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  • Jordan Olenginski

What is CrossFit and why do I do it?

For starters, I have always been an advocate for moving your body. This could be anything that makes you happy and is something you look forward to. Whether that’s CrossFit, Orange Theory, cycling, yoga, or simply a morning walk. Whatever gets you off the couch and moving around is a great option. I figured I’d share my experience with what got me into fitness and what has helped me become the athlete I am today. If my story inspires at least one person to become more active, it’s worth it to me.

I’ve always been interested in health and fitness, but I didn’t realize quite how passionate I was about it until I started CrossFit. For those of you that don’t know what CrossFit is...the actual definition is “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity”. What does this mean? Constantly varied = the workout is something different every day. Functional movements = utilizes movements similar to those used in everyday life. Executed at high intensity = maximizing work done in a certain amount of time (the level of intensity is relative to the individual). There are really two big branches of CrossFit: those who do CrossFit as a competitive sport and those who do it to be fit for everyday life. While I enjoy watching the superhuman CrossFit athletes conquer things that are unimaginable to the average joe, CrossFit as a sport is not the reason I joined. I joined because I wanted to move my body and stay in shape for my high school sports. When I started CrossFit back during my freshman year in high school, I fell in love with it. I fell in love with the community (shoutout NEPA CrossFit), doing a completely different workout every day, and seeing how hard I could push myself. I have CrossFit to thank for sparking my initial interest in the field of health and fitness. I became amazed by pushing my body in different ways, and by learning how to properly fuel myself with nutrition. As I got more involved and more educated, I realized how many misconceptions were out there in the health and fitness world. I became determined to simplify healthy living and to be there for others along their health journeys. Here I am years later being as active as possible on my Instagram and blog, coaching others at a gym in Manayunk, and getting my Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. Would I be here today if I hadn’t ever tried CrossFit? I don’t think so.

My senior year of high school, I began to realize how much CrossFit could help me train for division I field hockey. I obviously couldn’t substitute my running workouts for CrossFit workouts. Instead, I did my running, but added CrossFit workouts and strength training as well. You might be wondering why I even bother doing strength and CrossFit training if my sport is basically running up and down a field. From the outside it looks like field hockey is just running. But there are other things you need to be a well-rounded player such as strength, balance, and power. How do you get those? Well…. I think you can guess that one.

There’s no sugar coating it, you have to be incredibly fit as a division I athlete. But, I think many student-athletes neglect the importance of strength training and functional fitness. Most athletes focus heavily on the cardiovascular side of fitness. Believe me, cardiovascular fitness is incredibly important. I do cardiovascular fitness 5-6 times per week myself. However, we can’t just be doing that. Why? Because as athletes we need to be well-rounded. We can’t just have good cardiovascular fitness, we need to have muscular endurance and a high work capacity. We need to be fast, agile, flexible, strong, and balanced if we want to compete with the best of the best. And how do you develop these other levels of fitness? Strength training and functional fitness.

What I consider to be the most important reason behind how I train during our summer or winter break is injury prevention. I am currently a senior and I have never had an injury that kept me out for more than a day or two. *I did break my toe last semester, but that was just a freak accident.* Yes, not getting injured has been partially luck, but it’s mostly because of how well I have prepared my body. This isn’t just training, but it’s nutrition, recovery, sleep, etc. However, if I had never implemented CrossFit and strength training the way I have, I could guarantee I would’ve had at least one more serious injury by now. I’m not saying all injuries are preventable. There will always be a risk. But, I ask myself, how can I make that risk as small as possible? I then train in a way that makes me fit as hell and minimizes my risk of injury.

Even if you’re not an athlete, strength training and functional fitness are incredibly important. Especially for my ladies out there! Avoid getting stuck on a cardio machine for hours everyday and try to implement some strength training a few times a week. More than contributing to your current health, exercising in this way also contributes to long-term health and longevity. By getting stronger and training your body in this way, you will be less likely to get injured from a fall or something when you’re older. You’ll also be able to live independently and actively longer - because you’re working the muscles that mimic the motions we do in everyday life.

Do I think CrossFit is the only way to get fit and healthy? Nope. But, I do think CrossFit is an incredible option for anyone who is looking to get healthy, strong, and crush life into their 90’s. The bottom line is ANY exercise is better than no exercise at all, but I have found the best results (athletically, aesthetically, and in regard to my overall health) when mixing HIIT, strength, and functional movements. If you’re considering trying CrossFit or any other type of fitness class, it can be quite nerve wracking to walk in. Believe me, I know. I was terrified to walk into NEPA CrossFit. But my advice is to just go, and I promise you’ll look back and be SO glad you did.

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