Do CrossFit and Take Responsibility for Your Health

CrossFit continues to gain popularity at both a recreational and professional level.  I have spent a decade in the business of injury prevention and rehabilitation, treating a wide variety of bodies with various athletic capabilities. A question I am hearing more often is ‘should I consider joining CrossFit or is it just too dangerous.’

My Concern:

We are entering a health care crisis.  Our population is growing, aging, becoming more sedentary and less healthy.  We are trending towards more time at the office and less time for ourselves.  As a society, we are overworked, over stressed, and increasingly unhappy. Our health care system is already strained with long wait times and limited resources, and this will only get worse with an increasingly unhealthy population.  We can do our part in preventing a downward spiral by taking responsibility for our own health.

So what does this have to do with CrossFit? 

Exercise happens to be the single best way to maintain your health.  It is the number one treatment for fatigue, decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety, helps prevent heart disease and stroke, slows the progression of Alzheimer’s, slows the development of osteoporosis, and is the most recommended treatment for decreasing arthritis pain, just to name a few. Despite all this, it can be challenging to stay physically active in our increasingly demanding lives, with a couple of the biggest hurdles to being motivation and commitment.

This is where CrossFit comes in.  Think of those days you are so tired when your alarm goes off you decide to skip the gym and stay in bed, or you plan your workout for the end of day but get too busy.  Maybe you don’t feel comfortable in a traditional gym environment or don't know what to do when you get there. Well, then CrossFit is the sport for you!

4 ways CrossFit helps you take responsibility for your own health:

1. You become part of a community.  Inside that relatively empty garage-like space is a community of people that feel the same as you.  The concept of a CrossFit workout is simple.  Everyone does the same workout at the same time and you all suffer through it together.  It’s a ‘no man left behind’ mentality, meaning the last person to finish will have the most people cheering them on.  Though you are working towards individual goals, you encourage and support each other.  It has all the benefits of being part of a team, without the rigid schedule of having to commit to a specific time of day or day of the week.   The positive atmosphere grows CrossFit relationships quickly, and soon you feel connected to your community.  Some days I get out of bed just so I can work out with my friends.

2. Every class gives you a feeling of accomplishment.  This may be more enticing to type-A personalities, but hitting a new goal or surpassing an old record is a great feeling.  If you have never rung a PR (personal record) bell and had your friends ‘bring down the house’ cheering, then you have yet to experience a huge motivating factor for being physically active (and yes, often CrossFit gyms have an actual bell).  Taking a moment just to feel good about yourself and what you accomplished is wonderfully uplifting, and undeniably beneficial for your mental health.  We all could benefit from more moments of self love.

3. You will see physical results quickly.  Evolution has made humans able to adapt quickly to movement.  As you practice an activity it will require less energy to do that same activity.  This means if you are constantly doing the same run, at the same speed, you will actually be spending less energy to complete it.  CrossFit is a creative solution to this weight loss dilemma as it use a wide variety of functional movements in various combinations and intensities.  Every class will get your body moving using different energy systems and types of muscle contractions. This keeps your neurological system guessing what comes next. Your caloric expenditure per class is high, and the weight loss and muscle gains happen quickly.  There is nothing better to reinforce good behaviour than results.

4. It requires mental focus.  I used to find it hard to stay focused during my workouts. My mind would wander to the stress of the day, or onto the many other tasks I could have been doing. I had a hard time disconnecting from life's unending demands to simply enjoy the workout. CrossFit was my answer to this problem.  It requires focus to maintain good technique while working at a high level of intensity. For me, a hard CrossFit workout has become almost meditative. I leave the gym feeling refreshed because I've spent an hour doing something for me without distraction. Check your troubles at the door, let your brain focus on the task at hand, and you will feel much better after.  It becomes the daily mental break you can't go without.

So to anyone considering CrossFit I say give it a try.  Anything that keeps you active in this busy world is a good thing. CrossFit may become your solution to motivation and consistency so your health stays a priority.