By Karen Kwan
CrossFit is one intense workout. If you’re wondering if you’re fit enough for it, or perhaps you want to understand exactly what a CrossFit workout entails, well, we’ll try to clear up some of those questions for you right now.
CrossFit, which has been around for about a decade but has been gaining popularity in the last four years or so, actually is nothing drastically new when you look at the exercises themselves. But it’s the methodology of how the workout is put together that’s different, explains Jordan Symonds, co-owner and head coach of the new Reebok CrossFit Liberty Village (RCLV) in Toronto. “It’s different from classic strength and conditioning principles, where you separate your cardio from your strength training,” he says. Your focus with CrossFit is power output over time—the high power output is what elicits a response in your body (that response being building muscle tissue, losing fat, increasing endurance and stamina, etc.).
Symonds says it’s a great crosstraining workout that all athletes can benefit from. A long-distance runner, for example, will gain from CrossFit helping to keep the muscles and joints mobile, while the strength and conditioning improvements gained by training at CrossFit’s high intensity may help increase speed, which can lead to increased mileage and more efficient stride length.
What a CrossFit workout consists of
“High intensity” is a word you’ll hear a lot when it comes to CrossFit. A one-hour workout at RCLV consists of five to 10 minute warm up (think crab walks and lunges), followed by a 15- to 25-minute period of strength training or skill development.
Then you move onto the high-intensity portion known as the Workout of the Day (WOD). On average a WOD lasts eight to 15 minutes and incorporates elements of weight training, gymnastics (think pull-ups, box jumps, squats, pushups and muscle ups—“anything where you’re using your body weight as resistance,” explains Symonds) and some high-intensity cardio (skipping or running, for example). The format will change from one WOD to another; you may have decreasing rep schemes one day, or three rounds of 10, 15 and 20 reps as fast as you can another day, to name just two formats. At the end of the class, you complete 10 minutes or so of cool-down stretches.
“The idea of CrossFit is that it’s fun—it’s always something different so you’re developing new skills—and it’s competitive,” says Symonds. (With regards to the competitive part, there’s usually a clock involved and at RCLV, your time is posted on a whiteboard – talk about pressure to perform!).
As for whether you’re fit enough for CrossFit, all of the exercises are scale-able. Can’t do a pull-up? You get to use a resistance band (or even two) to assist you in completing the exercise. The CrossFit moves have prescribed weights (such as 65-lb weight that’s prescribed for women when it comes to thrusters, which are squats followed by lifting the weight overhead as you rise out of the squat) but, if you can’t do the prescribed weight, you can go lighter (in our class, every woman used the 15-lb bar). So, then, in answer to your question—as long as you’re not injured or have conditions that prevent you from exercising—yes, you can do CrossFit.
Have you tried it? Let us know what you think about the workout!