Perhaps you’ve come thisclose to being run over on the sidewalk by a pack of sweaty people carrying 25-lb.weights over their heads, or you’ve seen one too many #fitfluential, #livewithfire, or #getafterit hashtags. Or—gasp—a friend brought paleo cookies to a party. No matter your introduction to it, by now, chances are you’ve at least heard of CrossFit. But what is it really?
CrossFit defines itself as “a regimen of constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity in a communal environment” that “leads to health and fitness.” Creator Greg Glassman initially dreamt up the idea in the 70s, when he noticed most gym-goers were more focused on getting “swole” than they were on getting strong. Over the next few decades, he developed the program even further, creating a fitness philosophy that’s more focused on functional mobility than muscle size (read: you don’t need to worry about getting too big or “jacked;” you’ll only get stronger and more toned).
Each workout (called a WOD – Workout of the Day) combines Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics techniques, and everyday motions that your body is naturally built for, like running, jumping, climbing, and lifting. By adopting an all-out doctrine—maximum effort in minimum time—CrossFit not only builds strength, but also endurance, cardiovascular health, speed, flexibility, and agility, all while encouraging camaraderie. It’s not uncommon to find athletes cheering their fellow fitness buffs on in the gym, then crumpling to the floor together in exhaustion. (Nor is it unusual to find them partying together on the weekends to watch the CrossFit Games or just hang out together.) As such, most devotees would say CrossFit is more than just a regimen; they’d argue it’s a culture.
Today, there are more than 7,000 “boxes,” or affiliated gyms individually owned by certified trainers. Every day, coaches post a prescribed WOD (with set weights and exercises) in person and online. That’s the other thing: CrossFit takes great advantage of the Internet, introducing its followers to a broader community that interacts with each other constantly, discussing workouts, posting pictures, besting PRs (personal records), swapping recipes, and generally just encouraging one another.
Since WODs are scaled to each person’s individual capabilities, anyone can do it. Seriously. Sure, tons of police officers, military, and pro athletes may do it, but so do plenty of grandfathers, grandmothers, preggo ladies, kids, and even celebs like Jessica Alba. At the end of the day, CrossFit is all about setting and meeting your own goals, improving your life, and celebrating yourself for being a badass. Now go #getafterit!