To Crossfit or Not To Crossfit

My first time at a Crossfit gym the trainer had us do walking handstands. As a warmup.

I immediately found the Crossfit closest to me and signed up for a membership. Little did I know signing up for Crossfit is a little like signing your soul away.

Since everyone had a short break from gyms during the pandemic, it will be interesting to see how people get back into fitness (if they don’t have a great home gym) and how gyms cope with restrictions. I myself have been considering unfreezing one of my memberships to get back into lifting (I have primarily stuck to running and some body weight exercises in the last several months).

I recently got a text from the owner of the Crossfit gym I tried out for a couple months a few years back and it got me thinking, is Crossfit a good method to get fit?

Crossfit is known for their intense workouts, and most people starting are already in fairly good shape. In my first month or two at crossfit my weight went up ten pounds, but all of my pants were suddenly quite large. I experienced that mythical “toning” everyone talks about wanting, a dramatic increase in muscle mass and simultaneous loss of body fat. I thought it was just a myth, or something that only a twenty year old male could experience. But it happened to me, and it felt incredible.

I also deadlifted more than my own body weight my first time attempting a one rep max, a goal I didn’t know I had, and an accomplishment that wouldn’t have been possible without the meticulous form correction and motivation from the trainer. To this day it’s still one of the things I am most proud of.

What I liked most about Crossfit’s approach was their structure. Each day of the week was assigned a muscle group, and I could look on the app ahead of time to see what that workout would consist of. The anxiety of creating workout plans, rewriting them in the gym when all the equipment is taken, and trying and failing to make my workouts enjoyable was gone. I also had to reserve my spot in the app, an effective form of accountability. All too often I will put gym clothes on just to take a nap. But if I’ve taken one of those limited spots from someone else, I’m committed. There’s no backing out in exchange for nap time.

Their workouts are effective. Extremely. You start with a good warmup and then get into your compound lift(s). They encourage you to lift heavy, which is something I don’t do as often on my own. It’s no wonder I put on so much muscle so quickly. Then you have your conditioning portion. And let me tell you… you will be drenched and limping afterward, guaranteed.

Their Moto should really be, “Limping guaranteed, or your money back.” Along with Crossfit’s reputation as an insanely intense workout, they are also notorious for injuring people. Even most people I know who want nothing to do with the fitness industry know this reputation.

Within a month and a half of starting my membership at Crossfit, after a day of heavy back squats, 100 box jumps, and 100 yards of bear crawls, I found myself standing in the road on the way to my car, unable to take another step, questioning whether I should call an ambulance or swallow my pride and crawl through the street. This was not the good “I can’t walk” it was the bad kind. My left side hip flexor was strained badly and my right side sciatic nerve was pinched. Those are two injuries that are not easy to recover from. Even after weeks of physical therapy and rest, the pain wouldn’t go away. It’s something I’m still dealing with now, years later.

The worst part? I had bought several months of the membership because it would be cheaper and Crossfit is not cheap. Altogether, it was a lot of time, money, and health down the drain. Yes, I put on a lot of muscle and lost a lot of body fat quickly, but in the long run of course that reversed.

I’m more of a cheetah than a tortoise, but in my approach to fitness I am learning it is much better to be slow and steady.

I am still looking for another way to put on good muscle mass without being alone and somewhat bored in the gym. As much as I want to see those Crossfit results again, health should always come before aesthetics. I’m changing my workout tactics to try and find better results. Read about that here.

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