all about doing full, natural body movements like squats and pull-ups. It just feels more natural to me, and it builds functional strength rather than beach muscles.
- Used By Military & Police: There’s something special about the fact that the men and women serving our country use this workout to get in shape. You get the feeling that you are training with them. The crossfit site highlights this by showing pictures and dedicating daily workouts to fallen soldiers.
- Online: Each day the crossfit website posts the daily workout (more details about that below) and hundreds of people comment on what they thought of it and their time to complete it. If you have questions on how to do the workout, you can watch videos on the site of other people doing it.
They also keep the barriers to starting very low. You do not need a lot of equipment and the site even gives you tips for creating a garage gym or working out when traveling.
For many months, I worked out in my garage following the online site to participate in the slated workout each day. This was pretty good, but to truly take it to the next level I joined a local crossfit affiliate which gave me access to additional equiment and skilled trainers.
At first, I was reluctant to shell out the cash, but I find my workouts are even better when completed at the gym because the trainers push me harder than I would on my own.
Why Does it Work?
So why does it work so well? I think it boils down to the following key aspects of Crossfit:
- WOD: Every day there is a Workout of the Day (WOD) which helps keep it fresh. It’s not like Wed is bench day for the 200th time. Instead they keep it interesting by making workouts like fight gone bad.
- Whiteboard: All workouts are timed and each day your scrores are written on the whiteboard. This has a couple of effects. First off, to paraphrase Drucker, you get better at what you measure. Something about writing your time down makes you want to improve it. There are also some key benchmark workouts (like Fran) that you will do every few months to mark your progress. Having a time, gives you something to beat.
- Diet: No workout program can be successful without a diet component and CrossFit is no exception. They are full bore into the Paleo diet which consists of the following simple philosophy: “Don’t eat anything that you can’t grow or kill”. In other words, your meals consist of avoiding processed foods, most carbs (because you can’t grow or kill bread), and sticking to Meats and Veggies.
- Community: When you are getting up at 5:45 AM to workout, it helps to know that you will be meeting others at the gym to do the same workout. And that if you skip out, they will give you a hard time.
So the only remaining question is could it work for you?
The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.