A WOD? What’s That?

Posted on November 10, 2011 by


It’s one of the most controversial workout regimes out there. It incorporates weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, powerlifting, kettlebell training, rowing, plyometrics, and medicine ball training to transform it’s followers into the “Fittest Man and Woman on Earth.” What exactly am I talking about? The newest fad in working out: CrossFit. Here’s a little background information on what exactly CrossFit is. The creator of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, opened the first gym in Santa Cruz, California in 1995. Since then the CrossFit community, as it is commonly called among its clients, has grown to almost 3,000 gyms worldwide. 2 of those gyms, CrossFit Michiana & CrossFit South Bend, are located in our area.

So why is it so controversial? Well, partly because of the sometimes intense, fast-paced workouts and partly because of all the heavy lifting. The biggest concern for critics of the program: injuries. With the high intensity of timed workouts and heavy weightlifting, injuries are likely to occur. It takes a lot of practice to master some of the intense Olympic lifts which, if done wrong, can seriously injure someone. Grant Stoddard, a writer for Men’s Health magazine, is one of CrossFit’s harshest critics. In his article, “Inside the Cult of CrossFit“, Stoddard states:

It’s not just the intensity of the workouts that worries experts. It’s the fact you’re doing technically complex lifts for high reps in a state of fatigue, when form is guaranteed to break down. “It takes time to perfect certain movements, especially the Olympic lifts,” says trainer Joe Dowdell, founder of Peak Performance in New York. “Not spending enough time teaching people how to perform these movements correctly is dangerous.”

Later he states:

“The problem has to do with fatigue and going to failure,” says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. “Some exercises are conducive to this and others are not.” McGill puts Olympic lifts in the “not” category.

“Repeating movements where form is compromised with fatigue really does not fit the philosophy of Olympic lifting to reduce injury risk and enhance performance.”

So why do it if there’s such a high potential for injury and fatigue? For starters, CrossFit is seen has a sport, thus the reason why its clients are called “athletes” and the trainers called “coaches.” Many do it for the competitive atmosphere and community that is formed with the other athletes in the “box” (a term of endearment commonly used by CrossFitters when talking about their gym). One of the best things about the CrossFit community is the sense of support that accompanies it. When some athletes have finished their workout, or WOD (workout of the day), they stick around to cheer on their comrades who are still working to finish the grueling movements.

I can personally attest to this. I’m currently a member at CrossFit South Bend, where my boyfriend is a coach. There have been times when I have felt like calling it quits, collapsing on the floor, and staying there for the next hour or so. But because of the encouragement from the coaches and others who have already finished, I have been able to complete the WOD. And I have also been on the encouraging side. It’s awesome to see someone who so desperately wants to give up push themselves to finish. There’s a sense of pride in completing a workout. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all of the workouts reach a level of high intensity every day, but high intensity workouts are the common label many associate with CrossFit. What makes CrossFit so special when compared to other workout regimes is its ability to incorporate wide variety of movements that focus on various muscles. During a normal CrossFit workout, there’s at least one movement that mainly uses leg muscles and one movement that uses arm muscles.

Does it sound scary? If it does, it shouldn’t. Experience isn’t necessary and a program, OnRamp, is offered for those new to CrossFit who wish to gain an understanding about the common movements seen in WODs. THe OnRamp class meets 3 times a week for 4 weeks and when you have completed the class, you may begin attending regular classes. Also, a period of instruction time is given at the beginning of each regular class for those who need a refresher. One of the good things about every WOD is the ability to modify it to each person’s ability. And don’t worry about being singled out — that kind of stuff doesn’t happen in a CrossFit gym — and there’s normally at least one other person in each class who is scaling as well. In the CrossFit community, everyone is accepted for who they are. Clients are not seen as a “paycheck.” The coaches, or at least all of the ones I have come in contact with, genuinely care about each one of their athletes.

With the growing number of CrossFit gyms throughout the world, this new fad seems to me like it’s going to stay around for a while. So give it a try & check it out— you might just end up loving it.