Is CrossFit a Fitness Program–or a Lifestyle?
What is it, exactly, that we purvey?
It’s not just an exercise program.
It’s–dare I say it–a lifestyle. The CrossFit lifestyle.
That may sound pretentious. Or fatuous. Or cultish. Or all three. But hang with me a moment.
Someone who’s only seen CrossFit in videos on youtube might conclude that the CF lifestyle revolves around booty shorts, tattoos, and six pack abs. If you’ve ever actually stepped foot into a CrossFit affiliate, you know that’s not the case. CrossFitters are people who’ve realized that physical fitness is the key to health and longevity, and they’ve realized that real fitness demands psychological as well as physical development. It’s about making choices. It’s about paying attention and working toward mastery.
It’s not six-pack abs, tribal tats or booty shorts that make a CrossFitter. It’s attitude.
The CrossFit lifestyle include:
Regular doses of constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity
Making conscious choices about the food you eat
Taking responsibility for maintaining your body, by foam rolling, doing mobility work, taking the necessary dietary supplements, and getting enough quality sleep.
Studying CrossFit to become a better CrossFitter
Getting to know your fellow CrossFitters and participating in the CrossFit community, at CF Hi-Def, with local affiliates, and with the global network of CrossFitters.
The first element, regular doses of CrossFit WODs, while it might seem like the most difficult and demanding, is actually the easiest. If you can manage to get to the box and walk through the door, you’ve made it. We tell you how to warm-up, we teach you the movements, we help you set up your equipment, we cajole and nag and castigate and applaud you through your WODs, we help you cool down. An hour, more or less, in and out, Bob’s your uncle. Show up four or five times a week, and you will get stronger, faster, more physically capable–to a point. But real progress requires LifeStyle Element Two.
Someone once said, “The gym and the kitchen are the same room.” Straight up: no matter who you are, you need to eat correctly if you want to truly succeed with CrossFit. If you’re overweight, you need to lose fat while putting on (or maintaining) muscle, and your nutrition should reflect that. If you’re skinny, you might need to put on ten, twenty, thirty pounds of muscle before you’ll be able to do the workouts as prescribed, and you’ll have to eat accordingly.
This is why there’s really no “one true diet” for the CrossFit lifestyle. People have different goals and require different nutritional strategies. One person might do well on the Zone. Another sticks to a strict Paleo diet. Another person might simply need to eat everything in sight, day and night. We can make suggestions based on your goals; the decisions and the implementation are up to you. The point is, though, to really be doing CrossFit, YOU HAVE TO THINK ABOUT YOUR NUTRITION. Pick an approach, keep a food journal, see what works.
Now, to me, this seems like no big deal. I say, “Just eat this and not that. What’s the problem?” That’s because I’m ignorant and insensitive. Liz Greene, however, has been through the wars when it comes to food issues. She’s seen and heard it all. So talk to her. She’ll understand. She won’t let you off the hook–ultimately, it still comes down to you and your decisions–but she’ll have a lot more ways to get you over the hump. Is it going to be easy? No. Will you have the support of your trainers, your Hi-Def peers, and the worldwide CrossFit community? HELL yes. That’s why we’re here. It’s why you’re here.
Element three is probably the easiest to enact of all five, but for some reason it’s the most neglected. CrossFit places tremendous demands on the body, and most of you walked through our doors already injured to one degree or another–bad back, torn rotator cuff, replaced MCL. That’s fine; we work around your limitations until they’re not limitations anymore. But! In order to avoid more injuries, it’s incumbent upon you to do basic maintenance to keep your biological machine in working order. There are so many ways for you to take care of yourself. Myofascial self-release. Cryo-massage. PNF stretching. Mobility work. Contrast showers. Fish oil. Just try typing “CrossFit recovery” into Google and see what you get. And visit the Mobility WOD link on the right side bar.
These three points feed directly into the fourth: if you’re going to be a good CrossFitter, you’re can’t just imitate what your trainers demonstrate and then forget about it. You’ve got to learn it. And there is a lot to learn, isn’t there? Remember how lost you felt your first few weeks here? Every day a new movement, some of them almost as complicated as learning to Lindy Hop. After awhile, though, you not only knew the difference between a power clean and a power snatch, you could explain it to a newbie. Or you should be able to. If you’ve been training for six months and still have to ask, “What’s a power clean again?” you’re really missing out on a crucial aspect of the program. Investing the effort to really understand what you’re doing in the gym is actually investing in yourself. Striving toward mastery can make any activity a means to spiritual growth. Especially an activity that engages the physical, intellectual, and emotional parts of your being the way CrossFit does.
So study. Get the CrossFit terms, movements and concepts down. There are VAST resources available to help you. From free videos on you tube, to the incredible wealth of information on the CrossFit Journal (the best $25 you’ll spend all year, I guarantee it), to the message boards on CrossFit.com. No matter what your question is, you’ll find the answer. If you’re having trouble with a particular exercise, there’ll be a tutorial. Maybe it’s just one little cue that another trainer uses that finally does the trick and helps you get double-unders. The point is, the responsibility for that lies with you. Wanting to improve, and taking responsibility for that improvement–realizing that progress depends entirely on your effort–that’s a HUGE part of the CrossFit lifestyle.
Last but not least, the community. Greg Glassman, the man who founded CrossFit, didn’t invent the deadlift or the power clean. He didn’t invent the muscle-up or the kettlebell swing. But he did come up with a few really brilliant new ideas. I think the most important was maybe the most accidental. Glassman was a personal trainer out in California. At a certain point, he had more clients than he had hours in a day. So he started suggesting some of them work out together. “Hey, you’ll like this guy, he’s about on your level, and it’ll be a little cheaper for both of you.” This turned into groups of six or eight, and soon he realized he had a whole new thing on his hands. People were pushing harder than they ever did working on their own. And they were having a LOT more fun. Brutal workouts became bonding experiences. People made new friends. They shared tips and strategies and recipes. They started hanging out in “real life”. The gym became a “third place” (the other two being home and work), somewhere they’d hang out at even when they weren’t working out. And via the power of the internet, this new sort of experience, this new community bonded by sweat and effort, spread all over the world.
Part of our vision has always been a place where the community aspect was just as important as the fitness. And I think we’re really achieving that. People have found new friends, new relationships, new jobs, new homes. And we have raised money for some nice charities. It’s true. All these things make us much more than just a “gym”. But it only works to the extent people are willing to give of themselves. Want to be a real CrossFitter? Say hi to the new person walking through the door. (Remember, Burpees…) You see someone standing around, looking lost? Go over and see if you can help.
You’ll be glad you did. By and large, the people you meet in a CrossFit gym are exactly the kind of people you’d like to get to know, whether or not you have anything else in common, simply because they have the grit and courage to keep coming in and facing down WODs. It’s about character.
Here’s a really, really cool thing that maybe does make us sound like a cult: I think CrossFit brings out the best in people. Maybe in another context somebody might be a bit of a dick, but if they keep coming to the WODs, it’ll make them a better person. I know it’s true of me…even if I still have a ways to go 😉
So there it is. The CrossFit lifestyle. THAT’S what we’re trying to provide you, IMHO. Your trainers strive to live it fully (although we sometimes fall short, as all human beings do), both to prove to ourselves it works (it does) and to help you live it, too, if you want to.
At CrossFit Hi-Def we strive to maintain the very highest standards of training, and to provide our members with a clean, well-equipped facility. But if you’re only paying for the fitness training, you’re cheating yourself. Your membership buys you a LOT more than that. It buys you the opportunity to get involved, to soak up knowledge, to make friends, and to use all that support to make decisions that will change your life forever. I think you’ll find that chasing optimal physical fitness will empower you in myriad ways. The CrossFit lifestyle makes it possible. Take it on.
-Stolen and modified from Pioneer Valley CrossFit