By Natalie Richoux & Colleen McTiernan | Photos shot on-location at Dynasty CrossFit by Jimmy Ho Photography

Fumbling through the gym to find the perfect spot for a photo of the CrossFitters, I found an ideal location but it was blocked by an impenetrable (to me) wall of weights. After giving my weak arm muscles a pep-talk to kick into gear, I began attempting to move stacks of weight plates and kettlebells out of the way for that ideal shot. That’s when Katryna Stepp, a “newbie” of just over a year to CrossFit, arrived and easily whisked away weight plates and kettlebells that I struggled to move an inch and told me, “that’s exactly why I CrossFit.”

Being able to practically use workouts in your everyday life is why Stepp is a member of one of the 13,000 affiliate clubs that have ditched conventional gym workouts. “… the BIGGEST reason I still do CrossFit is the functional fitness it has allowed me to have in life. That is, I can lift my 60-pound son and not worry about throwing my back out. I can lift heavy things, carry things, move things in my life and not worry about hurting myself. I no longer have these fears, and that to me is priceless,” Stepp said.

Founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman, CrossFit offers a different workout platform than conventional “big box” gyms due to the, “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” according to the official CrossFit website. A CrossFit workout often incorporates numerous exercises in a single workout session that are designed for everyone, whether you are a beginner or a 10-year veteran, which has contributed to its sharp rise in popularity in the last decade.

“One minute your [sic] lifting a heavy barbell, and the next minute you’re jumping on the rower for a sprint. It never gets boring, and that’s important to me because I can honestly see myself doing CrossFit for the rest of my life. It’s become such an important part of my routine,” said Carlee Marhefka, a dedicated CrossFitter of four years and co-owner of B3 Gym. “I had been training for a few years in a traditional boot camp class, and while I loved the workouts I was doing, I felt like I had hit a plateau. CrossFit was the opportunity to try something new, and challenge my body in a way I hadn’t done before.”

Beyond changing up things during your workout session, CrossFit focuses on Workout of the Day routines (WODs). Anyone, CrossFit member or not, can access the WOD at Crossfit.com. The WOD goes through a list of exercises that should be performed sequentially and even goes as far as specifying weight for men and women, as well as scaling up for beginners and intermediate CrossFitters. The WODs often incorporate both strength and cardio exercises into their routine such as a WOD (specifically WOD 180603) that was three rounds of 25 deadlifts followed by 1,000 meters of biking. Each day the WODs vary, with some days simply being a rest day to give your body time to recover. Aside from WODs, there is a level of coaching, support and community not found in conventional gyms and workouts according to Glassman.

CrossFit aims to be an inclusive fitness program for everyone that, while it is high intensity, is broad and general so that people of all fitness levels, abilities, professions and fitness goals can participate. “The level of coaching that you receive is next to none,” Sherman Merricks, a nine-year CrossFit veteran and owner of Dynasty CrossFit, said. “Someone is always there to help you and make sure your form is correct. The fun is getting to hang out with like minded people that create an awesome community.”

The communities you build in a CrossFit gym go beyond just having like-minded people to workout with, but also helping build yourself as an individual. “For me, it is also about challenging myself to do things outside of my comfort zone and building confidence and strength,” said Lindsey Johnson, a CrossFit member of over two years. “Building resilience in exercise is a great way to build resilience in life.” Part of breaking out of your comfort zone and building confidence and strength comes with the opportunity to participate in CrossFit games.

“The first time I heard about CrossFit was in 2013 when I came across the CrossFit Games on ESPN.  It looked like a lot of fun and something that I would enjoy doing,” said Bob Ruano, an avid CrossFit member and enthusiast. “I made my first Games appearance in 2015 and then again in 2017. This summer I’ll be making the trip once again for my 3rd time.” The CrossFit games are a three-stage season of competitions. Stage one is at your gym with your coaches scoring you; stage two is a regional, three-day competition; and stage three is the Reebok CrossFit Games, where 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams, 80 teenagers and 240 athletes in the 35-and-older masters division will compete to see who is the Fittest on Earth according to the CrossFit website. However, some people have warned of the dangers of CrossFit workouts and games training.

“I’ve heard all the negatives on CrossFit including that it’s dangerous and abusive to your body,” Ruano said. “As a Chiropractic Physician, I can honestly say if you learn the proper body mechanics [form] and not get into a rush to add intensity to your workout, you will become a stronger, more fit human.” Working out can be dangerous for any individual who does not know proper form, but with coaches and trainers there to guide you through a CrossFit routine and help you achieve your fitness goals, it may be the perfect workout option for you.

Interested in trying out CrossFit, but don’t know how to get started? Lindsey Johnson, two and half year CrossFitter, recommends exploring your options and checking out a few different gyms, or boxes, around town before committing to a box as they all are run differently from one another and one may be more welcoming and comforting to your personal fitness style. Many boxes offer free class sessions to individuals who may be interested in joining, so ask to try out a class or two before committing to determine whether you feel comfortable with the coaches and the community atmosphere. After you’ve found the ideal box, gather some more information by trying to, “Find out how they get beginners started, the class schedule, location convenience, and if they offer individual training sessions,” Johnson said. “Convenience is very important — don’t set yourself up for failure by providing ample opportunity for excuses. You want somewhere that is going to both encourage and challenge you to be your best!”