Is Crossfit a good workout?

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asks me this question.  It's right up there with "what stretches should I do?"  And my answer is going to be the exact same-

It depends.

Yeah, that means you're going to have to read more into this blog post to get all of my thoughts! But that's because there's not much about health that is just black and white (other than eat well and exercise, but that's just so general...)

First things first, there is nothing inherently wrong or bad about Crossfit.  The idea that you are more likely to be injured because of a Crossfit workout is just not true.  If anything, there are many benefits to the movements and variations in a Crossfit WOD (workout of the day).  You have very complex movements that involve the entire body, demand lots of core strength and stability, and incorporates cardio elements within a strength workout.  Many programs I see at gyms usually focus on strength or cardio (the idea of weight loss vs. toning, which is not really true), but Crossfit does a phenomenal job of hitting both at the same time.

Incorporating lifting weights and high intensity cardio is a great way to create energy consumption confusion within the body, which is why many people see such great weight loss and body mass changes within a relatively short amount of time doing Crossfit.  One day you may have a heavy lifting day, the next is a ton of box jumps or rope climbs or odd object carrying, so you have to be ready for something new, and this keeps your body constantly trying to figure out what is going on.

The community aspect of Crossfit is one of my favorite things about each box.  I have never really seen a group of people supporting one another outside of a sports team like I do within Crossfit.  When you have a group of people that motivate and encourage you on a daily basis, you can really only see good results versus just working out by yourself or in a negative environment.  You also can make incredible friends for life and have a support group outside of just working out.

As I kind of mentioned before, the idea that cardio is for losing weight and weight lifting is for adding muscle mass is not entirely true.  In fact, you can lose a lot of weight doing a weights only program.  I also get asked by a lot of females if doing Crossfit will make them bulky and again, it just depends.  Everyone's body is different, so how our hormones react to exercise can create vastly different results.  If you run a little higher on testosterone, then yes you may have more muscle mass, but that doesn't mean you will "look like a man".  That takes intense training and a strict diet.

Which brings me to the next point and where I do see some problems within Crossfit.  Now before anyone gets upset at me, I am speaking on an individual level, not Crossfit as a whole.  I do see some people who have poor diets and try to do Crossfit but then get upset when they don't see results.  Diet and exercise go hand in hand, you have to have control of both to see true health expression and changes.  Also understanding how your own body responds to certain macronutrients is extremely important.  As for myself, I know I need carbs after a hard workout with my insulin spike.  If I don't ingest carbs within 30-60 minutes after a workout, I crash hard.

I also see people not eating enough calories.  Crossfit burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time, and you should not be reducing calories significantly if you are increasing your exercise routine.  Eating clean does not necessarily mean calorie reduction.  On the contrary, I've recommended patients actually increase their caloric intake by 500-1000 daily and we see MUCH BETTER results.  Again, everyone is different, so it is important to talk food with a healthcare professional or registered dietician.

My biggest beef with people doing Crossfit is not even about Crossfit itself, but the people who participate.  Let me explain- if you are a desk jockey (someone who sits at a desk/chair for 8 hours a day) and haven't been working out, stretching, whatever for years, and then you want to go do full cleans, heavy front squats, and box jump, you are asking for an injury!  Now, the majority of boxes I know make new members go through an on-ramp class to review movements, which is a great start, but rarely can you make true mobility changes within a month from years of joint abuse.

Like I said, that's not a Crossfit problem, that's a people problem and it is true for any type of workout.  You can hurt yourself doing basic cross training at your local gym.  You can hurt yourself doing yoga.  You can hurt yourself playing softball (men over 40, I'm talking to you... warm up and stretch!!).  The only reason we think it happens more in Crossfit is due to the complex movements and use of heavier weights.  Without properly working your joints, those problems were probably going to come out regardless of what type of workout.  Obviously if you can barely flex your arm over your head, then you really have no business doing weighted snatches and presses.  Does that mean you shouldn't do Crossfit?  Of course not, there are tons of modifications that you can do while you work on mobility.  Good boxes with good coaches know what limitations their members have and can always program a modification to the movements that you have restrictions in.

So if I had to some up and give you an answer, Crossfit is a fine workout, if that's the type of workout you want to do.  The important aspects of any exercise outlets is finding something you enjoy doing, make sure you have a solid diet, and if you have the joint mobility to do what you want to do.  If Crossfit is what you want to do, then I highly encourage it!  Is it for everybody? Of course not; but there is nothing inherently wrong with doing Crossfit.