If you want to take the fast track to get fit, consider CrossFit. I just took it up over a year ago, and I’ve found that it has improved my strength and overall conditioning more than anything I’ve every done before.
And I’ve done a lot of sports and training.
I’ve run tons of marathons; finished several ultras; raced road bikes; swam competitively for years; competed in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon and the Swim Around Manhattan. Despite all the crazy sporting events I’ve done, nothing compares to the strength and fitness gains I’ve experienced since starting CrossFit.
Three things to love about CrossFit: A) It’s never boring because it’s constantly varied; B) WODs are usually less than 15 minutes long; and C) The CrossFit community is incredibly supportive.
What makes CrossFit so efficient at improving fitness is that is based on constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensities. It’s no wonder that the US military, law enforcement agencies, pro sports teams and Olympic athletes are incorporating CrossFit into their training. Even Hollywood actors (thanks, in part to Bob Harper who trains at Brick CrossFit in LA) have caught the CrossFit bug.
I just spent the last five weeks participating in the CrossFit Open with several of the Tamalpais CrossFit community. It’s a worldwide event whereby each week a WOD (workout of the day) is announced and you have four days to enter your best-judged score. The top competitors in their regions are invited to the “The Regionals” where the top athletes will then go on to the Reebok CrossFit Games, held July 13-15 in Los Angeles.
The Open allowed me to assess my strengths and weaknesses, set some new goals and challenges to help me continue to improve upon my fitness. But what was more inspiring for me was the team spirit of my gym and how we were able to share in each other’s success and provide support when some WODs didn’t go as planned. I can’t wait until next year to do it all over again.
If you can’t fathom trying CrossFit, here’s three ways to incorporate the style of training into your workouts.
CrossFit Principles for Your WOD (Workout of the day)
If your workout doesn’t leave you sweaty and tired, it’s not hard enough. Doing some intensity 1-2 times a week will help you torch more calories and get more of an after-burn effect whereby your metabolism is revving higher. Studies show that your body can burn twice as many calories from an intense workout over a 24-hour period compared to a moderate walking workout that takes the same amount of time.
As they say, “Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” It’s true when it comes to fitness too. Without giving your muscles different stimuli, they just adapt to the load and stop changing. When your workouts are varied, your muscles need to adapt to the new stress, which means you get stronger and fitter.
Test yourself regularly
In CrossFit, we have several benchmark “tests” that we record our times for and when we repeat those WODs, we can see if we’ve improved or not. I also used the CrossFit Open as a gauge of my fitness, but you can create your own test workouts. If you’re a runner, enter a race; if you go to the gym, start recording some of your max reps and weights of some strength exercises like deadlift, bench press and squat. I have a whole series of “test” WODs that I do every 4-6 weeks and they’re as simple as the following:
- Max reps sit-ups in 2 minutes
- Max reps burpees in 2 minutes
- 500 meter row
- 400 meter run
- 800 meter run
- 1 mile run
- max reps pull-ups
- timed plank hold
Apply these principles to your workouts and you’ll be on the fast track to improving your fitness.
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD