What if I told you that you could burn over 250 calories in one 20-minute workout? I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy, but stats like that are undoubtedly impressive. You see, according to scientists at Kennesaw State University, a CrossFit routine called Cindy can torch 261 calories in less than the length of an episode of Girls.
As you might have guessed already, CrossFit is known for being brutal. It’s high in intensity, high in results, and high in die-hard devotees who never miss a WOD (workout of the day). The brand has amassed 1.9 million followers on Instagram (a backing sometimes likened to a cult or Fight Club), and a reputation for sculpting some of the fittest bodies on the planet. Still, while the brand isn’t short on fans, there are plenty who don’t know what CrossFit is or whether they should take the leap and give it a go.
Keep scrolling to learn more about CrossFit, and what makes this calorie-torching workout so popular.
What is Crossfit?
If you want to build a body capable of anything and everything, the CrossFit way of life could be for you—and it is a way of life. The brand boasts that its “speciality is not specialising,” with the programme incorporating elements of many different sports, carried out with as many rounds or reps as your body will allow in a given time.
For example, Cindy involves five reps of pull-ups, 10 reps of push-ups and 15 reps of air squats to be repeated as many times as possible in 20 minutes. The success in this drill—and many CrossFit routines—is that each exercise works different muscle groups, allowing the rest of your muscles to rest between rounds, so you can push harder on each movement.
The best place to do CrossFit is in a CrossFit gym (or “box”), where, every day, a different workout is prescribed for the entire group. The programme doesn’t differ based on whether you’re a beginner or a skilled athlete. Rather, the workouts themselves are completely scalable, so while you’ll all be doing the same moves, you might be lifting a lower weight or reducing the number of reps to start with.
THE BASIC LINGO
WOD: Workout of the day
Box: Your CrossFit gym containing bars, weights and ropes—no TVs or mirrors here
AMRAP: As many repetitions as possible
EMOM: Every minute on the minute, meaning you perform a specific task every time the clock reaches :00
As RX’d: The prescribed parameters for a workout
For time: Your goal is to finish the routine as quickly as you can
PR: Personal record
WHY IS IT SO POPULAR?
It’s easy to see the appeal of CrossFit. The routines are short, sharp and powerful, enabling you to accomplish more in 12 (intense) minutes than you might during your usual long gym session. You’ll be drenched in sweat, and your muscles will ache, but with little time spent on each exercise, it is surprisingly easy to stay motivated through the inevitable pain.
Then there’s the CrossFit community. The CrossFit gyms are known for bringing fitness fans together, encouraging a sense of camaraderie and—here’s the bit that gets me—a competitive spirit. Scoreboards, a running clock and record-keeping are more addictive than you might expect, not to mention seeing how your body gets stronger with every gruelling routine.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
First up, lose your inhibitions. While the sheer intensity of CrossFit may seem intimidating at first, the routines aren’t only designed for super-chiseled, medal-snagging athletes. Your first (second, third… ) session won’t be easy, but a good box coach will support you and help you scale the WODs to challenge you, while still meeting what your body can do.
And, here’s the important part: As tempting as it is to keep pushing for those PRs and PBs, overtraining just harms you in the long run, so aim to deload at least once a week. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—and ask again—to ensure you’re getting your movements just right, and remember that the only person you’re competing against is yourself.