About a year ago, I heard about a conditioning program called CrossFit. It’s a somewhat radical new exercise program that involves super-high intensity, constantly varied “functional” movements. Many of these movements are basic body-weight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and dips. They are done in combination and rapid succession, always as fast as possible and often with heavy resistance (weights). You can see a list of the exercises and videos of people doing them here.
CrossFit challenges conventional thinking about what fitness is and who is fit. Many people equate fitness with endurance — they consider elite Ironman triathletes and genetic anomalies like Lance Armstrong to be the fittest athletes in the world. But in CrossFit, endurance is only one of 10 skills that comprise fitness. The others are stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, accuracy. CrossFit focuses on balancing all of these skills to increase capabilities across a broad range of athletic activities — not just one sport.
People that have tried CrossFit rave about the results. They claim to make more progress with far less training time compared to traditional exercise programs. What intrigued me the most was an article I read by Rob Miller, a world-class rock climber (and the guy in the photo above). He said that he was than he was more exhausted after a 20 minute CrossFit session than after climbing The Nose on El Capital (a route that takes most people several days to climb).
CrossFit’s was founded a few years ago by a guy named Greg Glassman, who started posting daily workout routines to the Internet. He invited people to post their times and weights and quickly gained a large following. In the past couple of years, CrossFit has exploded, with over 100 affiliate gyms nationwide. One of the interesting things about CrossFit is that it is designed to be collaborative and competitive — everyone does the same exercises and keeps track of time and weights to measure progress and motivate.
I’ve always been a fan of body weight exercises and cross-training. I’m planning to try some of the CrossFit workouts over the next few weeks. We’ll see how it goes.