CrossFit: Fitness vs. Sport
One of the most proclaimed characteristics of CrossFit, is that anyone – from any walk of life – can participate and benefit. Meaning that there is a place for the young, athletic individuals as well as the 50-year old couch potato. As you could imagine with such a wide range of athletes, there must be different motives as to what we are all trying to accomplish at the box. Some of us are attracted to CrossFit because we have a competitive spirit. Maybe we are former athletes. The thrill of racing the clock, hitting PRs, and seeing where we place on the leaderboard is what rekindles the old flame we experienced playing sports. Then there is the other end of the spectrum. There are those of us who are simply looking to take back our lives. We want to improve our health and fitness in order to live a longer, fulfilling life. We want to be happy when we look in the mirror, spend time being active with our children, or just improve our overall well-being. Both types of individuals can find success at the CrossFit box. There ARE different approaches, to CrossFit, that you should take depending on what your personal goals are. So because of that, it is important to know your motive, and understand your end goals so that you can ensure you are on the right track to reach them. To paint a clear picture, we are going to discuss two different approaches to CrossFit and your training: Fitness vs. Sport.
CrossFit for Fitness
The high majority of athletes in any box, should be training for a general, functional fitness. This is a fitness that keeps us healthy, strong, and SAFE. CrossFit at its foundation is defined as “Constantly Varied, Functional Fitness, at High Intensity.” Intensity is relative to the athlete depending on their current fitness level. So any level of athlete can perform the same workout using their own intensity level – scaling up or down as necessary. A functional fitness is something you can take with you outside the gym. It is a fitness that you can apply to your everyday life. Running, jumping, throwing, pushing, pulling, and picking things up – these are things that we have to do in life, and CrossFit can make us better at them. In addition to the physical benefits, the CrossFit prescription can improve our biomarkers. It can reduce our body fat and increase our muscle mass. We will see improvements in our cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides. In summary, when we train for fitness, we are training for an improved overall well-being and LONGEVITY. Smart training to improve our fitness, is a SAFE training that will LAST.
If our end goal is one of fitness – to live a long, prosperous, healthy life – then we should not be sacrificing our body to get there. In training, don’t be so concerned about doing everything Rx, it is simply a recommendation. It is a generalized standard that is not personalized towards your ability level. It can be a great measuring tool, and there is nothing wrong about aiming to get there. However, if going RX at the moment is going to take you outside the recommended goal time, sacrifice technique, or increase risk of injury, then it is doing us more harm than good. In that case we scale to our ability level and get a great workout, high five and go home.
When training for fitness, we can still compete for fun. If we decide to jump in on a local competition or participate in the Open, then it is important to note that even competition for fun makes us more willing to push past our limits. Remember the goal in this case is just to have a good time with our friends and fellow athletes. Test your fitness, have fun, and be smart about your approach!
CrossFit for Sport
When we decide that we are going to train solely to improve our performance in competition, there are some things we must take into account. First and foremost we must understand, when we turn CrossFit into a “sport” rather than just a fitness regimen, we are increasing our risk for injury. When the movement STANDARDS take precedent over the movement TECHNIQUE, our focus has shifted from “let’s do this correctly” to “let’s do whatever gets me the most points, reps, etc.” If we decide that our end goal is to become a stronger competitor in CrossFit, and we are aware and willing to make the sacrifices to our body, there are still additional factors to consider.
Even as a competitor, we must decipher the difference between competing and training. If we are in the gym in a training environment, then the approach to the workout is different. It is not time to lay it all on the line. It is a time to practice, and improve our fitness safely. Just as a football team doesn’t let their quarterback lay out in the end-zone and sacrifice their body during practice, we shouldn’t be making similar sacrifices. Train safe, stay healthy, and when we are out on the competition floor we will be primed and ready to perform our best. That is when we truly test our limits and see what we are capable of.
Training for Fitness
Goal: A broad, general functional fitness. Healthy biomarkers. Staying off medication and pushing away the nursing home. LONGEVITY.
Risk of Injury: Low Risk – scale to your level if needed, train safe, high five and go home
A long trajectory towards a distant horizon – Aiming to be more fit 10 years down the road
You can compete for fun, but it is not the end goal!
Training for Sport/Competition
Goal: To perform at peak level on competition day.
Risk of Injury: Higher Risk – requires more volume and precedent of standards over technique on competition day
A short and high trajectory towards a short term goal – Aiming to be as fit as possible on competition day. Training leading up to competition should be safe training. On competition day we leave it all out on the floor.
It is always important to know your why. That knowledge will ensure we are on the right track now to meet our goal down the road. The vast majority of us are training for fitness, and by defining what that means we can make better sense of our everyday training and feel confident we are on the right track. We are all here for different reasons, but the beauty of CrossFit is that we can reach our individual goals alongside each other. I challenge you to define your why, and then pursue it with passion. As always, remember your Ability Is Limitless!