Group exercise has become hugely popular in Australia and it’s easy to see why; you get variety, intensity, motivation and structure in one tidy package.
CrossFit has been described as the cream of the crop of group exercise programs on offer in Australia. For the uninitiated, the acronyms and jargon may have been a turn off, but here’s what you’ve been missing.
CrossFit is a well-rounded and efficient way to achieve a high level of fitness without the need to splurge on a whole lot of fancy equipment and, performed three to five times a week, it will easily satisfy current public health guidelines suggested for a healthy body.
But what exactly is CrossFit? "CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that treats the body as a unit," explains Rebecca Mountford, director of Freshstart Health and Fitness Centre. "Every person who participates in CrossFit is treated like an athlete, and athletes must be fit for all different scenarios in life from specific sports to life in general," she says.
Julian Gaylor, owner of PerFit CrossFit, describes it as a program that involves constantly varied, high intensity and functional movements with the goal of improving the individual’s fitness in all areas, including cardiovascular, endurance, strength and speed. "Essentially, the aim of CrossFit is to prepare the individual for whatever life may throw at them," he says.
With that in mind, each workout is rarely the same. The fact that it is constantly varied means you won’t be doing the same thing over and over and getting bored. "One day you might be learning a new skill, the next completing an endurance workout and the day after you may be focusing on strength," says Rebecca.
Perhaps most important of all, CrossFit is a community. "Everyone is there for each other," says Julian. "It’s one of the only places where the person who finishes last gets the biggest applause from the group."
Rebecca agrees. “The environment is positive and uplifting. You come away with a sense of achievement. When you fall down or feel like you can’t go on there is always someone there to cheer you on and pick you up off the ground at the end."
The best thing about CrossFit is that its workouts are completely scalable to any level of fitness. "Anyone can participate alongside another regardless of their current fitness level," says Julian. If you’re a beginner, your coach will be able to suggest an appropriate regression until you get up to speed and likewise if you’re currently at a high level of fitness, you can progress to more demanding variations of the routine.
The next best thing is that it suits almost everyone. "CrossFit allows you to focus on building strength and endurance, and with that comes weight loss," explains Rebecca. "However, you still need to get rest, sleep well, keep stress at bay and have a nutritionally balanced diet. There’s no point training five times a week when you’re eating rubbish," she cautions.
If you’re worried about turning into a bodybuilder, don’t be. "CrossFit is all about muscle gain alongside fat loss so if it’s a lean, athletic look you’re after, CrossFit is for you," says Julian.
As with any exercise program individual results will vary and ultimately it comes down to the type of results you are looking for. If it is weight loss that you’re after you’ll likely see an improvement in a matter of weeks so long as you’re consistent with your training and follow a sensible diet, says Julian.
For more obvious results, especially if you are already on the trim side, you may need to wait a little longer. "It took me six months to notice a difference, and 18 months later I am thrilled with my results," says Rebecca.
But again, it all depends on your lifestyle. You need to eat well to get the best results, and that means cutting out highly processed, sugary and fatty foods.
CrossFit is a high intensity workout that is built around a tight-knit community. So, yes, you do need to join a gym to get the most out of it.
"It’s important to train with a certified affiliate (found at a CrossFit box) as they have met all the standards in regards to training effectively and most of all, safely," says Julian.
In saying that, there are simple workouts you can do at home or at the park that don’t require any equipment. These are called WODs, or workouts of the day, and change daily to help you get the most out of your fitness regime.
To find your local CrossFit affiliate, go to map.crossfit.com.
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