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The Year of CrossFit

The Year of CrossFit

Don’t deny it; I know you said it to yourself. Even those of you that claim you don’t believe in making resolutions; I know that whether it was out loud or in the back of your mind – unspoken, maybe even unconsciously– you woke up on January 1st and decided (after copious amounts of coconut water) that this… this is your year; this is the year you’re going to be stronger, faster, smarter, more adventurous, and better looking than you’ve ever been before. Now that its nearing the end of the year, many Vancouverites have relied on the CrossFit craze to shape them out of their winter slump into this past summer – & the highly popular workout continues here in the city.

Inevitably, the first thing most of us think of after holidays spent gorging on caloric indulgences fit to rival our favourite Epic Meal Time episodes is hitting the gym. And what better way to get fit fast than hopping on the CrossFit train? CrossFit gyms have been popping up around Vancouver at breakneck speed and if you’ve ever spotted a seemingly-random group of exhausted-but-muscular-looking guys and gals running laps around city blocks (sometimes lugging medicine balls), rest assured: you’ve run into a herd of CrossFitters.

Crossfit Girl

CrossFit’s explosive popularity represents a major shift in widely-held fitness beliefs. Where fitness enthusiasts and experts used to preach long bouts of steady cardio and isolation weight training exercises (working only one major muscle group at a time), today they encourage short bursts of exercise at much higher intensity in combination with compound weight training exercises (in which you work more than one major muscle group – and usually some smaller muscle groups – at once). This revolutionary shift in fitness theory has been proven to produce significant and visible results in record time which, given our increasingly hectic and time-strapped lives, is incredibly convenient.

CrossFit will look moderately different depending on the individual gym at which it is practiced, but generally consists of three foundational elements:

  • Plyometrics – explosive, high-intensity movements (see: jumping)
  • High Intensity Cardiovascular Conditioning – short duration, high intensity workouts
  • Weightlifting – with an emphasis on lifting heavy

Using this foundation, CrossFit works towards increasing an individual’s strength, speed, endurance, agility, balance, and coordination. A typical class consists of participants perform a grueling workout that works their muscles to failure (or close to), fosters a sense of camaraderie unlike any other fitness experience (it’s amazing how good almost passing out/throwing up/dying in front of someone is for bonding), and leaves them with an intense and addictive endorphin high.

But before you waddle off to sign yourself up at your local CrossFit gym, consider these cautions from physiotherapist Tony Gui (BHKin, MPT, CAFCI):

  1. Repeatedly going to failure is actually very hard on your body. That limit is where injuries occur.
  2. Technique is indispensable! Lifting heavy loads with weak technique will result in injury. See a sports medecine professional to make sure you’re moving correctly.
  3. Limited mobility. CrossFit type exercises often focus on loading which creates compression and rigidity in the body. What’s the point of getting stronger if you can’t move? Make sure to alternate CrossFit with other types of activities, such as yoga and foam rolling. Aim for balance.
  4. View your body holistically. CrossFit will build your big magazine muscles while neglecting your smaller, crucial inner muscles. Again, this often results in injury.
  5. CrossFit is meant to be physically uncomfortable, but remember: If it hurts, don’t do it (seriously: don’t).

So go on and try this new get-fit-quick phenomenon, but I’m warning you: it’s hard to be the best you you’ve ever been with an injury. So take it slow and don’t hesitate to go see a professional if you have any questions or concerns. Now go dominate!

– Alexandra Sehmer

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