While many enjoy demonizing the protocol, CrossFit at its core is an all-inclusive, general fitness program. The aim of the practice, as stated on its home website, is to “prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown but for the unknowable, too.”
I have been specializing in not specializing (i.e., CrossFitting) for three years, and truthfully, as a lifelong sporting nonspecialist, it is the perfect fit for me — sort of like sports attention deficit disorder in which you can squat heavy loads one day and do rounds of double-unders and rope climbs the next. But while completely engaging, ever-changing and super hard, can anything really prepare you for the “unknown” or the “unknowable?”
I decided to test my level of “general fitness” with a series of extreme and unknowable/unknown activities on three consecutive weekends that would push my limits mentally and physically:
- A Spartan Super – 8-plus miles with 30 obstacles in an individual competitive setting on a ski hill (spartan.com)
- A Tough Mudder – 10 to 12 miles and 20-plus obstacles in a team setting on a farm(toughmudder.com)
- The Red Bull 400 – a 400-meter sprint up a 37-degree incline at altitude (redbull.com)
- The Trek Dirt Series – two days of cross-country and downhill mountain biking (dirtseries.com)
- Alpine Trail Running – a 12K run with three sponsored, elite athletes in the Canadian mountains
Crazy? Maybe, but this battery of sundry sports was a good litmus test for the promised preparation for the unknown. Here are the deets on what CrossFit did indeed prepare me to do — and what it didn’t.
Gave Me Killer Leg Power
I’ve never been accused of being dainty in my lower half, and though I curse my leg development when it comes to jeans shopping, I applauded it for powering me through two long obstacle course races, two intense days of mountain biking, a half day of running and a sickening sprinting race. All those one-rep-max squats, AMRAP deadlifts, 36-inch box jumps and unbroken wall balls paid off, and I never had a moment’s doubt about overcoming an obstacle in my path.
And though I knew it would come in handy during the cross-country mountain biking — which is more cardiovascular and features more climbs than descents — my lower-body strength also translated to the downhill version of the sport, giving me a boost of stability and strength as I powered through a turn, landed off a drop or jumped the bike over a (small) rock.
Improved My Anaerobic Threshold Training
The Red Bull 400 is a race wherein you sprint up 400 meters of an actual Olympic ski jump, this one at Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada. It sounds easy in concept, but it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. Pushing the limits of my aerobic threshold for seven minutes (at altitude) is a lung-burning, leg-numbing experience I am not in a hurry to repeat, but here’s the thing: I could indeed repeat it.
CrossFit nailed it here in terms of physical preparation: All those redlining, 10-minute AMRAP workouts during which I nearly revisited my breakfast prepared me better than I ever expected for this race, which I literally didn’t train for at all. And rather than finishing dead last, I ended up 44th out of 150 women thanks in complete part to CrossFit.
Developed My Explosive Power
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