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CrossFit for Every Body
by Jonathan Sabar

Previously considered the domain of firefighters and Navy Seals, CrossFit is quickly becoming the workout of choice for office workers and soccer moms. But what is CrossFit, and how can it help us mere mortals reach our fitness goals?

The myth of “Traditionalapostrophe exercise

So-called traditional workouts aren’t. The boundaries between strength and “cardioapostrophe seen in gyms, the focus on muscles rather than movements, and the insistence on endurance work as the primary source of fat burning took root in the 1970s and ‘80s during the onset of the “Fitness Celebrityapostrophe craze. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jane Fonda, and Jim Fixx did a lot to bring fitness to the mainstream, but in so doing introduced those artificial separations.

Coach Greg Glassman developed CrossFit in the 1980s as a training method aimed at creating athletes who were equal parts gymnast, sprinter, and weightlifter. As it grew over the last few decades and underwent further additions and refinements, CrossFit took on a life of its own. Often referred to as “The Sport of Fitnessapostrophe, CrossFit has proven not only effective but fun for exercisers of all ages and ability levels.

What is “Fitnessapostrophe?

An excellent working definition of fitness is the overall ability level in each of ten physical skills: Cardio-respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, speed, power, coordination, agility, accuracy, and balance. A program developing each of these areas is a great start!

Perhaps a more relevant definition comes from asking yourself: what could you do ten years ago that you can’t do now? What could you never do that you’d like to? What would you like to be able to do ten years from now, or twenty, or thirty, that age unnecessarily robs from too many individuals? Play with your kids or grandkids? Climb a mountain or climb a flight of stairs? Carry in groceries or kick a soccer ball? Fitness means not accepting preconceived limitations!

We all have goals. Whether we have a sport we’d like to improve, kids we’d like to keep up with, or just physique goals we’d like to reach, we want the most efficient, effective, and safe way to reach them.

CrossFit is FUN!

As coach Marty Gallagher says “Enthusiasm trumps willpower EVERY TIMEapostrophe. Running through the same machine circuit week after week gets boring, and we can only drag ourselves through drudgery for so long, no matter how good our willpower.

By changing the workout from day to day, CrossFit keeps workouts new and interesting. It also exposes you to exercises you’ve never tried, never seen, maybe even never heard of. Some of the workouts are fast-paced and high-energy. Some of them are more intense with heavier weights and longer rest periods. But all of them let you know you’ve had a workout!

Alongside the workout itself is the camaraderie of the group. Many CrossFit gyms organize group training sessions (at DEFY! we limit group size to six people, to optimize the group dynamic and allow very individualized technique instruction). This becomes an important part of the atmosphere, and is very different from what most people have experienced.

As Patty, a woman who had never considered herself athletic says “There is no better feeling in the world then hearing the cheers of your peers encouraging you to do your bestapostrophe. Ellen agrees, saying the entire group is “there for different reasons, and have different struggles and challenges, yet in a session everyone is there and rooting for each otherapostrophe.


Have you found that no matter how hard you workout, you’re not any better at hauling the 40 lb bag of dog food out of the car, or getting your kids out of their car seats? One huge downfall of machines and other isolation exercises is that they have little carryover to real life. Isolation exercises work individual muscles with no concern over how they interact with the rest of the body. Any truly functional exercise needs to work the body in a wave, starting at the core and moving to the extremities. This combination of muscle and nervous system work is what makes a workout effective, and CrossFit is built on a platform of functional exercises.

But it doesn’t stop at exercise. Octavia has found that “CrossFit gives you the confidence to do things that you normally wouldn’t do. And not only in the workouts – in all of your life.apostrophe

CrossFit is SAFE!

Despite preconceptions that machine-based and isolation exercises are safe while compound barbell exercises are dangerous, there is actually a much higher risk of injury, in and out of the gym, for those who use predominantly single-joint exercises.

In the gym: isolation exercises create a higher incidence of joint problems and a greater degree of muscular imbalances than compound exercises. Knees and shoulders are the usual culprits, but no joint can be overlooked.

Outside the gym: Functional exercises teach our bodies how to go about the challenges in our life more safely and effectively. Lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling – all of these activities are natural for human movement. On the other hand, building the muscles of the legs using quadriceps extensions and hamstring curls may allow you to move your sofa – but it won’t provide the core strength or muscle memory to keep you from hurting your back!

Additionally, we have all been told that resistance training is beneficial for bone density. The type of exercise does matter! Machines and isolation exercises, necessarily done with relatively light weights, don’t cause the increase in bone density that is so critical in ensuring our continued heath and independence as we age.

Remember: technique is important! Make sure you find a CrossFit trainer who emphasizes correct form and will teach you the appropriate way to lift weights. A college football player may be able to get away with poor form and sheer strength (for a while), but most of us need to work hard to prevent injury!

CrossFit is for Individuals!

Every CrossFit workout can be modified to bring it to the ability level of the individual. Can’t do pull-ups? No problem – pull-ups can be modified to fit you. Whether the issue is upper body strength, back or joint problems, or breathing issues, each workout can be modified to allow you to work up to your full potential.

And, yes, CrossFit Burns Fat!

We all have physique goals, and CrossFit helps us meet those goals as well. Whether you prefer lean and toned, or muscular and powerful: to look like an athlete, train like an athlete.

The great myth of the fitness industry is that there is some shortcut to looking good. Some machine, some pill, or some magic combination of foods that will burn fat and make you look like a fitness model. The truth is that it takes work. Rather than wasting your time on inefficient machines and glorified hamster wheels, make your time at the gym count!

During exercise: High-intensity workouts burn an amazingly high number of calories – and a greater percentage of them are from subcutaneous fat as compared to steady-state “cardioapostrophe, leading to as much as nine times more fat loss!

For the rest of the day: CrossFit builds the all-over lean layer of muscle tissue that burns fat all day (and all night). Typical aerobic exercise burns calories during activity (300 calories for a typical aerobics class – about the same as half a bag of microwave popcorn), but has little carryover to the other 23 hours of the day.

After years of being thought of as a hardcore program only suited to the physically elite, CrossFit is coming into its own as a safe, fun, and effective regimen for people of all ages and ability levels. All that’s required is a good attitude, a good work ethic, and a desire to reach previously unthoug