So you’re dying to look like one of the CrossFit heroes, but you’ve seen enough of ‘the dark side‘ to know you don’t want to get sucked in to the whole highly-competitive, puking-in-front-of-your-friends scene?
From the glowing testimonials of couch potatoes and armchair athletes who’ve used the CrossFit system to turn their body into lean mean fitness machines, it seems that the theories behind the original CrossFit methods are sound, and that it’s the hype and media circus surrounding events like the CrossFit Games which are to blame for any less-than-flattering opinions of the system.
But it isn’t necessary to buy into all of the hype in order to start getting as buff as a CrossFit competitor, because at the root of the method is a simple philosophy: “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement,” with the goal of increasing fitness, which they define as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”
“CrossFit contends that a person is as fit as they are proficient in each of ten general physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.” –
And thanks to the huge number of enthusiasts online, there’s no shortage of WOD (workout of the day) examples, videos of how to use proper form in each movement, and tutorials on how to build your own garage gym (or make your own equipment), so you can create your own CrossFit-style program without signing up for a class or hiring a personal trainer.
However (and it’s a big however), the biggest sticking point for those going it on their own seems to be the accountability aspect – who’s going to push you to finish a round if you’re by yourself at a park or your basement? How are you going to correct your own bad form or throw new and challenging exercises into the mix if you’re both the coach and the athlete? While those issues are not insurmountable (there are plenty of hardcore CrossFit athletes who train on their own just fine), for the average beginner they will be an obstacle to getting the results they may expect.
Assuming you’re a highly motivated individual and that pushing yourself through tough workouts is not going to be an issue, then the next step would be to either build your own gym space in your house, garage, or backyard, or find a local park that has something along the lines of pullup bars/jungle gym/parallel bars and plenty of space to workout. For equipment, start simple and homemade, or cruise eBay and craigslist to find bargains, and before you pull out your wallet, consider this statement, from Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit:
“With a pair of 15-pound dumbbells, 9 feet of rope, and a pull-up bar you can adopt the CrossFit program. For about the cost of cable TV you can, over months, build a strength and conditioning facility that will support world-class programming. Those disposed to handiwork have made rings, weights, plates, kettlebells, glute ham developers, and nearly every other piece of equipment we regularly use.”
To get a variety of different workouts to choose from when training on your own, head over to the original, CrossFit.com, and see what kinds of WOD are being posted, or CrossFit Brand X forum, which features scaled versions of the WOD. Generate your own versions of WOD at the WOD Shop, and track and report your workouts at WODHub for free.
In order to get the most of your workouts, it may be helpful to attend a basic CrossFit training to learn proper form, or hire a trainer to walk you through the exercises to teach you the correct techniques. If you’re great at learning by watching, there’s no shortage of videos demonstrating the correct form for just about every exercise, from the squat to handstand pushups to kipping pullups.
Get familiar with the concepts behind high-intensity workouts, including interval training, the Tabata and Fartlek systems, and if you’ve got the space and the money, look into how to put together your own CrossFit home gym.
For a different angle on DIY fitness training, take a look at some of the groups that use their local park as a gym, including BarStarzz, The Bar Union, or BarMasters, and MMA-style training at RossTraining, FunctionalPatterns, or HasFit.
At their core, these different methods of fitness share a common ground: the use of compound exercises to gain ‘functional fitness’ across a wide range of activities:
“Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements—i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. But no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly.” – CrossFit
By integrating these different styles and methods of fitness, it is possible to either mirror the CrossFit system at home, or to “roll your own” workouts and get some of the pump with little of the hype. Of course, there’s no guarantee your workouts will hit the intensity of a bonafide CrossFit session or that you’ll make gains as fast as with a class, but for those people who aren’t ‘joiners’, a home gym, a prison workout regimen, or sandbag workouts will still be a better fit.