Chances are you’ve tried it yourself or know someone who does CrossFit. Let’s be honest — you’d basically have to live under a rock not to have.
CrossFit, technically speaking, is an exercise program-turned-sport that consists of constantly varied functional movements, executed at high intensity. The goal? To make those who do it more functionally fit for everyday life and to build strong, able bodies.
So why has CrossFit become so popular nationwide?
How Can CrossFit Possibly Be for Everyone?
For everyday people, CrossFit is a challenge. “With the constant variance in programming, you’re going to be asked to do things you haven’t done before and that puts a fear in many people,” says Keith Wittenstein, Level 4 CrossFit Coach (the highest training designation in the sport), CrossFit HQ Trainer, and senior coach at CrossFit Solace in New York City. “By braving and overcoming that fear, you develop body awareness, and it’s incredible. It’s what makes my job awesome — seeing people do things they’re never done before.”
Plus, it is truly scalable, so it works for all able-bodied people: If you can’t lift a barbell, pick up a dowel instead and work your way up over time. And CrossFit converts will tell you, it can offer much more than your typical commercial gym.
“People have taught themselves that they want to be left alone at the gym and tune people out; it’s anti-social behavior,” says Wittenstein, also known as Coach Panda. “CrossFit is very social and it makes people worry, ‘Can I connect with people?’ It’s the best playground for adults — everybody learns each other’s names, everyone cheers each other on and wants you to succeed.”
The CrossFit Games are the highest-level competition — the most forward facing CrossFit there is — and winning there gives you the title of best in the sport, or Fittest Man or Woman on Earth. “They’re absolutely awesome and wonderful but they paint a distorted view of CrossFit on the ground level for us normal, everyday human beings,” says Wittenstein. “For us, CrossFit is the answer to spending hours in the gym. You can get in the best shape of your life for just 20 minutes a day.”
Why All the Hate?
There’s a lot of resistance Wittenstein admits, completely unrelated to the safety concerns you’ve heard time and again. The hate, he says, comes from a few places, including CrossFit’s sudden mainstream appeal. “It’s like when you’re in high school or college and you know that band that nobody else does, and it’s your favorite band and you’re super excited. As soon as they become popular, you don’t like them anymore because everyone likes that band.”
There are also those in the threatened camp. “CrossFit is like a steamroller — it’s a tsunami and it’s coming through,” says Wittenstein, who himself is a yogi turned CrossFitter (yes, yoga lovers, it can happen!). “And there are people who were doing high-intensity workouts before, and they get mad when they see someone doing CrossFit and say, ‘Well I was doing this stuff back in the day,’ and they feel like they’re getting their pockets’ picked.”
And is it a cult? “It is. It is a cult, a community of very driven, like-minded people,” says Wittenstein. Think of it like this: Ever feel a bit weirded out when a friend asks you to go to a landmark forum or to church or out with a group of his or her coworkers? It’s not that those are “cults” per say, but more so groups of people who speak the same language and you just feel like the odd one out. “So you want to save face and throw stones at it,” explains Wittenstein. While in reality, there’s nothing wrong with people getting together, hanging out and sharing the same interests, he says. It just so happens that interest is jumping, squatting and pressing heavy loads.
Why Does High Intensity Work?
Think about CrossFit intensity like this: It’s the difference you feel if you were to run a mile in 10 minutes versus six minutes. If you want to run better, you have to run faster because the winner is always the fastest, explains Wittenstein. However, a lot of people don’t want to do that because it’s not always fun or easy. The high intensity output increases the body’s need for oxygen during the effort and creates an oxygen shortage, causing your body to ask for more oxygen during recovery. This is known as an Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC, which allows you to burn more calories and fat “Most CrossFit workouts are short, where you can put out a lot of power, like running that faster mile. And it’s no different whether you’re doing a mile or pull-up and push-ups or squats and lunges,” he says. “The idea is to make it more intense by going faster.”
Keep in mind, faster doesn’t mean sloppy. Technique is always key. “Guys who are running four-minute miles aren’t running four-minute miles because they run poorly,” says Wittenstein. They spend that 56 minutes before that mile working on technique so they can do it.” And the same thing should happen in your CrossFit class. You spend the beginning perfecting technique so you can have the best results when you do the WOD, he says.
12-Minute CrossFit Workouts
Ready to experience that rush of adrenaline? Here’s a week’s worth of challenging, intense 12-Minute CrossFit workouts for you to try . While you may recognize some, Wittenstein created this program to hit the full-body. Don’t forget to warm up and perfect form first before starting any of them!
CrossFit WOD: Death by Clean and Jerks
CrossFit WOD: Burpees and Running
CrossFit WOD: Jackie
Day 4: Rest
CrossFit WOD: Row and Rest
CrossFit WOD: Diane
CrossFit WOD: CrossFit Games Open 12.4
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