I've spent a lot of time on here talking about training in general. Now I'm going to get specific about what I've been up to, which has generally been Crossfit for the last three months and lots of kayaking before that. I'm now in the midst of training for the rest of 2009/2010, which will be a lot more sport-specific.
Right now I have three big goals: A 24-hour climbing session in early January (more on that soon), then trips to Norway and Japan. This is all ice. I also have a far-off goal in June involving a whole lot of uphill hiking.
First off, here are my thoughts on Crossfit based on several less-than-committed go-arounds over the last five years, and the last three months of full-on committed Crossfit. If you've never heard of CF you might find some of the following difficult.
-I was able to train through CF with some elbow issues, and those healed up during the program.
-Overall, my body feels far better today than it has in the last couple of years. Despite lots of squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, etc. etc. I feel damn good.
- Progress at Crossfit workouts is measurable, and fun.
-I am a classic "ectomorph," meaning I don't gain muscle easily. I'm 12-15 pounds heavier after the last three months of going at CF, and almost all of this is muscle. I'm not sure this is a positive, but as someone who generally doesn't gain much muscle at all this has been really interesting to me. My body has changed a lot.
-I have a more engaged perspective on moving heavy weights in space. Doing Olympic lifts changes your viewpoint. Throwing a kayak on top of my truck is now a lot simpler both because I understand the motion and am stronger at that movement. This is very useful, and I'm grateful to understand more about moving weights. Not lifting, moving. Big difference, and cool.
-Crossfit is big on "general physical preparedness." This means throw any physical challenge at a Crossfitter and he or shell will be OK with it. Broadly, I agree that CF does this. Lift a box of books, move a set of snowtires, chase after someone, lift an axle, whatever, CF is great for general life stuff. I'd say CF kicks ass on anything else I've ever done for general life fitness. If I only had six hours a week to train and no idea what I was training for I'd chose CF. It's effective. I can honestly say that I will never go into a gym and do five sets of five exercises and think I'm working out. If I ever get stuck in a 60-hour a week desk job I will still CF, it works.
-There is great community of people involved with CF. The videos, forums (main site and Brand X), it's all bit Apple-like in terms of support and openness.
-CF is "agnostic," meaning that it encourages examination, discussion, and experimentation. Many fitness routines are monotheistic, meaning you MUST DO 5 SETS or whatever the deity of the month is or something like that. I like the introspective, questioning nature of CF.
-CF is inclusive; it doesn't matter if you're 75 or 15, male or female, fat or ripped, you can get in and get it on. That's cool.
-You can do CF with very little equipment. I did a month-long cycle with rocks and playgrounds. It worked. Most gyms are full of equipment that just isn't all that useful compared to what could be done with the space the equipment occupies.
The above are the general "plus" points I see out of CF. Below are "neutral" observations:
-CF is not sport-specific, nor does it claim to be. Doing CF to be a better sport climber, runner, swimmer, kayaker, or whatever is a waste of time. Doing each individual sport will produce better results for that sport. Overall, CF is not about sport-specific training at all, nor does it claim to be--Glassman makes this point repeatedly. Some adherents try to make CF sport-specific, but that's fitting a round peg in a square hole. You're always better off training specifically if specificity is your goal.
-You need to drink the Kool-Aid and do several cycles of CF to get the point. It's very, very different than working out in a "normal" gym. Sometimes things seem very weird, but it's very hard for me to argue with the results. It's hard to do CF and also do sports specific training.
-Many CFers start to think CF is a sport in its own right. They may actually be right, but it's kinda funny that training becomes a sport. Or is it? I'm still not sure how I feel about the CF games (I am impressed with the athletes, holy shit!).
And here are the negatives as I see them:
-CF needs more agility exercises to be considered complete GPP. Why are we always running in a straight line? Why don't we do some old-school wind sprints with direction changes? Lateral box jumps? Side lunges? I guarantee that these basic dry-land ski training exercises would severely destroy most CFers, and that is something we all enjoy so why not include them?Gymnastics is only one form of body-weight training...
-Almost every single exercise in CF is a "split down the middle movement." By this I mean most movements are balanced on either side of the mid-line in nice organized manner. This is not life. We don't always lift straight on. We don't alway sprint in a straight line. Often we have to pick things up and throw them to one side or the other. We do pullups with our hands staggered. In keeping with the randomness of life I'd think doing more near-random movement in CF would be a very good thing. I see sandbags and so on in the CF games; why not take the creativity I see in the CF games and apply this to the workouts? How about a lateral wall-ball throw? So many options, and I may put some of this into my next CF cycle (I'm going to use CF as my bridge workout between seasons for the future).
-CF is based around the idea that most people are solid, decent people, and will do a good job if given the opportunity. This is a positive actually, as I believe it too. But, unfortunately, I do not think one weekend of coaching is going to produce people with a solid enough knowledge base to effectively program workouts and coach others. Maybe if they have gone through ten years of intensive training for their own sports and now want to coach others, but all you need to open a CF "box" is your level one certification. I don' think this is very good quality control. That said, I haven't gone to a level one certification and could be wrong.
-There is a serious quantity of pretentious bullshit in various aspects of CF. "Forging Elite Fitness" is a great tagline, but come on. People with Elite Fitness win medals and set records. Doing Fran in ten minutes is not "Elite" except in reference to other CF athletes... I would put a good runner up against most any CF athlete in a run, no contest. Same with skier, climber, boxer, gymnast, etc. etc. A true elite athlete has many years of dedicated training and competing behind him or her; there are very few CFers with more than five years of CF behind them. Claiming to possess elite fitness is bullshit without a long chain of results that support the claim. CF is becoming its own sport, like the firefighter games or the logger games...
-I am concerned about shoulder injures and CF. I do not have any good scientific study to base this on, but I know a lot of people who do CF for a year or so and then have shoulder surgery. Maybe hard training promotes shoulder problems; if so this is a problem. I'm not sure CF is any worse than other protocols, but this needs to be studied at some point.
So there's my thoughts on my own CF training for the past three months. I am going to go and do a level-one CF cert this spring after I finish up some of my own projects. Broadly, I believe in CF and think it's effective for what it promises to be. That's incredibly rare in the training world. Over the last five years I've inserted some of CF's main principles into my own sport-specific workouts with very good results. Now I've done a relatively short but definitely full-on go-around with it, and I'm stoked. If nothing else it's damn cool to have a clue what those Olympic guys are doing with the weights. Now I'm moving into a sport-specific training cycle. I sure am going miss the WOD. Might sneak it in occasionally...
Next: Training for a 24-hour suffer fest...