Reebok commercials call it the sport of fitness. Those who win its annual championship games are crowned the fittest humans on Earth. Its website boldly proclaims that it's "forging elite fitness." Haters call it a cult. And I was recently accused of having drunk the Kool-Aid.
I pled guilty.
A year ago, I was training for the Race to Robie Creek and, on a whim, stopped at a school playground, where I tried to do a single lousy pull-up. I wrapped my sweaty palms around a cold metal bar and grunted. Nothing. I was running eight to 10 miles regularly on training runs but I couldn't do even one pull-up. In July 2011, I took up Crossfit and, eight months later, I can do five unassisted pull-ups, and with the help of a rubberband that takes off about 20 percent of my body weight, I can do 100 during the course of a workout. So, yes, more Kool-Aid, please.
Crossfit is on the cusp of really catching on--you know, to the point where alt weekly types set aside their mountain bikes in favor of the "Workout Of the Day." Its high-intensity workouts combine running, rowing, Olympic lifts, ring exercises, kettle bells, jump rope, rope climbing, box jumping, the list goes on.
Typically a series of several different exercises are combined--in a way that's similar to circuit training--and a workout consists of several rounds of each in as little time as possible. Sometimes the goal is to complete as many rounds as possible in a given amount of time.
The best part? The workout is different every single day. I've run half-mile intervals with a 20-pound barbell slung over one shoulder. I've walked the length of my gym's parking lot clutching a 45-pound plate. I've learned how to do handstand push-ups, wall balls, burpees, muscle-ups (still working on this one, actually), thrusters and tabatas. In the process, I've not only learned a new language but I've learned a few things about fitness that decades of running, mountain biking, spinning, surfing, hiking, snowboarding and soccer playing hadn't taught me: how to inflict just the right amount of pain on my body and how to work out without an end goal in sight.
Without a race to train for or season to finish, the end goal of Crossfit is just getting through the immediate challenge, and if you're doing it right, it hurts. But the hurt is often a target of criticism among Crossfit's detractors, who blast its potential for injury, the cost of a box (Crossfit gyms are called boxes and if you think your gym is expensive, price a box), and the quick certification process trainers undergo.
Not to knock the box but I think part of my own success has been my out-of-box experience. My workout partner is a former box Crossfitter and together, we've found a nice quiet corner in a relatively uncrowded gym and he's taught me everything I know. Among its devout--especially those who belong to a box but also for those of us rogues--the community is often cited as the second best part of Crossfit (the first being the workout, of course). The day I snagged my 2012 Robie registration I weighed my options: a tough WOD with my partner or a long, solo run? I went with the Kool-Aid.