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How to break up with CrossFit

Wie man mit CrossFit Schluss macht

It's not up to me, it's up to you

CrossFit has become very popular as it has filled a huge gap in the fitness industry - giving ordinary people access to intense workouts performed alongside a supportive community of like-minded people. The CrossFit community matches the experience of many college athletes, where a team has access to fantastic equipment and is whipped into shape on a daily basis over a four-year period. Then, when college graduation comes, everything changes.

Maybe you fell in love with CrossFit, but then decided it was no longer the best thing for you. However, the reason you want to break away from CrossFit could play a big role in what comes next. Let's first talk about the most common of these "reasons to break up" and then what your options might be for the future.

CrossFit, I don't love you anymore because...

You are expensive

CrossFit is an expensive girlfriend. Compared to a commercial gym membership, which can cost between 20 and 60 euros per month, a CrossFit membership is significantly more expensive, costing between 100 and 180 euros per month. This may still be a bargain when you consider the results, but that's not the point here. If such a membership becomes too much of a financial burden, it may be necessary for you to part with it.

I hurt myself

Like any other intense form of exercise, CrossFit comes with a certain risk of injury and a group environment isn't great for injured athletes. At my gym, we constantly have athletes suffering from some type of injury or limitation and it takes a lot of program adjustments to keep them healthy and give them a pain-free workout. They don't train with the rest of the herd because, quite simply, they can't. And customizing the CrossFit workout may not help in every case, which is especially true in a class with a dozen or more people doing the same WOD.

I want more options and freedom

CrossFit has a number of standard exercises that are incorporated into many workouts. These include box jumps, burpees, wall balls, thrusters, kipping pull-ups, etc. Who decided that these exercises are important or relevant to you? Well, CrossFit decided that. But maybe you hate throwing a big, stupid medicine ball against a wall over and over again. Maybe you're sick of burpees for good, which is understandable. We understand. Luckily, you can just walk out the door and never do one of these exercises again.

I want to specialize

CrossFit prides itself on not including specialization, but if you want to be really good at something, or focus on training for a specific aesthetic goal, then training without specialization may no longer be right for you. If you've fallen in love with the idea of getting muscular, then it might be a good decision to switch to bodybuilding training, as many traditional hypertrophy training methods are ignored by CrossFit.

On the other hand, if you want to get good at Olympic weightlifting and maybe even compete, then it might be time to stop spending so much time doing burpees and jumping rope (some CrossFit boxes offer specialization classes for Olympic weightlifting, while others do not). CrossFit may have been designed to inspire your passion for strength training, but it may not be the best choice for achieving your goals as your athletic ability, fitness and interests evolve.

Say goodbye to what's fun, too

CrossFit has allowed you to do many things that you won't be able to do at most other gyms. Commercial gyms are starting to adapt and expand their workout options to include more barbells and open space, but at least for now, things you'll miss regardless of your reason for parting ways include the following:

  • Olympic weightlifting exercises
  • The dropping of weights
  • The use of Olympic discs in general
  • Chalk
  • Space and clearance
  • Weight sleds
  • Fancy squat racks and similar equipment
  • Glute ham raise machines
  • A wide variety of other cool stuff: medicine balls, kettlebells, bands, ropes, rings, good rowing machines, etc.

The reality is that commercial gyms are not geared to the needs of Olympic weightlifters or muscular strong athletes.

How to find something better for you

CrossFit gyms and weight rooms that are geared toward specialization - providing everything Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters and other specific athletes need - are on one end of the continuum. Commercial gyms (including Planet Fitness and McFit) are at the other end. Here's the problem: If you give up the CrossFit lifestyle, it's not easy to find a good alternative. But don't worry. Here are a few ideas based on the reasons you had for ditching CrossFit.

Reason for leaving - money

If you need to downgrade your financial spending, then you have a problem.

Primary training alternatives:

  • Commercial gym.
  • The great outdoors.
  • Cheaper specialty memberships like weight rooms for climbers.

What you'll lose:

  • Instructions and pre-made workouts.
  • The atmosphere of a community.
  • Accountability and motivation.

How you can close the gap:

  • Learn how to train yourself. Spend some money on books and DVDs about training.
  • Read more articles on relevant sports, fitness and bodybuilding sites.
  • Find hobbies like biking, running, climbing, tennis, etc. that replace the CrossFit community with another community.

Reason for breakup - injury

If money wasn't the biggest issue, then spend the same amount of money on a membership at another gym where they care more about you and your individual needs. Many training facilities that train athletes will also offer either training sessions with personal trainers or in a similar group setting, but with individualized programs for each participant. This gives you guidance from experts without forcing you into a workout that doesn't fit your needs.

Primary training alternatives:

  • Personal Training.
  • Sports performance centers that offer individualized programs.
  • Anything that fits the limitations of your injuries or your goals.

What you will lose:

  • The competitive "as many reps as possible" against the clock training format.
  • The community atmosphere (just maybe).
  • Accountability and motivation.

How you can close the gap:

  • Learn about your injury and the rehab process. Invest some money in educational materials that will help you understand what you need to prevent injury.
  • Find a coach and training facility that meets your needs for community, accountability, etc.
  • Find hobbies that substitute for community.

Reason for separation - variety and freedom

Three words: no more burpees. If you're tired of doing workouts pulled from the same deck of exercise cards, you're probably not alone. You can move on to a brand new, exciting world of workouts.

Primary training alternatives:

  • Personal training
  • Commercial gyms
  • A new specialty training facility
  • Your own garage or basement

What you'll lose:

  • The community atmosphere
  • Pre-programmed workouts
  • Training sessions against the clock

How you can close the gap:

  • If you want real freedom, then you can consider building your own home gym. An initial investment of a few thousand euros will pay for itself within a few years.
  • Find a trainer who can help you get started with a new training plan or help you learn how to plan your own workouts.
  • Try out different pre-made training plans and start to discover what works for you and what doesn't.
  • Buy some specialized equipment that you can take with you to your commercial gym and keep your workouts exciting.

Reason for separation - specialization

It's great to be a specialist. Major League Baseball players seem to be very content with the life they choose and they certainly get paid well to do just the one thing. If you want to become world class at anything, you need to specialize. Or if you have a specific goal and want to achieve it faster, then doing targeted workouts will be a sensible choice.

Primary training alternatives:

  • Personal training.
  • A commercial gym.
  • A new specialty gym.
  • Your own home gym in your garage or basement.

What you will lose:

  • Pre-programmed workouts.
  • Workouts with your community of friends.
  • A competitive training atmosphere.

How you can close the gap:

  • Find a trainer who specializes in your specific goal or type of workout.
  • Read, learn and create your own plan.
  • Find hobbies that support your goal, like hiking if you want to lose weight or spinning if you're interested in running a marathon.

Bonus: How to put together your own CrossFit style workouts

Here are a few "quick and dirty" templates you can use to put together more balanced CrossFit-style workouts. And as an added bonus, you can perform these workouts in any commercial gym. Choose one exercise from each of the categories below and perform them in circuit form with only short rests or no rests between exercises and you'll get your heart rate up, do a large amount of work in a short period of time and get a balanced workout.

Hip dominant:

An exercise that primarily utilizes the posterior chain of muscles (lower back, gluteus and leg flexors). These exercises can most easily be characterized as hip hinge movements.

Examples: Deadlifts, hip thrusts, leg curls, glute ham raises.

Quadriceps Dominant:

An exercise that primarily engages the quadriceps and is characterized by a deep bend in the knees.

Examples: Squats, lunges

Press exercises:

Exercises in which a weight is pushed away from the body or the body is pushed away from a weight.

Examples: Push-ups, bench press, overhead press.

Pulling exercises:

Exercises in which the weight is pulled towards the body or the body is pulled towards a weight.

Examples: Pull-ups, all variations of rowing exercises

Conditioning exercises:

Something that gets your heart rate up quickly and keeps it up for a minute or two without unnecessary risk of injury.

Examples: Mountain climber, jump squats, farmers walk, battling ropes, kettlebell swings

Specialization exercises:

Exercises that target a specific muscle group or goal while not challenging the rest of the body:

Examples: Bicep curls, shoulder exercises, rotator cuff exercises, general bodybuilding exercises.

Here are 2 example workouts:

Workout A

Perform the exercise as quickly as possible with good form and then move on to the next exercise after as little rest as possible. Rest 90 seconds between circuits. Repeat the circuit 4 to 8 times.

A1 Romanian deadlift with barbell 15 reps, 45 kilos (hips)
A2 Barbell push press 10 reps, 45 kilos (push)
A3 Reverse barbell lunges 10 reps per leg, 45 kilos (quadriceps)
A4 Barbell rows 10 reps, 45 kilos (pulling)
A5 Dumbbell tricep press 15 reps, 20 kilos (specialization)
A6 Mountain Climber 60 seconds (conditioning)

Training session B

Perform the exercise as quickly as possible with good form and then move on to the next exercise after as little rest as possible. Rest 60 seconds between circuits. Repeat the circuit 6 to 10 times.

A1 Goblet squats 12 reps, 35 kilos (quadriceps)
A2 Push-ups, as many reps as possible (press)
A3 Pull through (machine) 12 reps (hips)
A4 Machine rowing on cable 12 reps (pull)
A5 Face pull 12 reps (specialization)
A6 Split jump squats 60 seconds (conditioning)

It's easy to get creative by choosing exercises based on the equipment you have available. Hopefully you don't use so much equipment that you incur the wrath of other gym members, but if you do, then so be it. It's just part of life.

You've probably noticed that Olympic weightlifting exercises, deadlifts, heavy squats and similar exercises are not included in the circuits. These exercises are simply not safe when performed with maximum repetitions and as fast as possible. It would be hard to perform these exercises in this format in a commercial gym anyway, which is something you'll either love or regret when you realize that maybe CrossFit wasn't as bad as you thought.

By Dan Blewett


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