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Sports Feature of the Month: CrossFit

Updated 
September 3, 2020
Written by 
May

CrossFit is tough. But you can be tougher.

Image source: Michael Valentin/ SCMP.com

It was the ninth event of the CrossFit Games 2019 final day.


All 10 female athletes lined up at their respective positions to prepare for the Swim Paddle. It was a 1,000-m swim and 1,000-m paddle competition. Among them was Australian Tia-Clair Toomey. While her competitors laid on their stomachs in the paddle competition, she paddled from the kneeling position. The commentators exclaimed, “Work smarter, not harder.”


And Toomey’s strategy paid off.


Toomey took an early lead. She defeated American collegiate swimmer Amanda Barnhart and even the top male finisher Matt Mcleod. Mcleod and Toomey finished way ahead of the rest that they even competed in a mock race. Toomey won with a time record of 25:12.25.


That year, Toomey cemented her place as the Fittest Woman on Earth after winning her third consecutive CrossFit Games title.


Yup, CrossFit may seem intimidating, but it’s possible to overcome its challenges—over and over again. And we will share how you can do that in this article.


But first, let’s take a closer look first at this highly popular sport.


Inside the Box: The Origins and Growth of CrossFit

CrossFit founder Greg Glassman used to be a teenage gymnast.


Growing up, he became creative and started using dumbbells and barbells during his workout. He would also bike around with other group of friends. As a competitive person, Glassman noticed that he became much stronger than his gymnast friends by doing more than just bodyweight exercises. He could easily defeat them in gymnastics, but his friends from different sports could beat him in other athletic events. He realized that while there were people who were better than him in one sport, not many could compete across multiple sports. This observation made him ask, “What price are you paying for a certain expertise?”


This idea eventually led him to found CrossFit in 2000 with Lauren Jenai. From a single gym in Santa Cruz, California, the number of CrossFit affiliate gyms exploded to 15,000 in 2020—in over 150 countries. CrossFit is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable branded fitness regimens worldwide.


And there are several reasons why CrossFit became a worldwide fitness hit:


CrossFit Training Philosophy


Inspired by Glassman’s experience as a young athlete, CrossFit applies a “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of approach to achieve fitness. It is a form of high-intensity power fitness (HIPT) and known as “the sports of fitness.”


CrossFit involves gymnastics, running, weightlifting, rowing, calisthenics, and other compound gym exercises. CrossFit enthusiasts believe that applying a constantly varied approach leads to significant improvement in fitness.


CrossFitters appreciate the varying training exercises because it makes every workout session more enjoyable. It prevents burnout and loss of motivation. And when they discover that they are able to easily do activities that they used to struggle with—like push-ups, planks, and carrying heavy stuff—they keep coming back. They get excited to become better.


Physical and Health Benefits


The multi-joint movements in CrossFit may help improve your stamina and muscle strength. It may also enhance your aerobic fitness through its high-intensity power training. Functional movements such as kettlebell swings, squats, and overhead presses can improve your balance, agility, and flexibility.


And the sweetest of all? CrossFit may aid in your weight loss and help you burn more calories than other types of workout. A 195-pound male or 165-pound female can burn up to 18 calories per minute and 15 calories per minute, respectively, when performing a CrossFit circuit. Not bad, right?


Sense of Community


CrossFit provides group classes only. It creates a sense of belongingness where people journey to fitness together. People who have shared experiences tend to become closer than just plain acquaintances. It makes going to the box exciting. The workout becomes more fun when you have friends who motivate you.


The CrossFit community has its own lingo, too. Some of the most frequently used terms that you’ll hear from CrossFitters are box (CrossFit gyms), WOD (workout of the day), and AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible).


Workout of the Day

Most CrossFit affiliates release their daily prescribed workout that CrossFitters can follow. It’s called Workout of the Day (#WOD). And every workout is different from the previous one.


The randomness of WODs adds excitement to the sport. CrossFitters can challenge themselves regularly through the constantly changing workouts that CrossFit offers.


Affiliate Business Model

CrossFit’s affiliate system plays a vital role in the sport’s worldwide popularity. It’s due to the simple (and relatively inexpensive) process of opening your own CrossFit box.


Trainers who passed the certification can teach CrossFit without paying for franchising fees. It encourages more gym owners and personal trainers to be part of the already well-known community. There’s a market, you have the skills. So, why not?


CrossFit Games

Tia-Clair Tommey (left) with Matthew Fraser (right) during the 2019 CrossFit Open. Image source: @CrossFitGames/Twitter


This highly anticipated annual competition motivates athletes to be recognized as the  “World’s Fittest Man and Woman.” CrossFit Games has become a fast-growing athletic event in America since its inception in 2007.


Here’s the most interesting bit of CrossFit Games: Participants don’t have the slightest idea on the challenges that await them. The organizers keep the details secret until the actual opening day. It prevents the participants from focusing on certain events. CrossFitters are trained to be ready for anything. The workouts often include gymnastic movements, weightlifting, standard aerobic, and other surprise events like ocean swimming, softball throwing, and obstacle courses. The Games test the performers’ overall strength and fitness.


Some of the most famous names in the CrossFit Games history are the four-time men’s winners Rich Froning Jr. and Matthew Fraser, and Tia-Clair Toomey.


These champions shared a few ways on how to increase your chances to become the next CrossFit champ.


You Can Be the Next “Fittest Person on Earth.” Here’s how.

Rich Froning makes sure that his training sessions contain various exercises to help him improve. Image source: CrossFit Mayhem website

1. Embrace variety.

Rich Froning Jr., the first four-time CrossFit Games champion, is known for his unconventional training program—and that’s not having a set program. He just plays it by ear. Froning explains, “Man, we all do CrossFit, and we all lift heavy weights. You don’t know what the workouts are going to be, so why worry about it?”


Froning includes different training regimens such as shooting handguns, rifles, and

bow and arrows to prepare for the Games. He often changes the time domain of his multi-workout days and values the need for constant variety to keep on improving.


Tia-Clair Toomey also trains this way. When gearing up for a competition, she spends

10 hours a day to practice not just inside the box; she also goes out to swim, do

cycling sessions, and run.


2. Work on your weakness.

Mat Fraser, the current title-holder and second four-time CrossFit Games champ, emphasizes the importance of acknowledging your weakness and addressing them. When he was just starting, Fraser noticed that he needed to work on his short distance running skills. He would always come in last. “I was like, ‘Okay, I need to work on my sprinting, and I have no idea how to correct this,’” Fraser says.


Fraser then sought the help of a track and field coach, and it definitely paid off. He placed second during the 840-foot shuttle sprint event in CrossFit Games 2016.


3. Be mentally-prepared.

Just like other sports competition, the Games isn’t only a physical battlefield, it’s also psychological warfare. As Froning pointed out, CrossFit Games is 70% mental and only 30% physical. He makes sure that aside from being physically ready, he’s also mentally tuned-up as he enters the competition.


On his part, Fraser encourages himself through a motivational pep talk whenever he struggles during training. He would tell himself, “Push through this. It’s only going to hurt for a minute. And then you’re going to feel great about it.”


4. Take time to recover.

Yup, we know how much you want to stand on the podium with that most coveted medal hanging on your neck. But don’t get too worked up to the point of overtraining. Overtraining can cause “inefficiencies, mechanical fatigue, and CNS (Central Nervous System) breakdown” (Mike Lee, OPEX Director of Remote Coaching). Just like in other sports, taking time to recover is the key to continuous improvement.


Tia-Clair Toomey said it best, “Training hard is a challenge itself, but recovery is when the magic happens: when you recover properly, you’re giving your body the opportunity to heal itself, rebuild damaged tissues and come back better for your next session.”


For Froning, recovery is his way to “stay ahead of things” and veer from injuries.


Aside from injuries, studies also show that overtraining and lack of recovery can lead to depression. Athletes of community-focused sports, such as CrossFit, are no exemptions. CrossFitters who are unable to keep up with the workout and lift weights like their colleagues tend to feel bad about themselves. The feeling of inadequacy starts to creep in. More often than not, it’s because their bodies are not able to recover fast enough which results in slower progress.


So before you risk overtraining, injury, and letting the negative emotional effects set in, it’s best to be mindful of recovery now.


And one way to recover like a pro is through sports massage.

Take it from Toomey. According to her, getting a sports massage can “reduce soreness, tightness, and fix all the funk that you accumulate over a long training career.”


Even Fraser believes that getting a good massage can be effective in targeting hard-to-reach areas. Massage helps him prevent muscle cramps and tightness.


If experienced athletes like them subscribe to sports massage, then it may be a good addition to your fitness arsenal, too.


Let’s take a look at the benefits of sports massage to CrossFitters:

High-intensity exercises (like CrossFit workouts) can increase the lactic acid in your body. The lactic acid buildup causes muscle pain and tightness. With ample recovery time, your body clears the lactic acid and toxins from your body. And sports massage helps expedite this process.


Sports massage is a form of clinical massage designed to treat musculoskeletal and soft-tissue injuries. It involves techniques to relax the muscles, increase blood flow, and prepare the athlete’s body for workouts.


As such, sports massage can help:


  • Improve flexibility
  • Prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Avoid overuse injuries
  • Relieve muscle tension
  • Enhance muscle function
  • Reduce inflammation and pain in the tendons, joints, bones, and nerves
  • Facilitate faster recovery


Sports massage promotes muscle growth while rebuilding the damaged ones. It can also aid in alleviating anxiety and strengthening your concentration. If you want to become an elite CrossFitter or get a shot at the CrossFit Games, you need all the help that you can get—both physically and psychologically.


Having a regular sports massage is recommended to take care of your body. These are the best times to give your therapist a call:


  • At least 45 minutes after you finish your WOD
  • During your dedicated rest day
  • At least 3 days to a week before a competition, and right after the competition (just make sure that it’s more of a relaxing type to ease your muscle tightness)


Sports massage can be costly, though. The average rate for a sports massage is $105-165 per 90-minute session. Even Fraser and Toomey know that. Fortunately, there are other innovations that can help you recover like a pro, such as massage guns, foam rollers, and floss bands.

Among these options, nothing comes close to sports massage the way massage guns do.


Percussive therapy: the faster and more practical alternative for CrossFit Recovery.

Like sports massage, massage guns can also go deep into your muscle layers through percussive therapy. Percussive therapy combines the mechanisms of vibration therapy and percussion movements, allowing it to give stronger effects compared to foam rollers and regular massage. Think deep-tissue massage.


Okay, scratch that.


Think deep-tissue massage at the comfort of your own home, your box, outdoors, wherever. Massage guns are portable recovery tools that can help turn your CrossFit Games dreams into a reality.


Percussive therapy can aid CrossFitters through its following benefits:


1. Massage guns can prepare your muscles for training.

The percussive motions of massage guns loosen the muscle knots of your targeted area. When you relieve muscle tightness, you reduce your risk of injury. Case in point: tight calf muscles may lead to Achilles tendinitis. If you head on to the box despite having muscle tightness, it may do you more harm than good.

The vibration also prompts your sympathetic nervous system that preps your body to run. Matthew N. Berenc, director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, explains, “When the muscles work to control the vibrations, they recruit a high number of muscle fibers. This way, when you start running, your muscles are already prepared and your stride could be more efficient.”


2. Massage guns can help prevent DOMS.

According to a 2014 study, vibration therapy “effectively improves muscle performance which may prevent DOMS.” CrossFit athletes are susceptible to muscle soreness due to the demands of the sport. By preventing DOMS, you can quickly get back on track. You won’t feel bad about missing a workout anymore because you’re able to keep muscle pains at bay.


3. Massage guns can aid in your flexibility.

The oscillation of massage guns synchronizes muscular spindles which can lead to a better range of motion. Flexible muscles are less likely to get injured. And for CrossFitters, good flexibility is definitely one of the essentials.


CrossFit entails good shoulder, hip, and ankle flexibility, especially for weight training. The more flexible you are, the more you can improve your strength. Lest we forget, flexibility plays a vital role in gymnastic performances. Skills like handsprings and floor routines require sufficient flexibility.


The sweetest part? Massage guns let you enjoy these benefits without spending too much and consuming your time. Take it out whenever you want. Bring it wherever you go. No problem.


Just a piece of advice: Massage guns are not recommended for people who have inflammation-related injuries, muscle strains and disorders, bone degeneration, and broken bones. Athletes who have autoimmune diseases, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and severe varicose veins should also consult their physicians first before using massage guns.


Those important precautions aside, massage guns may just be the box buddy that you need to become the CrossFit athlete that you’re meant to be.


CrossFit may be tough, but with a warrior’s mindset and the right sports recovery device, you can be tougher.


Eat well. Train harder. Recover faster. And soon, as CrossFit Games champions do, you will be ready for anything.


Click here to find out more about the sports recovery tool that’s perfectly tailored for high-performers like you.



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