So what is CrossFit?

CrossFit Chalked Hands - Elly Cowley
CrossFit Chalk Hands Elly Cowley
This weekend my step-brother-in-law (big extended family..) asked me "what is CrossFit?"
I guess when you spend your free time in a CrossFit gym, your instagram feed is full of olympic lifts, CrossFit fail memes and the fittest people on earth, you kinda forget that the majority of the population haven't heard of the word.
"Is that like crosstraining?"
Or you may have heard of it, but you're a little dubious.
So what is it?
Fact: CrossFit is in fact a trademark company, not just a fitness movement - like MetaFit or Speedflex.
Taken from, it is defined as "constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity".
But what does this actually mean?
At the forefront of the mission is a bias towards improving the health of the population, through functional movement which mimics the patterns you need to remain independent. Take the squat for example: without this basic movement, you cannot get up and down from a toilet. If this regresses, you are no longer independent. Developing these movement patterns literally means you are able to keep out of a nursing home for longer.
It takes the best parts of every sport, particularly the movements which can be applied to everyday life and combines them together.
A typical CrossFit class first focuses on technique of a compound lift or a gymnastic move, such as the barbell snatch, or the pull up. The second part of the class is dedicated to building fitness and the energy system through a 'metcon' (metabolic conditioning), which is usually two to three movements repeated for rounds or time. Other common themes are partner and team workouts, where you work together against a clock to complete the work. There is also a chance to interact with the wider community through local, national and international competitions. This is a chance to see how fit you are compared to others around the globe.
CrossFit Snatch Elly Cowley
There's no doubt about it, CrossFit is intense! You'll work harder than you ever thought you could.  You literally take yourself to the point of pain.
And you can't wait to go back.
That is partly because while you are in an exhausted sweaty mess, you are in good company - surrounded by some of the best people you'll ever meet. No matter what anyone says about it, CrossFit attracts the best kind of people. I've always believed that they are like me; natural rebels who have been semi-tamed by society and need an outlet so they don't turn to recreational drugs, alcohol, crime or general waster traits anymore. Okay I joke, but I'll bet some of them can relate ;-)
There is something about lying on the floor absolutely done in, high fiving your coach and classmates and just feeling more alive than you do anywhere else.
That feeling is addictive.
Not only that but it gives you more goals than you could possibly fit in one lifetime. In bodybuilding you may have aesthetic goals, power lifting you have goals for a 1 rep max deadlift, bench or squat. Crossfit you have a whole world of gymnastics, olympic lifting and cardiovascular elements to work towards. Indeed achieving a balance between all of these will be the source of most of your frustration! Ironically by taking the pressure off training to lose weight or to look good naked, you end up getting these results you have always wanted, but by this point it has just become one of the many benefits of training this way. A happy byproduct.
It is of course a bit of a cult, and it certainly isn't for everyone. I used to be just like my step-brother-in-law, a bit wary but also a bit curious. Once I tried it, it didn't take long before I was all in, but that's my story.
My advice is don't knock anything until you've tried it, it might turn out to be just what you were looking for.

Written by Elly Cowley,
Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach and CF-L1 Trainer
Reebok CrossFit Tyneside
Elly Cowley, PT Nutrition Coach and Reebok CrossFit Tyneside

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