Crossfit: The Sport of Fitness vs. GMB Fitness

The reputation of Crossfit is so varied, just like the sport itself. You can read about how “Crossfit Changed My Life”, and in contrast how “Crossfit Led To My Physical Demise”. There are arguments as to why it’s good for you, and why it’s the worst possible choice of exercise. But it clearly has something going for it because it’s growing as a sport, and it’s growing as a community. It’s an entry point into fitness, and it can be used to improve or condition for another sport, plus it increases the capability of doing certain jobs. It offers an environment where you’re surrounded by like minded people who share your passion for burpees.

Crossfit was my entry point into fitness and the world of training. That was years ago, before there were any boxes in Cambridge, and I had to make it work in a Globo Gym, using the smith machine for pull ups, and trying not to crack the ceilings with wall balls. I came back into this community when I was approached about teaching hand balancing at Crossfit Stags and Does in Milton, Cambridge. I taught for two months before I moved to Japan, and since coming back last year, I have worked alongside the box owner and Head Coach, Duncan Bolt, to create Crossfit Gymnastics Skills classes. The good thing about having done Crossfit in the past is that I’ve had some practice programming it and I understand it to an extent. I’ve been able to develop how and what I teach so that it’s not purely Crossfit, but a combination of what my students want, and what they need.

Your average Crossfitter wants to be pushed, train hard, and occasionally leave feeling like their limbs might drop off. They want varied movements to feel constantly challenged. We’ll get complaints at the gym if there are front squats three Mondays in a row. I’m used to focusing on one or two goals at a time. It’s a different mindset toward fitness, and very different to how I approach my own training.

But whatever the reason is behind people joining, they stay because they want to be better at it. It becomes about performance. Improved performance is what anyone who trains anything wants. This is where I’ve seen the value in integrating GMB Fitness material in order to benefit my students’ Crossfit, to help them become better at what they do. And so what I teach is different from the other classes in our box. The Gymnastics Strength and Skill classes focus on quality of movement, skill work, and flexibility. Although all of these elements are included in each Crossfit class, I’m able to spend more time on an individual skill, for example handstands or back levers. Everything is strict right down to push ups. I work with my students to find the best progression in order to work on that skill in detail. Everything from the warm up to the stretching is geared towards that skill. And I’ll include a WOD to condition for a skill, often focusing on specific gymnastics movements, which will be a combination of Crossfit and GMB. There is a surprising amount of overlap here, and whatever we train, it’s always about quality.

There is an emphasis on mindfulness. Nothing is rushed because it’s not about how fast you can perform any of the movements. I want my students to become more aware and really understand what’s happening in their bodies when they move. For example, how it feels to be upside down, completely still on your hands, and being able to breathe slowly is very different from the way you expend energy when performing handstand walks. Locomotion involves distributing weight across hands and feet in a way that improves body control and coordination. There might not be monkey cartwheels in today’s WOD, but the ability to move in a wide variety of ways will help with movement efficiency in every WOD.

I have the opportunity to target areas that might be overlooked simply because they aren’t the immediate priority of a Crossfitter. If you’re learning a specific lift to be able to perform reps efficiently and safely in a WOD, then spending the majority of your training session practicing that lift might be more of a priority than developing better ankle flexibility. However, at some point you might need better ankle flexibility to improve your technique so that you’re able to lift more weight or break through a plateau.

Crossfit is becoming more technical. At regionals this year they included strict muscle ups and strict handstands push ups. For the elite Crossfitters, these high level skills are becoming more and more important to be able to perform, especially at high volume. If you want to be at this level then you can see what you’re aiming for, and how developing that kind of strength and control is a priority. Eventually those skills will require more focused training.

As it filters down through different abilities, it’s simply about being able to move better. To be able to progress past a certain level of Crossfit your body needs to be able to do more. And this is where I feel GMB comes in to play. GMB is not just an entry point for people looking to move again for the first time. It’s something that can be utilised and applied to so many different sports or disciplines.

I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of all the coaches in the box, and I’m constantly learning from them as much as I learn from my own practice and being part of GMB. I’m fortunate to work alongside people that see the value in what I teach. I might not be a Crossfitter but it’s an amazing community to be part of, and I hope that what I bring to the gym as a Crossfit Gymnastics Coach (because one time I got a certificate that says I am) and GMB Trainer continues to benefit and challenge my students.

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Thank you to all the wonderful coaches at Crossfit Stags and Does: Will Stacey, Nick Apps, Duncan Boltt, Joe Kenney, and Ed Miller.

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