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What Is CrossFit?

From the Community: Everything You Need to Know About CrossFit

FitSugar reader meetcasey interviewed CrossFit expert Robert Sax, owner of the CrossFit Amped Gym, and posted the Q&A in our Get Fit For 2012 community group. Check out what Robert had to say about this rising fitness trend!

Meet the Expert: Robert Sax

Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

I am 27 years old and a Capricorn (yes, that’s the goat). I’m originally from Portland, ME (the first Portland), and I currently live in Bellevue, WA. I graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts with a BS in exercise science. I own CrossFit Amped, coach during the day, fight crime at night, and occasionally put down an entire jar of fresh-grind almond butter. Mmmmmm, fat!

What is CrossFit?

Textbook definition: it is constantly varied functional movements executed at a high intensity. CliffsNotes version: constantly changing workouts that involve body weight movements, gymnastics, aerobic and anaerobic training, Olympic lifting, power lifting, strongman movements, and anything else my twisted mind can conjure up! It is a universally scalable platform for exercise that allows any man or woman of any age and ability level to participate. I have worked with every walk of life and haven’t been stumped yet. In fact, I am currently coaching two men who are deaf, which was a challenge at first because of the amount of detail needed to comprehend and apply to certain movement patterns. Now it is no problem. In fact, I’ve learned some sign language because of it!

Learn more about what a CrossFit workout is and how it can change your body after the break!

How did you get started with CrossFit?

I got started with CrossFit when my friend Jeff wouldn’t stop bugging me about it. I had reached a rut in my current workout regimen (typical bodybuilding stuff) and needed something fresh and new. I was bored. So I decided to give this CrossFit stuff a try. He invited me to the gym that he worked at and put me through my first workout. The name of the WOD (workout of the day) was “Josh,” a hero workout dedicated to a fallen United States soldier. I want to preface this by saying that hero WODs are typically more difficult than most workouts . . . and this was my first experience. I was supposed to complete 21-42-15-30-9-18 repetitions of overhead squats alternating with pull-ups, and the barbell weighed 95 pounds. I had never done an OHS (overhead squat) and didn’t know what a “kipping pull-up” was. It was a sh*t show, to say the least. I tried to complete it at the women’s weight (65 pounds), and it took me almost a half an hour. Afterward I was lying flat on the floor in a pool of what I’m told was only sweat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some blood and urine mixed in. I stood up once I gained the ability to speak English and asked Jeff when I could come back. I was instantly hooked. I am driven to get better at things I’m not good at, and this was a gut check about my physical abilities. You can call it ego if you want . . . But it got me into CrossFit!

What do you love most about being a CrossFit athlete?

Whew, that’s a loaded question. Being able to push myself into an extremely painful and uncomfortable place . . . and keep going is quite a feeling! It boosts my confidence and always teaches me that there’s something strong and powerful deep inside of me. I also love competing. I have been fortunate enough to win a few competitions as well as lose them, and each is a learning process. There is truth to the statement, “There’s always someone out there training harder than you." In this sport, eventually you meet that person, and then you’ll be tested.

What do you do to prepare for your workout?

If I’m training for competition, there is physical and mental prep that goes into every day. Lots of mobility and stretching, chiropractic care, trigger point massage, and baths. I try to visualize my movements before I do them and imagine what it will feel like. I try and sleep eight hours at least and remain calm as long as possible. The nerves kick in whether I want them to or not! If I’m not in competition mode, I don’t take my workouts nearly as seriously and try and just have fun with them.

When did you decide you wanted to own your own CrossFit gym?

I knew I wanted to own my own CF gym after I began my first CF coaching experience. I was in an awesome environment and saw how empowering it is. The community was great, and the gym was a living, breathing thing. The idea of having one of my own became something I dreamed about. I had no idea it would happen only a year later.

How is a CrossFit gym different from a “regular” gym?

Just walk into a CF gym and see for yourself. We take an empty space; throw in a bunch of barbells, weights, pull-up stations, and a few extras; and bam — you’ve got CrossFit. The truth is, each CrossFit gym is different because some coaches incorporate different training styles than others. Some have a treadmill or two and maybe a few cable machines, but for the most part, CrossFit gyms don’t use machines. It’s up to the member to move the weight on their own.

What advice do you have for people who want to start CrossFit training?

My advice to anyone who wants to do CrossFit is, find a gym that you’re comfortable being in. Find a good group of people but more importantly, find a good coach! If you don’t feel good about your trainers, then the experience won’t be nearly as influential. I firmly believe that once involved in CrossFit, the gains are far greater than physical change. I feel I speak for a lot of people when I say that most CrossFitters grow as a person because of their involvement and become a part of something much more than just a gym. We are all one large family, with smart cousins who we can’t stand, overly honest grandparents, and every other quality that a typical dysfunctional family has. But we all stick together when it’s time to, and we finish everything together. That’s something you should be able to see yourself involved in when choosing a gym. Oh, yeah . . . and check your ego at the door!

What, in your opinion, are the greatest health benefits of being a CrossFit athlete?

The health benefits are almost endless. As in all things, you get what you put into it. If you do things correctly, then your results can be whatever you want them to be. I have seen weight loss, muscle gain, blood lipid changes (for the better), cholesterol reduction, energy levels increase, sleep gets better, past injuries becoming strengthened, increase in a range of motion, strength increase, etc. The list goes on. Take CrossFit and compound it with a solid nutrition plan, and you have the best recipe for success.

What nutritional tips do you have for CrossFit athletes?

In my opinion, nutrition is paramount. The greatest results are achieved when someone is fueling themselves properly. Our bodies are like Ferraris. High-performance vehicles with thousands of moving parts working in unison for optimum output. If you fill a Ferrari with regular unleaded fuel, it will certainly run, but not well, and at some point, you’ll need to take it into the shop to get looked at because of the corrosion. Same goes for the human body. Regular food just doesn’t cut it. It needs a solid platform of lean meats, vegetables, some fruit, and healthy fats. Lose the sugars and processed foods! That stuff is fake food anyways and takes way too much work to put together. Be a Ferrari, not a Ford. (Nothing against Ford!)

What suggestions can you offer for avoiding injuries and getting the most health benefits out of it?

Be smart! As a coach, it's my job to recognize my members' abilities, but more so their in-abilities. However, I need my members to be smart CrossFitters and know their limits! Check your ego at the door and listen to your body. If something isn’t clicking, then back off. There is no sense in pushing through pain or a faulty movement just because it’s part of the workout! Getting hurt is not a goal for anyone! Pay close attention to the lesson and work form before strength. Make practice perfect.

Learn more about Rob and his CrossFit gym at www.crossfitamped.com

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