Why you should give CrossFit a try no matter your age or ability
PUBLISHED: 11:16 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:23 12 December 2018
Coaches from CrossFit Orwell in Ipswich debunk myths around the sport and share exactly why it's suitable for all ages and abilities.
The first rule of CrossFit is the exact opposite of that of Fight Club - ‘you always talk about CrossFit’ (or so my boyfriend reminds me when I apparently mention it every day).
If this is the case, you’ve likely heard about the sport, about the high intensity workouts and the crazy fit athletes that devote their days to forever improving their game. But what you probably haven’t heard is that there are a lot of myths and misconceptions around this type of training and that, in fact, it’s perfectly suitable for all ages and abilities – and is no where near as scary as you might think.
Off the top of my head I know of at least five CrossFit boxes across Suffolk, one of which – CrossFit Orwell (at Suffolk Food Hall in Ipswich) – I regularly go to. When I first started out, I imagined I’d be surrounded by super strong athletes and that the whole thing, from start to finish, would be intimidating. But I was completely wrong. As soon as you walk in you’re surrounded by smiling faces – all of which are there for the same reason, to feel healthier, fitter and stronger.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a training programme that builds strength and conditioning through extremely varied and challenging training. All workouts are based on functional movements which not only reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more, but are also the core movements of life. CrossFit uses varying degrees of intensity and timing in order to test your body in different ways and is perfect for individuals who not only love a challenge and enjoy learning new skills, but also those who may be bored by traditional exercise routines.
Is CrossFit intimidating?
“One of the reasons CrossFit may have a perception of being scary or intimidating might be due to what you see on the internet and social media,” says Kirsty Turner, owner and coach at CrossFit Orwell. “If you type CrossFit into Google images, the first thing to come up is six packs and heavy weights. These types of images are accurate for approximately the top 1% of CrossFit athletes and they’re exactly that, elite.
“CrossFit in the broader terms is a strength and conditioning programme designed to encourage a wide variety of participants towards leading a healthier and more active lifestyle. It also allows members to train as part of a supportive and encouraging community with likeminded people.”
When reaching out to other members at CrossFit Orwell for their thoughts on the sport, I heard from Nick. He said: “The only real CrossFit I had seen was in the US when I used to live there, and it felt like a bit of a cult and quite intimidating to step into. I also, wrongly, thought it was all about loads of reps and not much strength training. Since attending CrossFit Orwell my thoughts on CrossFit have changed. The coaches and members have been friendly, helpful and encouraging during workouts and I’ve felt that my strength and cardio have improved a lot in the short time, perhaps more so than most of my time just ‘gymming’.”
Do you have to be fit to join CrossFit?
“Since CrossFit Orwell opened at the end of September we have had a very broad range of members join us. We have complete beginners that have never done any kind of exercise, right through to others that have been taking part in CrossFit for quite a few years. The age range of our members goes from an 18-year-old male all the way through to our eldest lady at 70 years old! It’s been really rewarding for us to be coaching such a mixture of abilities and to watch them all progress in their own ways,” added Kirsty.
Another member I heard from was Rebecca who, at 39, she said she had been sedentary for years and that initially the thought of CrossFit was “terrifying”. “It sounded brutal and designed for people with already-bulging muscles!” she said. “My sister convinced me to give it a go however and I’m so glad I did! The coaches have scaled everything making it completely do-able and it all happens in the most supportive and friendly environment.”
Another member, Sue, had a similar opinion. “When I first saw CrossFit I thought that it was for super fit twenty-somethings and not for an over 50 like me - but someone told me that it was for all ages and that there were people in their 60s and 70s who were members, so I felt reassured to at least come through the door for the first time. I have made more progress since starting CrossFit than I ever thought was possible and I feel more motivated than ever to chase more challenging goals.”
Put simply, CrossFit is fitness, and everybody needs fitness in their life. “There’s no such thing as needing to be fit before you start,” added Kirsty. “It’s down to us as coaches to make the session suitable for all levels and abilities and to ensure you all experience a safe, effective and enjoyable session.”
Does CrossFit cause injuries?
There are also other assumptions surrounding the high intensity sport which, although not true, can be enough to put those who haven’t tried CrossFit before off. The biggest of these is most likely based around getting injured, however with experienced, knowledgeable coaches such as Kirsty, and Darren Hotten who also owns and coaches at the box, you can rest assured that this only a myth.
“CrossFit as a sport is often related directly to injuries due to the types of functional movements that are performed at a high intensity,” Kirsty explained. “If these movements are not coached to a suitable level and not given the appropriate scaling or loading then injuries may well occur; in the same way as if you told a novice runner to run a marathon having never ran a mile, they would most likely end up injured.
“The first and most important component when taking part in CrossFit is learning good movement patterns. Then you must be able to repeat them consistently before finally adding the appropriate intensity.”
Is CrossFit really competitive?
People often associate the sport with competition too, and although there are competitive games (including the annual CrossFit Open which ends in the CrossFit Games and the more local Suffolk Games) throughout the year, there will never be a situation in which members feel they have to compete.
“Competition can be referred to in many ways; for some it may be competition with themselves each week to get better, for some it may be to go up against their friend in a workout and for others it may be an actual CrossFit competition. Your biggest competitor however will always be yourself, regardless of what scenario you may be in,” Kirsty concluded.