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March 13, 2014

CrossFit: Hot Global Fitness Trend Strengthens Dominance

by Jeff Swicord

What started in a California garage in the 1970s is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing fitness concepts worldwide. It's called CrossFit and is a method of whole-body functional fitness. It's used by the U.S. Marines, professional sports teams, fire departments, and police forces. The number of affiliated gyms has doubled every two years, and there are now CrossFit gyms from South America to Europe to Asia.

CrossFit is known as one of the most grueling workouts in the fitness world. Each week, CrossFit members flock to more than 8,500 affiliated gyms worldwide.   

CrossFit incorporates interval training, weight lifting, gymnastics and other disciplines. Trainer Kate Garufi at District CrossFit in Washington said the goal is to perform functional, everyday movements, at high intensity, to achieve better muscular strength, cardio endurance, and flexibility.

“So you can have powerlifting movements, you can have Olympic lifting movements, you can have body weight stuff," said Garufi. "You can have what we call single modal, running, rowing, swimming, anything that can be thrown into a workout with CrossFit,” she said.

Workouts of the day, or WODS, are usually posted on a board and exercises performed in a group setting. Results are measured in time taken to complete rounds and number of repetitions.

CrossFit Enthusiast Hank Mason, a former soccer player, said, "If you were to complete a workout, say, two months ago and you got five minutes, and then you're re-tested again today, tomorrow or whenever, and you got four minutes, that is a pretty concrete indication that you are fitter.”

Not all CrossFitters are elite athletes. Samantha Rapoza has been doing CrossFit for about six weeks with the goal to slim down and get stronger. “I think there are so many things that I didn’t know I could do, and I am already making progress that I didn’t expect to make as quickly as I made it. So I think I am going to have to revise my goals a little bit,” she said.

There has also been criticism of CrossFit on some Internet fitness forums. The most common is the susceptibility to injury.  

Former figure model Andrea Ferry is an experienced CrossFit Athlete. She said injuries are avoided through good coaching. “It is up to the coach to make sure that it (workout) is scaled for that 67-year-old person like my dad, or someone like myself, to make sure they are moving properly with good technique, good form, that they can handle the weight and they are pacing themselves throughout the workout.”

Thirty percent of CrossFit gyms are now outside the United States, throughout North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.