By Dr. Lisa Goodman, DC, CCSP, CACCP
As I continue my objective and unbiased review of what Crossfit is all about, I acknowledge that my take has been largely positive thus far. This blog will explore a little more about what you might have heard about crossfit, possible drawbacks or assumptions. I’ve had some friends, patients and relatives tell me why they ‘used to’ Crossfit and why they don’t anymore. And I’ve had even more people directly ask me about things they have ‘heard’ about Crossfit that might not be so positive. So while I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer all of these objections or drawbacks, I thought I’d give it a rookie Crossfitters perspective
Before getting into the meat of it, I have to tell you that personally, this has been another exciting and challenging week at Crossfit Wash Park. Why exciting? Because Kelsey and I went to our first Crossfit Competition, the Winter WODfest at Crossfit Eminence. We watched members of our gym workout super hard and try to workout faster and stronger than the other crossfitters. Turns out, our gym produces some incredible athletes! (Yesterday was my 1 month anniversary at Crossfit Wash Park, so I feel like I can call it “our” gym now!) I left that competition in total awe of the strength, speed and most of all the integrity that our athletes demonstrated. Seeing as I still have many many foundational concepts to learn, competing is the farthest thing from my mind. However, one thing that struck both Kelsey and I, is that athletes of all ages were competing. There were some badass athletes who were, we’ll just say...more mature...than others. Leading me to the motivational point here - anyone can Crossfit if they want to!
So now back to our headline. What are the biggest drawbacks of Crossfit? Is it for everyone? And are the negatives the same as the positives? Now trust me, I am not trying to convince anyone to try Crossfit if you aren’t ready* or aren’t interested. I acknowledge that it’s hard for me to hold back my enthusiasm, so forgive the convincing tone! Let’s get into the drawbacks, apprehensions, mis-conceptions and of course the positives of Crossfit.
It is Too Competitive! (or is it just Motivational?) This one is a prime example of why a drawback for some people may be a benefit for others (myself included). I’ve heard this a lot, and I am actually surprised that any athlete is not motivated by doing better than the person next to them or at the very least improving upon their own past performance. So yes, Crossfit is competitive but no one forces competition on anyone in the gym. If you are not competitive, you don’t have to be. But if you are...here are the challenges as I see it:
- First, if you are super competitive, you may not be able to turn that off. It can drive you to possibly lift heavier, row harder or compete faster than you are ready for, especially at the beginning. One of the main reasons that Crossfitters (and other athletes) get injured is doing too much too soon. Seriously, I don’t know why Crossfit gets a bad rap for this, as a sports chiropractor I have seen countless injuries form runners, cyclists, yogis, etc all who were to ramping up too quickly. But I digress. <
- The second challenge with the competitive nature of crossfit, is trying to resist it. This is my major challenge. I turned 40 last year and although I’d like to think I can jump in with a solid base of fitness and do what everyone else is doing, I know that isn’t smart. So here is the MENTAL game. How can competitive me, learn to be less competitive and slow down when the nature of the beast is to push harder, faster and get better at every workout? That is precisely what I love about it right now. Crossfit is 75% mental for me. I am learning to temper my competitive nature and I am following one of the best pieces of advice I was given at week one. “Compete with yourself, it is about you and where you want to go”.
Quick shout out to our coaches at Crossfit Wash Park regarding competition. It seems to me the reason we refer to them as coaches and not trainers is because of the individual attention we get. They know I’m competitive and want to get to it, and some days they still don’t let me do the WOD like everyone else. So you may call it competition, but I call it motivation.
There is too much ‘standing around’ - ie. recover. This is not something I had assumed about Crossfit. I hadn’t give it much thought, but it’s true, there is downtime. Sometimes it is a 2-4 minute (necessary!) break between heavy lifts for your body to recover. What is awesome about the downtime (generally at the beginning of a class) is that is the time when you get to know everyone! It seems to me that the downtime is the catalyst for community, friendships, support and of course, competition. The downtime is also a good time to regroup with the coach and work on your technique. So if it bothers you that there is a a little bit of downtime at a Crossfit class relative to another hour-long workout, remember that the 6-20 minute WOD at the end is most likely going to leave you breathless and in a heap of sweat on the gym floor with your new crossfit friends high-fiving you and helping you up.
All Crossfitters talk about is Crossfit. This could be it’s own blog, and may eventually be one. But this one is incredibly simple, the reason Crossfitters talk about Crossfit is because they LOVE it. It’s like a new boyfriend, a new job or a new diet (hello vegans!) if you love something you want to share it with everyone. This may a negative for those of you who are not interested in Crossfit - but if you listen to your friends who love it, you just might find yourself at a class soon ;)
Do you have to workout 5 days a week? I get it. Five days a week feels like a lot. And the truth is, you don’t have to go this often. Many of the athletes at our gym will go more like 3 days per week. So although true that you don’t HAVE to go that often, you may WANT to go more often for two reasons.
- You like the people and can’t wait to see them again. Seriously, sometimes it feels more like I am grabbing a beer with friends after a workout. Well, I don’t usually get that sweaty after grabbing a beer, but you get the idea!
- The coaches purposefully plan the workouts knowing you’ll go 5 days a week. Coach Ethan has explained to me that the days of the week are programmed in a very specific order. If you follow the coach’s guidelines and planning, your body will be able to Crossfit frequently.
Last word on this, you do not have to go to the gym that often. As I am going about 3 days a week right now, Ethan always makes sure that I get the right workouts in each week. Again, huge respect for the coaches and individual attention we get every day that we show up.
Crossfit is Too Hard and I’ll Hurt Myself. Yep, it is hard, and yes you might hurt yourself. True story. But as I mentioned before, you might hurt yourself doing any new workout! This is a great time to point out that WHERE you choose to Crossfit matters. There are a number of great, reputable gyms throughout Denver, and there are probably just as many that won’t be a good fit for everyone. I am biased, but my experience at Crossfit Wash Park has blown me away. Starting with the fundamentals class and continuing into every single workout I’ve had, the coaches are fantastic. The two areas of focus in Crossfit are technique and intensity. I cannot stress enough, that the technique has to be great before the intensity escalates too much. As a comparison, I have also heard negative things about chiropractic (what!!??) but I always consider the source and the experience. I would urge anyone who has doubts based on a bad experience of yourself or someone you know to check out Crossfit Wash Park and let Coach Ethan reintroduce you to Crossfit.
I Don’t Want to Get That Buff. This is primarily something I hear from women. The thing is, when you get strong, you will look stronger - aka buff. One of the primary reasons I am doing Crossfit is to stay strong in the functional movements that I do in my profession. If it makes me buff, to me, that’s a plus! So if getting strong (and buff) is a drawback of Crossfit, I might suggest you rethink the reason for working out in the first place.
Conclusion - You Have to Want to Crossfit. Any and all of the above proposed drawbacks can be nearly completely mitigated by desire, intention and hard work. In other words - how badly do you want to succeed at Crossfit? In talking to folks who did not enjoy Crossfit workouts or who were, let’s just say, complaining about them, one common theme is that they don’t seem to WANT to enjoy it. Make no mistake, Crossfit is HARD. The moves are new, the weights are intimidating, and some of it hurts, so if you don’t WANT to learn to Crossfit, you won’t like it, you won’t enjoy it and you most certainly won’t get better at it. And if you don’t WANT to Crossfit, you might get hurt, and you will probably get very frustrated very quickly. And you might leave your short-lived Crossfit experience letting other people know that Crossfit hurt and that it was too hard. So in short - don’t try Crossfit because someone is pushing you to do it (especially if I’m the one pushing you!). Be sure that you are ready to do hard work, learn new skills and probably not be very good at them right away. Incidentally, also be ready to be very, very sore, grow calluses and meet muscles in your body that you never knew existed. And if those muscles are very, very sore, I might know a good chiropractor to help you heal up quickly and get back to your next WOD.
*All exercises should be cleared by your treating physician or ChiroWashington Park Chiropractic is the only practice in Denver, Colorado specializing in Sports Chiropractic, Prenatal Chiropractic and Pediatric Chiropractic. Our Wash Park Doctors are expert certified and trained in Sports, Pediatrics and Prenatal Care including massage, acupuncture, Webster Technique, Graston Technique, Laser, K-Laser, Kinesiology Tape, RockTape and Normatec