Rethinking fitness with Crossfit by Ashley Jarvis
Crossfit is here to stay. There are now over 300 official Crossfit affiliates in the UK and at least half of these have opened in the last 12 months. So why the explosive growth? Could Crossfit be redefining how we think about fitness?
Crossfit’s greatest asset
Crossfit looks like another health and fitness program with a strong brand, corporate sponsorship and a loyal following but inside Crossfit affiliates something more significant is occurring. Bored with the drab clichés of working out to ‘get in shape’ or ‘lose some weight’ people are finding that Crossfit offers them much more. Crossfit encourages people to think about fitness, not getting in shape!
Before stepping through the doors they had no idea what weight they could deadlift, no concern with how to squat properly and little interest in doing a pull up let alone knowing what a muscle up is. But after completing their fundamentals course and starting to attend class they've discovered fitness, in all its measures, matters to them. They are looking at fitness in a new light.
Crossfit is offering a fitness and wellness program and has defined fitness in a way which is meaningful to everybody. Most people do not need the extreme endurance of a marathon runner, the extreme strength of a power lifter, or the body control and skills of an elite gymnast. Crossfit's programming is intentionally varied to give a broad and general fitness which matters to most people. Many activities and physical challenges in life punish the specialist and reward those with a depth of skills and abilities. At the heart of the programming is a focus on performing exercises which contain movements people actually do, preparing the athletes for life.
Form follows function
Crossfit-ers from the elite down to the beginner measure their fitness, record their workouts and suffer to become better. From sunrise to sunset, all around the world, Crossfit classes are training individuals to do things, to achieve goals based around moving their body; getting that first pull up, performing a bodyweight squat or striving to complete the workouts as prescribed (Rx'd in Crossfit speak). They train like athletes and become more interested in doing things than how they look. Mirrors are noticeably absent from many Crossfit gyms and the pursuit of excellence in ability out weights pursuing an aesthetic defined by popular media.
At Crossfit form follows function; the way a Crossfit-er looks follows from what they can do. And what they can do defines how they view themselves. No longer do they allow their reflection in the mirror to define their self-esteem. Instead the focus is on fitness which is measured in reps, speed, power and virtuosity of movement. And fitness for them is about making life better and the ultimate reward is the expression of that fitness in daily life.
Drawn to the community
Any discussion about Crossfit would not be complete without a head nod to the Crossfit community. From the outside it’s viewed with caution since it looks very cult like, however it’s not exclusive or closed and most facilities will welcome you and absorb you into their community. Is this too redefining how people work out?
No more working out alone surrounded by people occupying the same space, doing similar things devoid of conversation or interaction. Crossfit classes are group sessions where everyone is observing your performance and encouraging you to become better. The power in this perhaps lies in promoting exercise adherence, a collective of workout partners and
most notably working out can be a social experience. This social interaction is something people crave and need more of in the digital age.
And you don’t have to attend an official Crossfit affiliate to be welcomed into the Crossfit community since at its roots is its internet presence. Crossfits creators have published a workout each day since early 2001 and are essentially giving away free programming for any athlete to follow.
Has Crossfit redefined fitness?
Crossfitters tend to care less about the peak of their bicep, a six pack abs and body fat percentages. These things are a consequence of their training not the exclusive aim. Fitness to the Crossfiter means doing things and doing them well. Fitness is a measure ultimately of what they do not how they look. They can be prepared for daily life, ready to chase their children and worry less about decline in their capacity as they age. They also have a stage to compete and somewhere to escape. Training in this way is perhaps an expression of unlimited potential, both in fitness and life.
by Ashley Jarvis