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Why CrossFit? Why not?

Roz Griffiths

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I have decided NOT for myself right now... I did a FREE trial class/assessment at my local crossfit gym. I was in pain for the next 3 days, so bad on the second day I could barely change my shirt. I trusted the coach, who worked with me one on one, and he pushed me harder than was right for me right now. Granted he doesn't know me, but I didn't know the exercises, so I didn't realize how much I was over extending myself at the time. I need some serious improvements in my strenght, but have decided I need to start smaller and slower than crossfit allows.

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I am not your target audience, as I have never participated in CrossFit. I have spent much of my time in the weightroom, however, and hear from coaches that Crossfit is ripe for setting yourself up for injury. You work hard, you lift heavy, and you do it all fast and pretty much to exhaustion.


Of course, injuries can come from anywhere, and you shouldn't let that fear limit your life....Just, personally, since I am already accident prone, I prefer a slightly more forgiving routine. ;)

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I can only speak for myself and the only box I know, but here's my short list:


Pro: It's regimented but there's variety built in, so it's never boring.

        There's a great sense of community and the support that goes with it.

        It's FUN. It's like play. That may be my favorite thing.


Con: Even though technically you're only competing against youself, sometimes it's easy to forget that and think you should be able to do what *they* can.

         Hypermobile joints = injury. Hard to avoid without slowing everything down so much you're not actually doing CF any more.

         If you're trying to heal yourself, as I am, it's just too intense. My adrenals can't take it right now.



I really do love Crossfit... from afar. I've seen it transform peoples' lives. I do recommend it to clients who don't have the issues I do. But for some folks, it's downright dangerous, and I think that gets downplayed a lot. But if cost and distance are your only cons, it might be the perfect thing for you!

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I did CrossFit 3 times per week from about age 50 to 53. The community is great and learning to to do new exercises is fun and challenging in a good way. Once I got used to it, I liked working out on a timer, competing to get everything in as fast as possible. CF is easily the most fun and hardest work I've ever done in the gym or outside the gym for that matter.


On the other hand, I injured myself repeatedly while under the supervision of competent coaches. The first injury I remember was from doing 100 pullups, 100 pushups, 100 squats, and 100 situps as a workout. I did 100 real, dead-hang pull ups. I did most of them one at a time because that was the best I could do. After that, my arms and shoulders were in so much pain, I could not do pull-ups again for about 2 months. Maybe a coach should have stopped me. Maybe not. I completed the 100 just fine. The problem was what came later.


At least twice I injured my shoulder doing Olympic lifts and required physical therapy to reduce pain and regain range of motion. A coach pushed me into the second injury. She thought I should add weight during shoulder presses, that I was wimping out and going too light. The truth is, for someone as big and fit looking as me, I did seem to be going too light. I added weight and successfully pushed more weight over head that day. Great. But my shoulder pain returned and I had to go back to physical therapy. The therapist told me that I should go up at a much slower rate than coaches think. 


The thing that finally led to my stopping CrossFit was not the injuries, however. It was my understanding of customizing workouts and the concept of periodicity. CF is kind of random. You do the workout of the day. It may be fun because it is different every day, but the workout is not planned for you, it is planned for everybody and nobody. As play, CF workouts are fine, but if you want to make serious progress in terms of strength, muscle growth, or specific skills, you need a focused plan to get there. The shotgun approach of CrossFit is a general fitness approach that is incapable of developing specific fitness. And actually, CF was hard on general fitness for me because the workout of the day too frequently caused overwork in some areas and underwork in others. 


I dropped out of my CF gym and hired a kettlebell coach to come to my house and teach me serious hardstyle kettlebell technique. I added a pull-up bar to my garage and a Rogue box for box jumps and step-ups like at CrossFit. And yeah, a bunch of kettlebells. I have injured myself twice over the past two years, so I can't say CF is the only reason I ever get hurt. Once was from doing too many reps with a new, higher weight too soon. The second, more serious injury might not have been my fault. I came back to training after 30 days of recovery from hernia surgery. I came back eagerly and my old shoulder problem bit me. Rest would not fix it and I had to go back to PT to get stretched and taught how to stretch for the problem. 


I miss my old CF friends. I was going back to the gym during free time to do deadlifts and backsquats because I do not have barbells at home. Of course, my hernia developed when I was deadlifting two days per week...

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I started CrossFit about six weeks ago and am loving it.


I've been taking it slow, due to travel and work commitments and also due to listening to my 55yo body.  


Up through some five or six years ago, I was in very good shape and active in triathlon training and racing. Then a number of life events hit me all at once.  My faith got me through, but it took a toll on my health.  I gained a significant amount of weight in the process, as I needed to stop training.  


In looking to get back on track I took a look at data regarding endurance training vs high intensity interval training (HIIT).  To my mind that's what's at the heart of CrossFit, although I'm no expert.  I tried getting back to endurance training, but it just wasn't coming. Also tried doing HIIT on my own, but it is very hard for me to self motivate and work at those high heart rate levels for a sustained period.  So I decided to give CrossFit a try.


So far I'm always the oldest at the workout by some twenty to thirty years. Doesn't matter. Everyone from coaches to other members have been welcoming and encouraging.  Elke, one of my coaches, gives Whole9 seminars. So within the community there's an awareness of the relationship between health, exercise, and food. As a bonus, I also win my age group for the day since I seem to be the only one in it. So that's something. ;)


As far as injuries go, I just don't have enough experience to say one way or the other.  I had read a lot about CrossFit before I started and know that this is one of the major cons that comes up.  For myself, I have nothing to prove to anyone about anything at this point in life, so if I'm feeling like something might be too stressful for me in any way I just back off.  The coach who got me trained in the beginning on the various routines is totally supportive of this. There's a lot of technique to learn in CrossFit.  Good technique can help prevent many injuries and I find that an enjoyable challenge.


I know you can get injured in any athletic pursuit.  I crashed my bike during triathlon training and was out of commission for some six months.  I guess it's a personal risk vs reward equation.


I agree with Tom that if you have a specific strength or endurance goal in mind, CrossFit may not be the best way to get there.  If you want a great overall workout in the midst of supportive community, it's worth a try.


Good luck with whatever you decide!

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as someone who was never really "in shape" ...when i started going to my gym (had been crossfit certified but had decided to not stay affiliated, but we did practically the same kinds of workouts as the crossfit down the street) it was HARD.  and at first i was SO SORE. but i kept going.  it was the first time i stuck with a gym for more than a few months.  thats also where i a attended a whole9 seminar back in 2010, i think. i was in the gym every. day. (six days a week) because i loved it.  it was fun and i was getting in SHAPE.  i could run, lift, carry, push, haul, crawl, throw - you name it.  


i never would have stopped going, but i got pregnant, got a second job, blah blah blah all those typical excuses and now im finally trying to get back to my body before baby, and then some, im back on a 30 and looking for a way to pick it back up again.


i agree with the above though, there is a high potential for injury.  i am very competitive and worked out mostly with my husband and my best (guy) friend and always wanted to kick their butts, which sometimes left me with something pulled or strained.  so if you push too hard when you're not ready, you will get hurt.  also, you have to listen to your body, and communicate to your trainer what its saying.  theres a difference between "good pain" (pushing yourself to do things you think you can't) and bad pain (pushing yourself when something is wrong)


good luck making the choice!  i dont think its about it being a CrossFit that's important, just hat you find ways to move your body that you enjoy! 

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I just turned 51.... I've been involved with all kinds of competitive sports all my life and I've had my share of injuries...

All,I can say is that the past few months of crossfit have led me to be in the best shape of my life..

You can get injured getting out of bed the wrong way.... If coaches are pushing to hard then find another box....

Some affiliates are great,some good,some awful ....they are not created equal, you need to do your research and choose wisely

Our programming is very very specific, it may not seem obvious, but once you ask the coaches/programmer you get it. My affiliate programs around competition season and periodises skill,strength ,endurance,recovery

I say give it 4-6 months, take it easy and concentrate on form...the lbs,and times will come!

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Great question and responses! I've been doing CF for a little over a year. I'm 42 and came to CF from 18 years of boxing and 10 years of pretty intense (although not fast!) running. First time I tried CF was with a coupon-took a week of essentials classes and came home to tell my husband that it wasn't for me and that for those who don't understand their bodies, I thought it would be dangerous. Fast forward a year and I tried it again and loved it, been going ever since.

Pros: Sense of community/wonderful people. It tends to be on the 'young' side at my box in the evening sessions but us old fogeys tend to fill the 6am classes! A 'con' might be the younger nature of a box, if applicable. I don't always love that and was happy to find our box has an older group in the a.m. Other pros: a good head coach can do wonders and unlike some have posted, our programming isn't random at all. Its designed to mix a steady progression of progressively heavier lifting with intense cardio bursts. I can actual see and chart myself getting stronger, which is awesome and motivating.

Cons: Coming from a cardio heavy background, I don't think CF burns fat or makes you lean--which I know is EXACTLY the opposite of what it claims and what most people experience! It might just be me. I'm not in amazing shape compared to others at my gym, but I can run circles around them and for, strong cardio is important to my sense of fitness and well-being. (That being said, I doont/cant lift all that heavy so maybe my cardio is overrated!) Another con is that as you learn and settle into Crossfit, you can sometimes leave your workout wondering if you really worked out at all! (For example, if the workout is all clean and press, annd you haven't mastered that yet, your workout is basically practicing that move. It's helpful and enjoyable but maybe not the workout you had wanted) I think to really get the most out of cf, you need to devote extra time to working on/practicing the movements outside the gym (our box has open gym time to do that w the support of a coach. Unfortunately my schedule doesn't allow for that so...

I guess I find I go through phases where I love cf and think it's the best for me, and other phases like the one I'm in now where an intense kettlebell/tabata class as my local gym 3 times/week plus running seems best. If you do go for it,n give it 3 months before you decide!

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Ha, I'm a mid-range fogey too, just turned 40 :) I think one of the attractions is that there's a daytime wod & open gym sessions, so i can go when my kids are at school. Most other class-type sessions are in evenings & my OH gets sulky if i abandon him too often! :lol:

But I'm hearing the injury thing... I did a "power set" workout at bootcamp on Friday (20 thrusters, snatches, clean & press, clean & jerk, squats, bicep curls - then 15 of each, then 10, then 5, with a 20kg bar, in about 35 min) & today i feel awful!! I don't mind my arms hurting, not so keen on the neck & back pain though :blink: & i wonder if doing this kind of thing more often is actually a good idea! Though when i first took up running i used to hurt for a week after waddling under a mile :lol: & after 3 years i ran a 40 mile ultra & barely winced...

I'm loving reading all these different responses & experiences!

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I did a beginner crossfit class and loved it, but then I got sick and had to stop for about 5 weeks, then school started up again and I was basically working 8-10 hours a day (at clinicals) plus going to school, so I just didn't have time. 


The crossfit box I went to was very good about pushing you, but not too far. They were always willing to scale back workouts to fit them to the person. I am terrible at running, so I did 500 meters on the rowing machine instead of running 400 meters. It was still work, still got my heart rate up, still got me breathing and sweating, but I didn't feel like I was going to die like I would have if I'd run. They let you know it was ok to pause for a bit and catch your breath, especially for new people who were pretty out of shape, like me. 


I was always sore the next day, and usually the day after that too, but I never felt like I was going to injure myself. Then again, I'm pretty good at knowing my limits and tend to err on the side of caution. 


One thing that crossfit is great for is motivation. When I try to work out at home, I can always rationalize reasons not to, I don't push myself as hard as I could, I take too many breaks to rest, etc. At crossfit, the coaches are always yelling at you to keep moving, get in one more round, keep pushing. You have loud music which really helps me personally, and you have other people around you who are pushing just as hard and you want to keep pace with them. Even though all of us are at different fitness levels, and nobody is competing directly with others, it still feels like a team effort and you want to do as much as possible to be better each week.


Once I get a checkup after I get health insurance, I plan to go back to crossfit. I want to make sure my heart is healthy enough for it, as I've been having heart palpitations and anxiety-related chest pain ever since the illness that made me stop in the first place. 

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This is the email I sent in Feb to a CrossFit box near my house:

Good morning!

I'm wondering how much it is for the private training - let me give you a little bit of background

I'm 52, over weight (30-50 pounds depending on who you ask), grossly out of shape and have Rheumatoid Arthritis, I'm also completely and utterly intimidated by gyms.  

All that said, I've decided it's time to do something about my health and your gym came up on a search in Yahoo.

I saw on your webpage the mention of OnRamp but couldn't locate information on what it is or how it works, that may be what I am looking for depending on what it is.

Your gym is very close to my house and I see on your schedule that things start early in the morning, this could work very well for me as I often work from home and my day starts early.

I look forward to hearing from  you, either via email or phone, did I mention I'm intimidated by gyms and grossly out of shape?

**End Email**


I told myself when I started one-on-one training the next week that I would give it 2 months and then decide.


Tomorrow is "Angie" which is the 100 Pull-ups, 100 Push-ups, 100 Sit-ups and 100 Squats as mentioned above.

Since I'm still not one of the fittest people on the face of the earth - my guess is the coach will have me doing them in 25 rep increments instead of 100 and the gym has an 18 minute cap.


Coaching is key but so is the person stepping in.  In the now 7 months that I have been going I've had one "tweaked" muscle that led me to taking a few days off - and I haven't felt great this last week (I'm Day 7) so I was "light" on the times I went.


Cross-Fit is my 'fit' when it comes to exercise and at a good gym the workouts are done with thought - yes not for each person but in general to work the muscle groups as they should be. 


My profile picture is after "Kalsu" back in June - which was also scaled/modified for my level.

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I've never done it and never would. I can see how the 'community' aspect is good for some people, but I think the idea of forcing people to their maximum capacity without proper training is, as the feedback suggests, a good method of incurring injury. Read Tom Denham's post again. Nobody should ever just start off attempting to reach 100 reps of anything, you have to build up to it over time. Not only muscular strength takes time to be built, but joint and ligament strength as well. CF disregards this and expects performance from the get-go.

You can build yourself a far more effective training program, in line with YOUR goals, instead of the vague "jack of all trades, master of none" approach CF bandies about as so wonderful.

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I just wanted to report back after "Meeting Angie" this morning.


I was wrong - the coach had me doing them in reps of 10!  There were 5 of us there this morning and only 1 gentleman went "Rx" and did it in reps of 100.  He has been doing CrossFit for quite some time and is co-owner of the box. 

So for the rest of us that aren't quite that fit or even less fit :) it was broken down as would benefit our workout with out injuring us.

Some went in reps of 10 and some in reps of 25.


As I was stretching after class a gentleman came in that works out in the class after mine, he is morbidly obese and surprisingly strong.  I heard the coach telling him that his Angie will be 50s instead of 100s, sets of 5, wall push-ups and at that point I had to get home so I didn't hear the rest.  It was obvious that his Angie WOD will be greatly scaled and modified to fit what he can do now.


There are HORRID boxes out there and then there are boxes like mine.   


Oh by the way – 336 total for me today in the 18 minutes.

Modified for me (Can't do pull-ups yet, on knees for push-ups)

:)  I kicked some Angie Butt today!!

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Has anyone tried Orange Theory Fitness?  There aren't tons of locations all over, but Florida does have quite a few.  It's an awesome workout, not sure how it compares to CrossFit, but it's definitely worth trying out.  If you look on Facebook, you can redeem an offer for a free week. 

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i. love. crossfit. 

i started lifting on my own like 6 months ago and just wasn't hitting the intensity i was looking for. i was certainly making progress on my own but i need something a little more structured...so i e-mailed about a trial run. did that, and was IMMEDIATELY HOOKED. i signed up on the spot.

cons: like everyone has said, cost is high. but worth it for the coaching you get, especially if you go 5-6x a week like i do. potential for injury is high, but you have to kind of know yourself and work on your form FIRST. a good coach will help you with that, but their job is also to push you so sometimes injuries will occur (like i smashed my shin on box jumps today because the coach had me go a little too high). and sometimes this stuff hurts. you're gonna be sore, every day. you're going to want to cry sometimes because what you're doing is so hard. but i actually view that as a pro. you just DO IT, and then you feel amazing.

pros: community, intensity, and it makes you really fit REALLY fast. i tell people that crossfit didn't save my life, it taught me how to save my own life. i'm a recovering alcoholic with a long term eating disorder, and crossfit filled the void in my life and really gives me something to feel good about. both issues are in remission and i have cf (and myself) to thank. it makes you strong mentally, physically and emotionally. you BLAST through walls in cf. it is a life changer. 

you owe it to yourself to be the best you can be!

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Has anyone tried Orange Theory Fitness? There aren't tons of locations all over, but Florida does have quite a few. It's an awesome workout, not sure how it compares to CrossFit, but it's definitely worth trying out. If you look on Facebook, you can redeem an offer for a free week.

Looks interesting, but I'm in England so it'd be a hell of a way to travel ;)

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Side note : when I say injuries, I don't mean the DOMS ache/sore of working out that passes in a few days or a bruise on your shin. I mean subluxated shoulders, torn ligaments in your knees/other joints, etc. Lingering injuries that come on as a result of imperfect form or just one slip and will compromise your ability to perform other unrelated exercises for a long time down the road. :(


Which, again is not guranteed to happen to you via CrossFit. Just....please be careful. I sustained one of these injuries, and it is incredibly frustrating and limiting. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

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I've never done it and never would. I can see how the 'community' aspect is good for some people, but I think the idea of forcing people to their maximum capacity without proper training is, as the feedback suggests, a good method of incurring injury. Read Tom Denham's post again. Nobody should ever just start off attempting to reach 100 reps of anything, you have to build up to it over time. Not only muscular strength takes time to be built, but joint and ligament strength as well. CF disregards this and expects performance from the get-go.

You can build yourself a far more effective training program, in line with YOUR goals, instead of the vague "jack of all trades, master of none" approach CF bandies about as so wonderful.

Here we go...

Yes there are bad crossfit affiliates

There are bad football coaches who run their kids til they die

There are bad gymnastic coaches who push there kids til they wind up paralyzed

Bad trainers,bad karate instructors,bad gym owners, bad weekend warriors,bad golf pros......

Most of all there are stupid people who don't know where their limits are and don't listen to the coaches.

To the OP... if you would read the Crossfit manifesto, you would see that form, function,and intensity come first and foremost. Meaning you should do squats/thrusters/snatchs/etc with just a one pound PVC pipe with proper form until you improve and gently scale your weights.... I've never seen a coach encourage anyone to lift more than they can comfortably lift.

Why do you think there are mandatory " on-ramp" classes??? Why do most affiliates have " beginners " classes???

As far as joints and tendons go... Crossfit on the whole, puts a lot of emphasis on mobility work... I've never seen so much detail paid to the way a warm up is structured.

Yes the Rx is tough... We do a Rx challenge that is even tougher ( for people who actively compete).... But we also encourage everyone to scale their workouts .... And most do

I sure there are bad apples.... There are exceptions.... But to make a blanket statement like you did above is utter nonsense!! Have you ever even been to an affiliate?

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Crossfit changed my life...inside and out. Ironically enough, Crossfit introduced me to Whole30/Paleo, and as a result of doing both, I experienced an amazing transformation (I went from a size 8-10 to a size 4), not to mention the health benefits (less sickness, no more borderline hypertension). By the first year my body changed dramatically...I lost many inches and began developing muscle tone.  I continued at my box for two more years, and made great progress. I've never looked (or been) more fit in my life. Crossfit also introduced me to running (to love running that is), and I've thoroughly enjoyed participating in many races since (5K & 10K races). I will agree that there are bad coaches out there; one must be selective. I did experience 2 injuries in 3 years...a shoulder strain from bad form on snatches, and most recently a sacrum strain from over-doing it on deadlifts. Both were minor and required minimal treatment (3 days Airrosti for the shoulder & 2 chiropractic adjustments for the sacrum). I did lay off Crossfit after the sacrum injury because I was scared to hurt myself further. The support you get from other Crossfitters and a great coach is unmatched. The amazing feeling of accomplishment from finishing a difficult WOD or seeing yourself make improvements and grow stronger is so awesome! I never enjoyed working out so much until I started Crossfit...It's like an addiction that your body craves, and you just can't wait to go back, even if you're sore (which you always will be).... It hurts so good! :)


I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to do it...to just try it at least a month, and you will know if it is for you.

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I'm addicted! We wanted to start last year but were an hour from the nearest box. Then I got pregnant so that stalled it. I started Crossfit at 3 weeks post baby. I have been going for about 3 months consistently. I started out going 3xs a week and now go 5. I was in agony, complete misery after my first WOD. It lasted a good 5 days! But my body was not used to any form of exercise.

I listen to my body and do NOT over do myself. I will push myself to work harder but I spend jut as much energy on making sure I use proper form, not too heavy weight, etc.

I am very picky to roll out before and after & make sure I target each muscle that was used. Thanks to my amazing coach for teaching me the importance of this! We are combined with a physical therapy center so I think they are very aware of preventing injuries.

About injuries..... I, personally, have lived without crossfit and am now experiencing life with crossfit. I will take my chances on an injury. Pre CF, my back always hurt. I was so weak so lifting anything heavy or moving furniture had my body aching for days. So I will continue to CF with the knowledge that an injury can and probably will eventually happen. But I'm not going to let the possibility of that keep me from going. Instead, I'll be smart & stay alert at all times so I can try to prevent an injury. But if it happens it happens!

Soreness, just last week I have discovered that you are LESS sore the more you go! Or I am anyway! Lol I guess because I am going everyday so I am rolling out, stretching, etc

Modifications.... I'm a sissy. Plain & simple. I use the empty bar for most weighted WODs or the PVC. I am not afraid to back off if I need to. I'm not there to compete against the rest. I'm there to get my body in the best functional fit shape it can be in. I like seeing the time on the board not necessarily as "competition" but more of how I should make my goals. I love making my goals then blowing them out of water (like happened today).

That's my feelings about it... I know everybody has different opinions. I can't list pros/cons because right now I am in love with what it is doing to my body. Inside & out. I'm getting more confident, stronger, faster, & leaner every day.

If I had to give you 1 piece of advice..... It would be to join! Just for 1 month. Go 3-5xs a week. Then after that month, make your decision. It's hard to take what everybody else has to say & a 1 time experience to make a lasting judgment. :-)

Good luck with your decision!!

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I have been Crossfitting just over a year and I love it. It's very hard, and yes, I've gotten injured, but usually when I've let my ego outstrip my common sense. Every three months or so, I take an intentional rest week off. 


I'm also 51 years old and I have a bad sacral joint. I have to scale, and I am extremely lucky to have a coach who is very experienced and who encourages athletes like me with the same enthusiasm and care as he does our athletes who are eying the Games next year. 


I love the community. I have made some great friends. We talk to each other between WODs about all kinds of things. We go to other events as a community - runs, obstacle course runs - and we have a blast. 


Not every WOD is 100 reps of the same movement. Hero and Girl WODs are intended to be the most intense and in many cases they're pretty rare. At my box, we probably do a Hero WOD or a Girl WOD like Angie once every two weeks. We did the Hero WOD on 9/11, but my coach made it a team WOD. The rest of the time, we are doing a range of WODs and movements. This week we've done:


Monday - 21-15-9 Front squats and toes to bar (for me this is done lying on the floor since I only have knees to elbows) - this is about a 5 minute WOD

Wednesday - 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 wall balls, deadlifts and box jumps (all but a few of us did step ups) - had an 18 minute cap

Thursday - 2000 meter row


As you can see, my coach varies the moves and the time. Sometimes we're heavy lifting (usually not in a WOD though) and sometimes we're doing straight cardio. Last Friday the WOD was a 2 mile run for time. 


You need a coach who will take the time to get to know you and your limitations and who will push you just enough but not allow you to get injured. And you need to be smart and know and respect your limitations. Crossfit is a marathon, not a sprint, at least not for us ordinary athletes. And you have to take care of your body - you have to stretch before and after and pay attention to your mobility.


As I said, I have a bad back. I schedule my rest weeks very deliberately, because you have to. I need recovery as much as I need exercise. But I can tell you - I feel better moving than not.


And despite myself, I've gotten STRONGER. I'll never outlift most of the athletes in my box, but I have doubled most of my weights. When I first started Crossfit, I could barely run 200 meters. Now I run 5Ks on a regular basis, and I love it. I've never stuck with any exercise program for a year - but I'm totally hooked on it from every aspect.


It's not for everyone, I know. The right environment and the right coach are absolutely critical - and if you have those, you will have a blast!

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