Is CrossFit for you?

Looking for a new type of fitness challenge? Have you considered CrossFit?

These days, there’s no shortage of fads when it comes to fitness – whether it’s diets that don’t deliver, or workout routines that fall short. CrossFit is one type of workout that there’s been plenty of buzz about recently, and it doesn’t seem to be fading out anytime soon. So what exactly is it, and is it right for you and your individual fitness level and goals?

“There are a lot of misconceptions about CrossFit, so I always love the opportunity to clear things up,” Eric Fasciani, owner and trainer at CrossFit Nashua, said.

CrossFit is defined as “constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity.”

According to Fasciani, “What that means is that we are always changing our workouts so your body doesn't get used to anything, and we only use movements that are functional—movements the human body was designed for and that can create the greatest power output. And we do all of this at high intensity, or as fast as possible while maintaining good form, of course.”

Fasciani adds that all CrossFit gyms are independently owned and operated and have complete freedom to do whatever they want, within reason. This is good in general, he says, but it’s important to do your research and make sure you get involved with a legitimate CrossFit center or trainer.

Shawna Frechette of Manchester started doing CrossFit in August 2012. Although she was intimidated and frustrated at first, Frechette said it was the best decision she could have made.

“What started as a journey to lose weight and get in shape morphed into so much more,” she said. “I saw others pushing themselves to become better and it inspired me. I stopped wondering why my body wasn't perfect and started wondering how much potential it had instead. My coach and my peers have pushed me to do my best from day one, and when I started to see progress, I just wanted to keep going.”

Thomas Stepan, also of Manchester, has been doing CrossFit for the past nine months and said his attitude about it has changed drastically over time. Stepan said it has been a process of learning proper, safe and efficient movements, as well as working on flexibility.

 “It’s not just about competing against each other,” Stepan said. “Everyone works together to make each other better. It’s a very supportive environment and everyone cheers each other on.”

Christopher Forbes PT, DPT, AT, staff physical therapist at St. Joseph Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation in Nashua, cautions those considering CrossFit to take the proper steps prior to beginning training. Forbes previously helped train and keep healthy American athletes who took silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

“As a member of the health community, I support and applaud every effort to get people up and moving,” Forbes said. “It is true that the variation in a workout provides a greater challenge to the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. My concern lies with the definition of high-intensity: the amount of weight you can push over the greatest distance and functional movement.”

The types of lifts and activities involved in CrossFit are “very dynamic and highly explosive movements that can, if performed incorrectly, put an individual at significant risk for injury,” Forbes adds. For this reason, he suggests that adults who are looking to get involved in this type of exercise program should speak with a medical professional before beginning.

If you’re still concerned about whether CrossFit is right for you, don’t worry – the intensity and specifics will be modified for your individual fitness level.

CrossFit is very high intensity, Fasciani said, but the intensity level is based on the individual. Everyone has their own set of weights that may be heavier or lighter then the person next to them. Participants all do the same workout together, but workouts are adjusted based on people’s abilities.

“CrossFit is for everyone. Just make sure you go to a good CrossFit gym where they take the time to teach you proper form and techniques,” Fasciani said. “We have all walks of life at our gym.”

There are two versions of CrossFit, he adds: CrossFit for health, and CrossFit for the sport of fitness. The Nashua CrossFit location focuses on health, while another location might focus on fitness—which isn't necessarily good for your body or health, but is a great way to participate in a competitive sport. Fasciani encourages everyone to try out different CrossFit gyms not only to explore the quality of coaching, but also to see if that location matches up with your goals.

Forbes adds that CrossFit and other high-intensity exercise regimens are better suited for adults or at least high-school-age individuals with some level of skeletal maturity. 

“As a soon-to-be father, physical therapist and former child athlete, I have seen a trend in youth sports that has gone from fun seasonal activity to year-round investment mirroring semipro status,” Forbes said. “Putting a developing skeleton through this type of exercise program on top of regular sport games and practices can, in my opinion, significantly increase the possibility of serious and career-ending injuries.”

Ready to start training? You can do CrossFit at any CrossFit affiliate – check for a list of locations in your area. If they aren't listed on this website, beware, Fasciani said, as there are a lot of personal trainers who have not actually been through the CrossFit certification process.

Still undecided on CrossFit?

“It's always interesting to look back at when I started and see how far I've come,” Frechette said. “Can I lift the heaviest weight? No. Am I the fastest runner? No. But do I feel good about the progress I've made? Yes. For anyone who is thinking about trying CrossFit, I would 100 percent encourage them to do so. Mostly, for those who do start, don't be intimidated! Everyone is at a different level in CrossFit and no one will ever judge you for that.”

Julia K. Agresto is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

Categories: Mind and Body