These days, there are a slew of specialized gyms and fitness studios to choose from. Some are familiar, like yoga and boxing, but some are shrouded in a veil of mystery and myths, like CrossFit. Last month we challenged ourselves at Pure Barre Reston. This month, I (Michelle) stepped out of my comfort zone and walked into CrossFit Reston like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming 18-wheeler.
(By the way, Charlotte is due for a challenge, no? Please leave suggestions in the comments section.)
First, I sat down with owner Maggie Tincher to discuss my plan of attack. She recommended working out at least three days a week. But Ideally, a routine of three days on, one day off for about 4-5 days a week. CrossFit Reston has several classes daily making it convenient to fit a workout in for most people.
I had a lot of pre-conceived notions about CrossFit before I ever stepped into the gym (or “box” as it is commonly called). No other workout seems to be as polarizing as CrossFit. People either LOVE it or DESPISE it for very specific reasons. As a result, my M.O. became to see for myself if these myths were true.
MYTH #1: You need to be an elite athlete to do the CrossFit workouts.
If this was true, I would have been turned away at the door after they took one look at me. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all of the workouts are scaled according to one’s ability. You can see the <3 month variation to the WOD (Workout of the Day) in the picture above. Weights are lighter and there are less reps. Additionally, the instructors at CrossFit Reston encourage you to listen to your body while at the same time motivating you to challenge yourself.
Bottomline: I never felt pressured to do more than I could handle, but was still spent after every session.
MYTH #2: CrossFit is dangerous because they don’t care about form.
I didn’t see this. The more people told me this, though, the more I began to wonder if there are major inconsistencies in training between boxes. CrossFit Reston must be one of the better boxes out there. EVERY, and I mean EVERY class begins with about 15 minutes of form work. Each move of the day is broken down and explained step-by-step.
Much to my surprise, morning instructor Buzz McCafferty has many years of yoga and body work experience that he has brought to CrossFit Reston. He focuses on strength without sacrificing form.
Bottomline: It is true, however, that a lot of the WODs are done for time which can cause form to fall apart. Individually, you need to know your limits and back off.
MYTH #3: CrossFit will bulk women up like men.
You will build muscle, that’s sort of the point. CrossFit is all about getting stronger. Genetically though, it’s impossible for women to bulk up like a man because of hormonal differences. The lean muscle you build during CrossFit raises your metabolism, burns more calories, and makes muscles more defined and visible.
Bottomline: In my experience, if you have a few pounds to lose, new muscle gain will make you appear bigger until your metabolism kicks in and burns the layer off. However, as they say, “strong is the new skinny.”
Never have I been in a gym where appearance matters less than performance. It’s really refreshing.
MYTH #4: There is not enough cardio in CrossFit workouts.
I believe that any exercise is better than nothing. And if you love to run then you should. However, it’s been proven that weight training is just as good, if not better, at boosting metabolism and burning calories as slogging away on a treadmill. The only difference is that you are actually building muscle while weight training as opposed to when running.
As we get older, muscle mass becomes really important. It can slow the eventual muscle loss that comes with age, build the strength of connective tissues, increase bone density, cut your risk of injury, help ease arthritis pain, improve balance, improve blood-sugar, and improve sleep and mental health.
Bottomline: If you are concerned you won’t raise your heart rate enough in CrossFit, don’t worry. The WODs are designed to get your blood pumping WHILE building muscle.
MYTH #5: You will be strongly encouraged to follow a Paleo diet.
We all have strong personal opinions about diet, so I won’t get into what’s healthy or not. It’s common knowledge we should avoid sugar and highly processed foods, but beyond that opinions vary.
Bottomline: No one said a word to me about diet at CrossFit Reston. However, I purposefully didn’t ask any of the instructors about it. I wanted to see if anyone brought it up first and no one did. I am sure if I inquired, I would get some advice about it. But rest assured you can blissfully do what’s right for you while practicing at CrossFit Reston.
MYTH #6: CrossFit is a cult.
Again, I didn’t see this. Sure, people love CrossFit because they enjoy the workouts and see results. The same can be said for barre, running, pilates, etc. The only difference, in my opinion, is that members of CrossFit boxes see themselves as part of a team. On the whole, it’s a highly social group that doesn’t hesitate to encourage one another. They wonder where you’ve been when you miss a day, cheer for last person to finish a workout and log their results for everyone to see in an app called SugarWOD. CrossFit Reston also hosts regular events like chili cook-offs and potlucks.
Bottomline: If you are looking for a nice community of people to workout with who will push you to get stronger, you will find it at CrossFit Reston. Otherwise, all the cult talk is just talk.