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One of the major influences in my training over the past year has been Crossfit. If anyone has a familiarity with the Crossfit prescription then some of my workouts will look suspiciously familiar.

What is Crossfit?

According to the main Crossfit website:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports. 

What does this mean?

Basically – Crossfit is a programme for General Physical Preparedness (GPP) with the tag line of specialising in not specialising. This (despite what many will tell you) is not a program for you if you are only training for most sports – particularly pure endurance or powerlifting events.

However, for most of us this is not the case – GPP will often more than suffice as training for weekend athletes – we don’t need to sacrifice all other fitness for our sports. For police, firefighters and the military this lack of specialisation is ideal, since they never know exactly what each day will throw at them. And despite the initial impression of impossible workouts, scaling is encouraged, so that the workout principles work for everyone.

For me, pursuing GPP results in less chronic injuries, certainly much less than I suffered as a long distance runner. And since there is so much variety, when I do suffer an injury or niggle, there’s almost always some other workout I can do instead. I still remember the frustration of being injured as a runner and not being able to run, somehow ignoring the vast array of other training that is available.

Now, not only do I look better (I have more muscle mass and definition), I can still run fast. However I rarely run more than 5km now and I no longer see myself as ‘a runner’ exclusively.

Although the main site has a workout of the day (WOD) many of the affiliates post their own workouts on individual sites. In fact one of the reasons for the rapid growth is ‘open-source’ policy and the widespread adoption of the Internet. One of the conditions to become an affiliate is have a website linking back to the main site, and Crossfit encourages regular posting on affiliate sites. This shows great vision of the power of the Internet, and ensures that Internet searches are awash with Crossfit websites. Google returns 829,000 results for ‘Fitness First’, 926,000 for ‘Gold’s Gym’ and 1,100,000 for ‘Crossfit’.  

Advantages of Crossfit

  • Probably the best program for GPP that I’ve seen
  • Variety
  • The functional movements 
  • The program has excellent online support
  • The program is free and transparent

Disadvantages of Crossfit

  • Not ideal for most sport specific training
  • Some of the exercises are relatively complex, and beginners may feel either overwhelmed or perform them incorrectly
  • There is a vocal minority that view Crossfit as the ‘one true way’ and insist that it is the ideal workout no matter what a persons goals are. Even Greg Glassman (founder of Crossfit) doesn’t claim this.
  • There’s some pretty dodgy music on some of the videos on the website!

I was interested enough in Crossfit to sign up for the Crossfit Journal (25 USD a year), which gives access not only to the current journal, but to the entire back catalogue. As well as articles, it also includes videos and lectures. Still a bargain, even with the plummeting  UK pound. Even without paying a penny there is a vast array of free articles and videos on the various websites.

I also attended the iCourse in London run by Crossfit London, which was great fun – I’ll write a review in due course.

And if you thought it was just for athletes and the military check out this Crossfit Journal entry, that shows a workout with a 77 year old woman using the Crossfit principles.

More information is available on the Crossfit Site.

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2 Responses

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  1. Great write up on crossfit Matthew. I am a big fan of crossfit and have been doing it for little over a year now and the results I have got out of it have been amazing. You said that you live in Edinburgh…. I am moving to Edinburgh in late July 2009 and would like to keep up with crossfit but there are no crossfit gymsin Edinburgh I was just wondering if you know of any gyms that are crossfit friendly ( allow oly lifts, have rings, ect……)??
    Anyways keep up with the great blog.

  2. admin said

    Hi Hans,

    When I was in Edinburgh (I’m travelling at the moment), I was a member of the Centre for Sports Excellence (A.K.A. CSE, A.K.A. the Edinburgh University Gym). They have the best facilities of any gym in Edinburgh. No soap or towels, but they have a good lifting room with Olympic weights and lifting platforms. No rings, unfortunately, and the gym is spread out over a number of rooms so some Crossfit workouts will require a bit of thought. However, compared to the likes of Holmes place or Fitness First it’s much better for decent workouts and cheaper too.

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