Is CrossFit or High Intensity Training right for you?

In his biography Rich Froning Jr. attributes some of his success as a CrossFit athlete to a high pain tolerance. More importantly he can completely shut it out and push past things that would put many of us on our knees. While this is a learned skill he perfected over a long season of pitching baseball with a torn shoulder as a young man it does hi-light a very important aspect of participating in CrossFit and similar modes of Cross-Training and High Intensity exercise. This discipline requires an athlete to do and possess certain things that despite their best intentions many can’t or just don’t have; mental fortitude. This style of exercise just isn’t for everyone.

I once worked for a pair of guys that built their reputation on kick-ass no holds barred workouts and a no BS training ethos. CrossFit was a natural fit for them and while they remain unaffiliated to this day they are a CrossFit box in everything but name. Unfortunately this last year has seen a dilution of that reputation as they’ve tried to become “everything to everyone” alienating their original and core membership in the process by filling the gym with people who wanted to be seen working out there but cared little about actually doing work while they were there. When pushed these prima-donnas, men and women, would whine, cry, and carry on like 2 year old’s with an ouchie. When you’re balls deep into a WOD the last thing you want to hear is the person next to you complaining that “this is heavy!” Again I say this style of exercise just isn’t for everyone; and that’s okay. In fact it should be a good thing.

What I do and what I teach in my facility is designed with a certain kind of person in mind. Remarkably physicality; age, size, and sex has nothing to do with it, I’m talking about mental attributes specifically self-discipline and resilience. CrossFit as a style of exercise is attainable by anyone with proper training and conditioning. More importantly it’s attainable by anyone willing to commit to it and stick through the first few weeks of hardship and pain. However for those who flinch or fold under duress this may not be what you’re looking for. If simply going about your everyday normal life seems like a never ending series of battles and ordeals, this may not be the best thing for you or it may be the ass-kicking you need to jump start your arrival into real adulthood. This style of exercise is best experienced by a mind free of drama and doubt, a mind that can push, motivate, and if needed force a tired body to finish or keep moving when all it wants is to stop.

We often say in the fitness industry that the mind will quit before the body is truly exhausted and in many ways this is very accurate. A mind used to quitting, to surrendering, and always looking for the easy way out can never take a body to its limits. I don’t believe such a mind can take any person to success if it’s not re-trained and awoken to the possibilities it possesses. The issue for me as a trainer is helping someone see that, if that’s even possible at all. I have the benefit of time in the military that has hardened my soul so to speak. It’s also gifted me with an understanding of what a body and mind can endure if pushed and survive. I understand that this pain right now as we work out is nothing; it’s a discomfort, an annoyance at best. Pain is explosions shredding your skin with shrapnel; pain is a broken bone jutting through the tissue of your thigh. Exercise is nothing but a minor inconvenience.

One aspect of CrossFit I appreciate is the Hero WOD’s. Often these workouts are named for warriors who died tragically and violently in combat overseas. I know I looked at the workout “Murph” in a whole new way after reading the book “Lone Survivor” last year and realizing what Mike Murphy went through on the day he died suffering catastrophic injuries and literally refusing to die until help had been secured for his squad mates and brothers. Workouts like these are helpful when helping clients get out of their own head and to get over their own bullshit even if it’s just for the time it takes to do a WOD.

This just isn’t for everyone. I say that again. Many prospective clients think they want to do this. All their friends are doing it and it’s wildly popular and they want to be part of it. While I’m explaining to them how strenuous this can be and how hard the first few weeks will test their body and mind I can tell they’re not listening; their eyes are glazed over and in their minds their imaging the new thinner stronger version as if will be created overnight with pixie dust and wishful thinking. They have no idea of what’s in store because again they’re not listening. These are the same people that will be complaining about all the things I warned them of in the beginning so I have to have the same discussion all over again. I have to hold their hand and reassure them that they’re not going to die. Many have never really pushed themselves to this level of physical exertion and the effects are as alien and unfamiliar to them as running on a treadmill is to me. It will end in one of three ways; they will quit when the magnitude of what they’ve signed themselves up for hits home. They will be told to go somewhere else by me when the weeks of never-ending complaints, whining, and drama fail to dry-up, or they will Cowboy the hell up, realize we’re all in pain, tired, and sore and this is part of what it takes and we’re all tired of listening to it.

This final option is the most desirable. If a person can get here they will experience a rebirth of themselves in character, strength, and determination. The only question is which path they will choose. In the end they will choose one or have it chosen for them (which many desire anyway so they won’t have to quit, and can tell their friends and family they tried their best.) So my friends which will it be? This just isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine there’s nothing wrong with cardio machines, Zumba classes, spinning, running, doing P90x, Insanity, body-building or whatever else you may prefer. All offer different paths to similar goals some less strenuous and easier to sustain. The crime is committing to one because it’s the new “in” thing and not because it’s what is best or right for you.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. mebeatingme says:

    Very good read. I really want to build to become confident enough to Crossfit, but once being over 150kgs (not sitting at 112kgs) I lack the self confidence to make the next step in to Crossfit. I am currently going to a gym, but feel I am lost with what I am/ should be doing. Can you point me in the right direction to find information on planning workouts/ sessions or do you have any hints or tips you can pass my way?

    Feel free to check out my blog also and leave feedback. Cheers.

    1. savagefitness says:

      You don’t need to build up too CrossFit. If you can find a decent box with experienced coaches and instructors they can scale the workouts to meet your current fitness level and make it more manageable. The idea of “building up” is more of a form of procrastination than anything else. What you need is form and function to your training. The best way to get that is to go somewhere to be trained or hire a trainer. Don’t let advertising and TV fool you most people doing CrossFit in gyms aren’t super fit or chiseled athletes. Most are just normal people trying to get fit same as you. Of the 40 people I train, 7 are what we might call elite athletes. SO don’t be intimidated and just take the plunge.

      1. mebeatingme says:

        Thanks for that. I totally agree with the procrastination thing. I will have a look around and see what is close by and do a bit of research. Thanks for getting back to me!

      2. savagefitness says:

        You’re welcome. If anything just start doing some bodyweight work every day until you can find a box to join. The biggest issue most face when beginning a new exercise program is mobility in the lower body. Practice Squatting and try to keep your torso upright and your knees tracking over your feet. Depth will come with time and practice. Pushups, Pullups, Air Squats, and Planks will do a body good.

      3. mebeatingme says:

        I have been doing a bit of reading and from that realised that I need to do a bit more around the basics (specifics can wait). I would like to hear your feedback regarding my program for the next month if you have time.

      4. savagefitness says:

        email me the details of your program to and I’ll take a look and get back with you this weekend.

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