While doing her warm-up, Sadee Hansen examines the posted workout and knows she is about to endure something grueling. She begins the scheduled routine, putting her body through extreme exercises to improve her score, hoping to earn a spot on the prized leader board. Hansen is one of thousands of CrossFit athletes who are combining high intensity functional exercises into a varied program that enhances strength and endurance in a competitive format.
“CrossFit gives working out a purpose since you get to compete against other people,” said Hansen, a senior nursing student at BYU. “You also always have someone to work out with and so it keeps you going.”
Athletes thrive on competition and work to be in peak physical condition. Combining jumping, climbing, weight-lifting, sprinting and other exercises into a condensed period of time has resulted in a workout on steroids. CrossFit, the sport of fitness, is a program where a workout is posted daily and athletes are timed as they complete a series of functional exercises. After your score is calculated, the athletes with the best scores are added to the leader board which motivates competition. Those who are in the top spots within their CrossFit facility qualify for local, regional and national competitions where athletes compete against one another by completing a CrossFit routine.
“[CrossFit] is all based on intensity within a safe parameter,” said Justin Dickson, a trainer and manager at Salt Lake City CrossFit. “As long as you can move mechanically sound, the intensity of CrossFit provides a better workout.”
Just seven years ago, there were only 13 CrossFit boxes, or gyms, in the United States. Today, there are more than 3,400 gyms specializing in the sport and those numbers continue to rise. What started out as a new way to work out has escalated into a popular sport from military personnel to police officers to professional athletes. This workout regime has literally turned fitness into a sport with thousands of people participating and competing in various competitions across the country. Many people find that CrossFit is the best exercise solution and are canceling their gym memberships to buy passes to CrossFit boxes.
“Regular gyms just provide a facility, they do not encourage you to keep coming,” said Dickson. “The philosophy that we have is that we coach everybody. Everyone that comes in we put through the introductory program so they can learn the correct fundamentals. You come in and receive the coaching to get better, which separates us from regular gyms and keeps people coming.”
Capturing the nation
The first group of CrossFit athletes, led by creator Gregg Glassman, began performing various weightlifting exercises in a short period of time maximizing workout efficiency. This angered traditional weightlifters and eventually caused Glassman to move to Santa Cruz, Calif., to open the first CrossFit gyms. The nature of CrossFit workouts sparked an interest in those who value physical health and resulted in a fitness crazy that has captured the attention of thousands across the country.
“It is hard to describe when you haven’t tried it,” said Brandy Wann, an owner, manager and trainer at Utah Valley CrossFit. “You get hooked in a way because you are doing things and accomplishing things with other people. CrossFit is turning your workout into a sport and that is exciting.”
The program encompasses routines that are completed based on time, repetition and weight. Due to the intensity of the workouts, CrossFit has proven not to be for the faint of heart. A study done by the Human Performance Resource Center stated “CrossFit is an extreme exercise program that is unsuitable for beginners and unfit users … individuals who select this program should start slowly, be aware of their physical limits and proceed cautiously when increasing time, repetitions and intensity.”
Another aspect of CrossFit that has captured fitness gurus’ attention is the competitions available to compete in. This new style of exercise has transformed traditional workouts into a competitive outlet. There are different levels of competition, the first being local or gym based. People work to make it on the leader board at their CrossFit box, then there are regional competitions and lastly the best of the best are invited to compete in the CrossFit games. With more than 65,000 people competing for the honor of attending the CrossFit games, the sport has become quite competitive.
“The nice part about CrossFit is that you can treat it like a marathon,” Wann said. “You can just participate to see if you can do it or you can take it seriously and try to win the different competitions.”
The popularity is also a product of the results. A study done by Discovery Health found that CrossFit “is a well-rounded and very efficient way to achieve a higher level of fitness opposed to self-determined workout programs.”
There are always risks associated with intense physical activity, but no formal scientific or medical study has been done on CrossFit injury correlation. Trifuel, a triathlon website, made conclusions concerning the positives and negatives of CrossFit. Their findings suggest “there are limiters in this … exercise routine that may exacerbate an injury or cause a new injury down the road.” There is a possibility of getting hurt, however CrossFit trainers have expressed the importance of safety keeping injuries to a minimum.
However, CrossFit isn’t for everyone. It has proven to be a viable exercise option for those who enjoy the camaraderie of working out with others, but for some that defeats the whole purpose of exercise.
“I like going to the gym just to feel healthy and strong,” said Phil Condie, a junior majoring in chemical engineering. “Working out is a stress reliever, I don’t go to compete with other people, I go to compete against myself.”
Changing the fitness world
That excitement can cause problems for regular gyms as customers are leaving their gyms to participate in CrossFit. Rather than doing traditional exercises, researchers are finding that other alternatives are more effective. The Personal Growth Library found that the best fitness routine to deliver superior results is CrossFit (and is followed by The Monkey Bar Gym and P90X).
“I was getting bored with basic strength training and I wanted to get into something total body versus just strength,” said Andrew Brothers, a CrossFit athlete and exercise science major at BYU. “The best way to get that total body workout is to go to a CrossFit box because it is set up with the right equipment. You can make-do at a regular gym, but CrossFit gyms have the circuit all set up for you.”
There are options for those who want to participate in CrossFit, but cannot afford both a gym membership and a pass to a CrossFit box. Due to the rising popularity of CrossFit gyms, other gyms like 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym have adapted their set-up to encompass a variation of CrossFit routines away from the ideal CrossFit setting.
“We can set up functional training type workouts if that is what someone is looking for in their fitness goals,” said Jason Eckert, a personal trainer at a local Provo gym. “Going to a special facility to do CrossFit isn’t for everyone because everyone is at different stages when it comes to health and fitness so getting into better shape by going to a gym and working with a personal trainer first might be a better route for someone interested in starting an intense routine like CrossFit.”
Known for intensity, those looking for a competitive outlet find themselves at a CrossFit box working to get their name on the leader board. CrossFit has added a twist to everyday workouts, leaving traditional weightlifting, cardio machines and average gym workouts to those who can’t keep up.