For the past decade, CrossFit has been a major player in the fitness industry (and it’s not showing any sign of slowing down). Part spectator sport, part daily gym routine—and total physical feat—this workout has often been the subject of stories with the words ‘injury risk’ in bold letters. Despite the warning, we’ve remained transfixed by the CrossFit Games (which still offer hefty prize purses to those who dominate the circuit) and the sport is top of mind for those searching for their new fitness resolution. With the surge in interest for the new decade, we are revisiting what CrossFit is—and isn’t—to clear up some myths the sport garnered in the past decade and help you decide if you’re ready to find a “box” (Crossfit-speak for gym) and take on the workout of the day (WOD).
What is CrossFit?
At its core, a CrossFit workout involves movements that we do every day—such as squatting, pushing and pulling, etc.—all done at a very high intensity and in variation (ensured by a new WOD, every day). You can expect to use barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells, along with performing plyometrics and gymnastics movements. In its broader scope, CrossFit is a lifestyle, in part because what you do in the gym can benefit your day-to-day movement outside of it, but also because CrossFit gyms have become social hubs for members.
Studies have shown there is a high sense of community related to CrossFit, which helps to further motivation among its members. In the same vein, at higher levels of competition it also has effects on people’s identity as an athlete (that may change their social identity). CrossFit’s success bringing together people of all fitness levels to work out together on equal ground within a solid community is something many newer gyms and studios are emulating (Orangetheory is just one example), with the difference being that CrossFit also gives these athletes a chance to compete (in both small and large competition settings).
How much does CrossFit cost?
The average price for an unlimited monthly CrossFit membership in the U.S. is $150, but depending on your city, the unlimited monthly membership could cost between $100-$260.
CrossFit and injuries—the real story
In 2013, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a publication of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA), found that 10 weeks of CrossFit improves body composition (among other things). But it also noted that among the study subjects, 16 percent had to drop out of the study early due to injury. That was a problem for CrossFit, Inc., says Tucker Jones, owner and head coach at Ballston CrossFit and CrossFit Route 7, because it was false.
Some of the “injured” athletes have sworn the information was fabricated, a retraction has since been added to the study and CrossFit, Inc. was awarded monetary compensation from the NCSA for the unsubstantiated claims (which the journal’s editor is said to have added in a later draft), the damage was done. The media was quick to publish stories about the injury risk—like this from CBS News and other extreme (and rare) stories of injured athletes—and the sport became known as dangerous.
If you’re one of those people who Google searches included CrossFit as the New Year approached, what can you do to avoid injury and find a gym that will help you safely progress in the sport?
How to find the best CrossFit gym
Jones says that preparing for your first class is as simple as putting on athletic clothes, grabbing a bottle of water and heading to a CrossFit gym. There are different certification levels of coaches, with Level 4 being the highest credential (you should care about the qualifications when choosing a gym). “I believe that CrossFit is extremely safe and effective when the CrossFit movements and workouts are performed under the eye of a highly-qualified coach with well designed programming/workouts,” adds Jones.
When looking for a gym, here are the questions Jones says you should ask to make sure it’s the right fit for you (because not all gyms are created equal):
- What are the qualifications of the coaches?
- What is the class schedule? (See if it works logistically)
- Who creates the gym programming and what is the focus?
- What do the owner(s) and coaches do to build the community at the gym?
- May I meet a member who has achieved similar goals to what I’m looking to achieve?
Keeping these things in mind will not only help you find the right fit in terms of atmosphere, but will help ensure your safety as you start your CrossFit journey. Of course, in order to avoid injury, you should keep your limits in mind and not push too quickly, too fast. The right coach can help guide you so that you progress, but do so at the right pace for your current fitness (while keeping your future fitness goals in mind). The good news? CrossFit isn’t as dangerous as you’ve heard.