I love CrossFit. Like, love it.
I think it’s one of the coolest, most challenging workouts around today. I love its focus on functional fitness. I love the variety. I love the community aspect of it.
In fact, I did CrossFit for nearly a year before I decided to give it up. When I was living in Brooklyn, I went to the most amazing CrossFit gym, CrossFit Virtuosity, and had the time of my life.
The people were cool. There were both men and women, and no one expected me to work less hard because I was a chick. And the coach (as they’re called in CrossFit) was inspiring and just, well, awesome.
But when I moved to San Francisco, I decided to give it up. Here’s why:
If you’re not familiar with the workouts, CrossFit combines movements such as sprinting, jumping, rowing, bodyweight exercises, and climbing rope to make some short, intense, ass-kicking workouts, not altogether that different than the ones we do here on 12 Minute Athlete.
The main difference between my workouts and the Crossfit workouts is the Olympic style weightlifting they do in their workouts—including lots of heavy squats, shoulder presses, jerks, snatches, deadlifts and cleans.
I loved the high intensity work. I didn’t love the heavy weightlifting.
You could certainly say it’s because I’m a girl that I didn’t like it, but I’ve talked to others who have had the same reaction: I just got too damn sore from it. So sore I didnt have the energy or desire to do all the other active things I wanted to do. So sore that sometimes I could barely move for days afterwards.
Obviously, I could have pushed a little less hard and given myself a break more often… but that’s not how I do things.
And yes, I could have taken some extreme recovery measures… ice baths, weekly massages, etc. but in the end, it just wasn’t worth it to me. I don’t mind being sore, but I didn’t want to be so sore that I couldn’t do any other workouts or activities the rest of the week.
CrossFit gyms follow the Paleo diet, which if you’ve never heard of it includes mainly meat, nuts and veggies—any form of grains are frowned upon, and more extreme Paleo followers won’t even touch dairy, some fruit, and alcohol.
As a vegetarian (I’ve been one since I was six years old), this leaves me with pretty much nothing to eat. I can’t survive on nuts and veggies only!
(It has been done however—see Susan Lacke’s vegetarian paleo experiment on No Meat Athlete to learn more.)
Some CrossFit gyms are more lax about diet than others, but the ones I’ve been to have all been pretty extreme Paleo. And for good reason: all that meat no doubt helps with recovery and performance, but I just wasn’t willing to change my diet completely for the sport.
I felt it put me at a disadvantage—and also like I had to hide my diet from my fellow CrossFitters.
Although most CrossFit workouts are fairly short—ranging from 5 to 20 minutes on average—an entire CrossFit class lasts for more like an hour. That combined with getting to class early to stretch and warm up and staying after to foam roll meant the time commitment was more like an hour and a half a day, four to six times a week (or however many times I could handle it).
That’s a lot of time to devote to just exercise. Doing CrossFit on a regular basis meant I rarely had time to do the other active things I love – hiking, various sports, and exploring the Bay area outdoors with my dog.
Also, as a side note, I noticed doing CrossFit would cut into my work time since I’d get so spent during the workouts (I couldn’t help but push myself as hard as possible every single time) I’d have trouble re-focusing for an hour or two after a morning or afternoon class.
All right, guys, this is where I’m going to lose you, so feel free to skip this section. Because while CrossFit builds (in my opinion) a pretty awesome male physique, as a female CrossFitter, I began to quickly hate the way my body started to look.
I have nothing against muscular physiques—I love a strong body more than anything and I feel best when I’m as lean and strong as possible. But I naturally have fairly broad shoulders, and not surprisingly, CrossFit made them even broader.
They got so broad I had trouble fitting into normal shirts… And I definitely lost some of myfeminine appearance.
In fact, when you look at the CrossFit women such as the ones in the CrossFit games, you’ll notice that this is a pretty standard consequence of the sport.
Obviously, appearance isn’t the only thing that matters—but after realizing I was constantly sore, always nursing an injury, and didn’t like how I looked because of it, I decided my days of regular CrossFit were over.
(This was also around the same time I began creating 12 Minute Athlete workouts, which I now do six days a week, and feel better and stronger than ever.)
I love the community but…
This isn’t to say I’ll never do Crossfit again.
In fact, nearly every time I go home to visit my family in the Portland, Oregon area, I go to a CrossFit class or two with my dad or brother—and I’m happy to say that I still beat most of the guys.
It’s always fun, and challenging and extremely grueling, and the community is always fantastic.
But every time, I’m always happy to return to my 12 Minute Athlete workouts that leave me stronger, more focused, and injury-free—with plenty of time and energy to do other fun things.
Because to me, that’s what exercise is all about.