The question: I am hearing so much about CrossFit. It seems to be all the rage among my friends. Should I try it?
The answer: I enjoy the challenge of a CrossFit workout. That said (and I anticipate angry e-mails about this) CrossFit is not for every "body."
CrossFit gyms (which are called "boxes") vary in size and amenities, but are usually in warehouse-like facilities that contain virtually no traditional machines. Instead they are filled with equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls. CrossFit prioritizes multijoint exercises like squats, dead-lifts, bench-presses and pull-ups.
Is it for you? That depends on your personality, fitness level, past and present injuries, budget, goals and your desired gym atmosphere.
CrossFit is not cheap. The facilities are not fancy. The workouts are advanced. You pay for the intensity of the workouts and the non-traditional aspect of the gym.
The CrossFit websites I read state that people of all fitness levels are welcome, but the competitive atmosphere that these gyms fosters, although motivating, doesn't make it easy to scale back a workout.
All members are also encouraged to work toward achieving PBs (personal bests). In theory this type of goal setting is fantastic, but since participants write their results on a public board, some people may have a hard time scaling back their workouts to an appropriate and safe level.
Also, since the exercises start at an advanced level, the scaled-back version can still be too advanced for some people. This can be a recipe for injury, which is compounded by the fact that many new lifters don't yet know what weight would be an appropriate challenge.
So, try a class, but be careful: Don't take the instructor's word that an exercise or weight is appropriate. Listen to your body. Stop if something feels wrong.
If your CrossFit gym offers an introductory course (most do, although not all of them make it mandatory), take it!
If you don't end up loving CrossFit, the experience was not a waste. Borrow training strategies that might enhance your current routine. For example, if you rely mainly on machines, then CrossFit will have taught you the importance of multijoint exercises and incorporating them into your routine.
Trainer's tip: Every CrossFit gym and coach is slightly different. Shop around. Try different places and teachers until you find a combo that is a good fit.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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