We Try It: CrossFit

CrossFit has been on my periphery since the beginning of the year when a Groupon came out. A close friend and coworker has been at it for a couple of months and my boyfriend has been a devotee for about a year. Both have suggested that I would love it due to its team-like atmosphere and its focus on functional training. I have been wary to try it for two reasons: a) it is EXPENSIVE and b) it comes with a devotion to the paleo diet, which bars some of the best things in life, including cheese.

Why I bit the bullet

I am a fit person. I work out daily, including running a couple of miles and plenty of resistance training. I consider myself to be in better shape than most. Flash back to last month when I took my boyfriend on his first backpacking trip. The morning after our longest, most challenging hike, I gleefully asked how he felt, expecting him to moan about all the pain he was in. But no, he was pain-free, while I could feel the 10 miles over rocky terrain in my hamstrings and ass.

As we hiked the second day, I decided that I was going to try CrossFit because it seemed perfect for keeping me in shape for my favorite hobby.

Cost

CrossFit is almost prohibitively expensive. Scratch that, it is prohibitively expensive. While you can join a gym for as little as $19/month, CrossFit costs at least $100/month. My gym is $150/month. Yeah. I know. For someone as frugal as me, making the decision to fork over that much was painful. But I said I’d commit to three months and negotiated a cheaper rate if I would pay all three months up-front.

Although the cost is high, a know a few friends who like that it is that expensive since they are more likely to stick with it. When a gym is cheap, it’s easy to make an excuse not to go, but if you feel like you’re throwing money away by not going, then getting into an exercise routine gets easier.

The workouts

CrossFit focuses on functional training and lots of weight lifting. Because of this, you have to take a few fundamentals classes where you go over each move over and over again so you can lift all of that weight without injury. As someone who has never done more than a few bicep curls, learning to lift more weight than I could ever imagine makes me feel like a bad-ass.

Each workout starts with a warm-up, which is not a warm-up at all. It’s like a work-out. Seriously. A warm-up for me is gently jogging for a half a mile. A CrossFit warmup is doing lunges forever, tons of sit-ups and a few push-ups.

The work-outs are right up my alley. I hate running on treadmills or spinning. I also really hate yoga. I like that there are so many different workouts so that everyday is different. I also enjoy that they are done in a really friendly group setting. One of my major concerns in going was that the clases would be filled with the type of dudebros who like to gather around the weight-lifting corner at the gym (you know the guys), but CrossFit devotees are really, really nice. Sure, there are a few meatheads in the mix, but for the most part, everyone is super cool, laid back, and really happy to help you out and cheer you on when you succeed. The classes have also been a good mix of men, women, and all sorts of body types. I like that the focus is not on skinny, but on strength and general bad-assery.

The Diet

Okay, I have to stop and talk about the food thing. I would give CrossFit an A+ stamp of approval if it didn’t come with a diet. It’s called paleo, and is all about eating what a caveman would eat, which is basically meat and vegetables. Paleo devotees avoid grains, legumes, dairy, salt and sugar. The justification for this diet is that humans haven’t evolved much since our caveman days and we’d be much healthier if we ate like them. Sigh.

My main issues are that: a) It’s got a faddish name attached to it, which makes me suspect it eschews sensible eating in general for devotion to the latest and greatest. b) It doesn’t account for change in lifestyle. Of course our ancestors were leaner and meaner – the weren’t sitting at desks for 8 hours. Correlation does not equal causation. c) I also think the whole thing is anthropologically suspect. Basically, evidence of people eating animals sticks around better than evidence for people eating grains and plants. Stone tools for hewing meat off bone last longer as do the animal bones left from meals. Plants and grains tend to disintegrate. What’s more, the archeological record is pretty vocal on the fact that populations increased and stabilized once people figured out how to cultivate grains, which means they can’t be all that bad for us. If we were still hunting and gathering meat and vegetables, I doubt we’d be so successful as a species. So the conclusion that ancient humans ate more meat and that we’d be healthier if we ate more of it is scientifically suspect. (My apologies to friend and boyfriend, who I know both believe the paleo diet is a great way to eat. I have opinions!) Also, they’ll pull my cheese and bread out of my cold, dead hands.

Conclusions

I love how much stronger CrossFit is making me and I’m looking foroward to my next backpacking trip, when I will wake up after miles of hiking with serious poundage on my back with hardly a twinge in any muscle.

Will I continue after the three months I committed to? I don’t know, mostly due to the cost. $150/month is tough for any budget but Mitt Romney’s.

Have any of you tried CrossFit?

Published by

[E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

12 thoughts on “We Try It: CrossFit”

  1. I’ve heard good things about CrossFit but the expense would really put me off, given that I pay €30 for six boxfit classes and about €10 per yoga class… I do like the emphasis on strength, though.

    Also you’re not alone in thinking that diet’s dodgy: if we haven’t changed since ‘hunter-gatherer’ diets (or someone’s idea of them) how do they explain lactase persistence? I’d also have ethical/environmental issues with eating that much meat.

      1. It is indeed – AFAIK there are two entirely separate genetic mutations that lead to lactase persistence, one originating in East Africa, and one in Europe (within the last 10,000 years), both associated with the domestication of cattle.

  2. I’ve not done it, in part because people I know who do it tend to be obnoxious about it/paleo eating. My concern besides cost is safety–it sounds like your gym made you take some classes to check your form, which is good. My boyfriend is a personal trainer and he’s certified in olympic-style weight lifting, and his assessment of the Crossfit he’s seen is that it’s really setting people up for injury. Obviously your specific gym and trainers will make that more or less the case, and if you were given specific form instruction you’re probably set, but in general those lifts (clean and jerk, snatch) are not meant to be done for a lot of reps and require really meticulous attention to form. So I stick with the regular classes at my gym and jogging and other boring stuff. Oh well.

    Maybe if he/I saw a Crossfit gym that seemed safe and had good oversight it’d be different.

    (Though I guess if I wanted a new routine I could have my boyfriend make one up for me, ha. I hadn’t really thought of that.)

    1. The owner/trainer of the gym I went to was really careful about form for the Olympic lifts. We’d do a good 15 minutes of form work before any lifting activity with little or no weight, then moderate weight. Even on lifts we were versed on. And we had open gym days where people could come in to just work on skills and lifting form. I’ve never noticed that the heavy lifting was in high reps. Sometimes it would be a moderate weight dead lift (<100#) in conjunction with other exercises, though.

    2. I agree with this. The Crossfit gyms I’ve seen of/ heard tend to pay little attention to form or safety. I know this is a problem at many gyms, but it does seem to be worse at Crossfit gyms. And I’d have a big problem with paying $150+/month for a gym that passively encourages exercising with a high risk of injury.

      Someone did make a series of compilations on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnnOWfj2TW4

      I also agree with the criticisms of the Paleo diet. Some Paleo people act like you’re immoral if you eat grains/dairy, claim that those foods make people sick, ignore evidence contrary to their diet religion, and are often illogical about their dietary choices.

  3. I did it for 3 months (I had a semester gym pass for $70) and it was okay. I gained 10lbs of muscle and my clothes didn’t fit anymore, but I am not one of those people that gets a high off of that sort of workout. It comes down to preference, and I like to be outside hiking or skiing instead. You can forget about that damn diet, too, I was just trying to finish my degree.

  4. I did crossfit for about 6 months and really really enjoyed it, for many of the reasons you stated. I was stronger than I’ve ever been. I ended up letting my membership lapse bc it was really expensive ($100/month with a yer commitment), it was 30 miles away, and when I started working full time, my schedule only allowed me to go to a couple classes a week, which made it really not worth the money it was costing me. I have included the exercises I learned into my regular workouts, though. I also liked the team aspect of it, but that you were only competing against your last best time/weight/etc.

    The Paleo thing wore on me big time. I’m suspect of any diet that makes you sick the first two weeks your on it. (anecdotal evidence from the gym’s fb page when they would do 30-day strict Paleo challenges)

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