CrossFit: why are people so devoted to high intensity training?

3 min read

Why would you join the CrossFit craze? Well, because this intensive style of fitness training actually keeps you on trim, track and coming back for more.

Why has CrossFit training achieved cult status? We asked Commando Steve Willis from Australia’s Biggest Loser and creator of the Get Commando Fit training program to break it down for us.

Willis says there are a number of factors that make CrossFitness training popular and effective. “It’s serious but also fun and engaging,” he says. “And because the workout constantly mixes it up it keeps people interested.

“I’ve run a CrossFit gym and it’s the primary method of training that I utilise. It has gained cult status because of the group training form and the way it’s prescribed.”

In general, Willis says, the CrossFit approach involves moving, lifting and controlling body movements. “Those are the modalities it addresses, using cardiovascular conditioning, gymnastics, using your own bodyweight in what is called calisthenics, weightlifting and strength training.”

He says CrossFit training is characterised by the performance of constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity, relative to the individual, he stresses.

“It shows people a practical way of training. The key is how you perform that exercise form, technique and movement. The better you move the fitter you will be.”

Why it’s so effective, he says, is because it draws people together in a community-type way in a workout scaled to meet the needs of both the fitter and the not so fit. People start together and finish together on the workout of the day. “It’s inclusive,” Willis emphasises. The achievement goals are shared and the participants learn the required capabilities and practise the movements to master them.

“The big thing with CrossFit is respecting the movement: not pushing through if you are starting to lose control. People can take small steps to work on fundamental movements: squats, push-ups, chin-ups, cardio for 30 minutes, stitching it together with bodyweight control exercise, in three sets of 10, for example. ”

He compares the training style to how an athlete would train: to run quicker, lift heavier and work out harder for longer. With CrossFit training he says you can’t help but see improvement overall. “It’s very different from training alone. You constantly have coaches and trainers overseeing you who are passionate about it.”

That not only helps people get in the mood but assists in keeping them on track with motivation. “Any type of training is about self-improvement and bettering yourself,” Willis says, adding that a lot of training and goals are focused on aesthetics or getting a particular look but that with CrossFit the emphasis is on functionality: “prehab rather than rehab”, as he puts it. This applies particularly to the joints: the hips, ankles, knees and shoulders.

“Motivation is not a one size fits all thing. As a trainer I try to identity what people want to achieve and get them to try doing things they think they can’t do by setting challenges to make them find that little bit extra in themselves,” he explains. “So many people give up before they reach their best.”

He suggests getting started by doing what you can manage at the stage of fitness you are at. “You have to be practical. Don’t try to change too many things at once. Start with two sessions in seven days, get good at it, add another one. Use regularity to keep yourself on track,” he says.

“Constantly remind yourself of the reason why you’re doing it. My go-to is to have affirmations and a mantra that speaks to you. Ask yourself how much do you really want it, what can I control, how can I put it to best use?”

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