I am going to caution those who do happen to read this. This is by no means an attack on Crossfit, a bashing of anyone who does it. It is a simple scientific look at the phenomenon that as exploded onto the fitness scene in the past five years or so.
I will admit I do Crossfit. I do two or three “Workouts of the Day”… WODs a week. I like it. When I first exposed to it 5 years ago I was religious to it. I can truthfully tell you I was fit from a physical standpoint. 30 pull ups in a row was a breeze. I could run a mile in nearly 6 minutes… and with the VO₂ max I have, I could be considered working on one lung or a cardiac rehab patient. I felt great, or so I though. My focus changed to other aspects of fitness, but I always did a WOD of two a week. I just enjoy the movements, the challenge and the culture (or cult as it may seem to an outsider).
Last year I was certified as a level one Crossfit Coach. Really, I was there to learn their method to their madness. What was their thought process, their pattern? The course was great. Besides the CHEK course I have taken, one of the best presented courses I have taken to date… and I have eleven years of post secondary school. So that says something for the presenters. However, a few things really stood out and to this day are unsettling to me.
First, during the course one of the instructors explained to us that the body is a black box. A stimulus is placed on the body (weights, cardio, etc). The body responds, and this instructor when on to say,” we don’t know what happens in the body, but you get an adaptation.” Well, bloody hell, I just about crawled out of my skin. For once in my life, I kept my mouth shut. Later in the day that instructor asked if I was enjoying the class, what I thought of the information. So I simple stated, “The body is not a black box. It is a marvelous piece of intelligent design. In my position, the body is not a black box. Crossfit for some is simply, let’s throw as much stimulus at the body, and see what comes out. I can give the body one stimulus, and I will tell you what is happening in the body. And not only will I tell you what stimulus will come out, but when that stimulus is expected.” At that time, I finally revealed that I was in a Masters Degree in Exercise Physiology. The rest of the weekend for some reason was void of further questions on my thought. Don’t get me wrong. The information was great, I loved the course and I puked in a parking lot of a Minute Lube, but it leads to my second point.
Crossfit is a high intensity workout. It places a great stress on the body. High intensity exercise is not like vegetables. You cannot indulge in it all the time. It is like a poison. You can take small doses that may not harm you, but you need the necessary recovery after the dose. So, to see someone get the shit kicked out of them and see them go, “hell yeah, I had a good workout.” pisses me off. I can tell you, and this is happening in a lot of training (this happens a lot in any training), it is not hard to create a workout that kicks the hell out of someone. Anyone can do that, but to do it based on scientific principles… that is talent. So with you here I share a diagram. It is the diagram of the Zones of Interference.
Unfortunately, many of the workouts I hear of designed by those who do not know, are in the Zones of Interference. They are doing high reps and high intensity cardiovascular. From a physiological perspective, the two training schemes do not complement each other. And yeah I know this could lead to a bunch of hate mail and everyone asking what my Fran time is. I am not here to get into a pissing contest because I don’t give a shit about Fran. If you’re fit and your Fran is 2:32… good on you. I will be the first to say congratulations, and that is awesome. But I am here to educate. To continue training without considering the physiology leads to a deep hole of under recovery, period. High Intensity Training (HIT) is hard on the Central Nervous System (CNS). And unfortunately when it comes to weights there are very few ways to measure the physiological stress on the CNS from a bout of resistance training. If you know how, then you care going to be very rich.
Now, it would be unfair to not leave you with resources. There are two Crossfit groups I always recommend to those looking to get into Crossfit. These guys know what they are doing and their groups are using the science. And no, I do not do Crossfit programming full time, when I do it I go to these guys and their resources. I believe they do that good of work when it comes to Crossfit. In all reality, when I do Crossfit it is from these guys. Check out the following links to Crossfit Calgary (CFC) http://www.optimumperformancetraining.blogspot.com/
and Natural High Crossfit http://www.www.naturalhighcrossfit.blogspot.com/. Both James (OPT to you Crossfitters) of CFC along with Brett Marshall and Andrew, Dan and Marc of Natural High are some of the best groups I know doing Crossfit. I think tomorrow I may do Linda (inside Crossfit joke, but it always sounds dirty.)