CrossFit is a wonderful thing. It has brought a love of fitness to the general public as never seen before. Just a few years ago running and aerobics were considered fitness in and of themselves. Now we are finding there are countless ways to achieve fitness. The credit goes to CrossFit for creating the awareness around weightlifting, adult gymnastics, strongman and other lesser known fitness and sporting activities that can be great additions to a well-rounded exercise regimen.
With this inherited awareness of new fitness modalities comes a great responsibility to the coaches who are as excited as the athletes about these new and engaging elements in our programs. It is important for us to remember that while CrossFit is new and exciting, the strength and conditioning methods employed for the training are not. Mixing together haphazard circuits in the name of intensity is a one way path to injury and stagnation.
In order to increase fitness across this broad spectrum that CrossFit has defined for us, we must be practical and take into consideration certain truths of training that can at times be bent, but may never be broken. One such truth is that a structure will only ever be as stable as it’s base.
Driving people into a high-intensity randomized program without the prerequisite strength and mobility to properly support these activities doesn’t build anything. It works for 3-6 months because beginners make progress no matter what they do. Plus, as beginners, most individuals are too weak and deconditioned to hurt themselves or push too hard even in the face of aggressive programming.
The traditional CrossFit “WOD” is a test of fitness. Popular workouts like “Fran” and “Diane” are beautiful and ground-breaking tests of fitness. They challenge the body’s energy systems and coordination in ways that have never been formally challenged before. The interesting thing about these tests is that while they require basic skills to be able to perform them, paired together they are devastating, but without the required skill and strength they are simply unachievable. And when scaled, completely lose the intended intensity of the original workout.
Here’s the point of all this. If you can only deadlift 200 lbs and can’t do a handstand pushup, doing “Diane” over and over again with a 95# deadlift and scaling handstand pushups with your feet on a box will never get you to the prescribed weights and movement standards. Never. It will however lead to repetitive use injuries and poor form in the attempt to get more out of your limited bank of strength and skill in order to scribble your name a little higher towards the top of a whiteboard.
If you want to be remain borderline injured and have trouble tying your own shoes in the morning and picking up your child when you get home at night, have at it. It is super fun and challenging. There is nothing like the feeling of going hard and surviving a workout that seemed impossible before starting and made you think you could seriously die during it. It is addicting and has contributed to the large amount of type A personalities that flock to boxes worldwide to get their fix and burn off the stress of the day.
If you’re like me and find these workouts fantastic, but hate being hurt, and at the same time want to improve in all facets of fitness, there is a better way. We can train. It isn’t always sexy and at times can get a bit repetitive. It requires assessments and tests and formulation of a structured plan to eliminate imbalances, cultivate strengths, and develop skills. Sometimes you may even take a rest day.
We must check our egos, we must maintain consistent schedules, we must trust our coaches plans and stick with them through from beginning to end. This is how improvements are made, both in fitness and all other walks of life as well.