What is Fitness?
Merriam-Webster defines fitness as “the quality or state of being fit.” What does it mean to be fit? Is it purely aesthetic? In other words, does looking good in a swimsuit automatically determine fitness? Is it defined by endurance? Strength? Who is fitter, the Ironman competitor or the decathlete? Without an empirical definition of fitness, all claims to be the fittest don’t have much to stand on. In October of 2002, a man by the name of Greg Glassman released an article titled “What is Fitness?” In his article – a manifesto of sorts – Glassman set out to redefine what fitness is. Greg Glassman defines fitness as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” In his eyes, the fastest runner on the track is not any more or less fit than the power lifter who can squat 500 pounds. A merging of athletic styles and abilities that began in tiny garage gyms has now grown into a multi-billion-dollar brand known as CrossFit.
Whether it’s CrossFit, Les Mills’ Body Pump, P90x, Zumba, running, or pumping iron at your local gym, there seems to be an endless array of fitness flavors available to anyone looking to stay fit and active. I chose CrossFit as my flavor not because I think it’s superior to any of the other choices out there. I really liked how it combined aspects of various athletics into one practice – power lifting, Olympic lifting, running, gymnastics, etc. In my pursuit of the sport, I am often met with various questions about CrossFit. I’d like to address two in particular that come up more often than not.
First off, I was crazy before doing CrossFit. Secondly, yes, some of the exercises do seem a little unorthodox to those who have never seen it before. I know my first inclination was to write some of them off as being silly. I later learned that constantly varied movements that target similar muscle groups were the underlying factors behind some of the workouts. For example, I could do traditional deadlifts one day, and then do tire flips another. Both target the same muscle groups. I personally think tire flips are more fun. There are some exercises I still find silly from time to time.
“Isn’t it dangerous? I read on the internet that it’s dangerous.”
Scaling exercises to adapt to your personal ability is key. There are movements that can be dangerous for those who have never done them before. For example, I would expect that the probability of injury would increase for a beginner who has never lifted a barbell in their lives to go out and attempt an Olympic muscle snatch at 200 pounds. Bad trainers exist in CrossFit as much as bad trainers exist in traditional gyms. The best advice I would give to someone who is exploring CrossFit for the first time is to visit different gyms (aka “boxes”) and take a few free classes. Most, if not all, boxes offer free classes to give people a sense of the structure and community of that particular location. Find out as much as you can about the coaches at the locations you visit – their training background, coaching styles, etc. While CrossFit has their own certification program in place, you will find that many coaches have been personal trainers in the past and hold certifications outside of CrossFit. At my box, 3 of our coaches even hold advanced degrees in nutrition, physiology, and kinesiology. In short, do your homework.
Do I believe CrossFit is everyone?
I believe anyone can give it a shot since any of the exercises can be scaled for various fitness levels. Whether or not that style of exercise is for everyone… it may not be. Some prefer traditional weight training at a gym, running, biking, etc. All of those are fantastic choices. I have done each one. At the end of the day, if it gets you up and moving and encourages you to make healthier life choices, go for it!