This is a question I hear often. Like, literally ALL THE TIME. I understand why. Unless you’re a fitness professional, knowing all of the ins and outs of various fitness options can be extremely challenging. For example, I was just on the phone with someone who said, “I used to do OrangeTheory which I think is somewhat like CrossFit?” Now, I could dive into a long dissertation about why CrossFit and OrangeTheory are completely different, but really no one wants to know that. What all of you want to know is what workout program is going to get me the results I’m after? That’s it. So, when you ask the question, “What workout program is best for me,” you’re really just asking what you should do to reach whatever goal you’re after. You’ve narrowed down the list slightly, but really there is a long way to go.
It’s not as simple as picking a fitness program based on your goal.
I wish this post could be so simple as to say that if you want X goal choose CrossFit, Y goal choose personal training, and Z goal choose a big gym like LA Fitness. Life isn’t that black and white, and neither is fitness. Thankfully, there are some principles which all effective workout programs have in common:
- You can be consistent with the plan
- Challenge your body in different ways every day
- Adaptable to your unique situation
When you consider these principles, it starts to be easier to consider the best option for you. Now, it goes without saying that I’m going to promote CrossFit as the choice. Obviously I love the CrossFit method, or I wouldn’t own a gym which uses it as the foundational program. However, I recognize that not everyone is a perfect fit for CrossFit. There are situations in which personal training may be exactly right for you, or when a nation-wide gym like Anytime Fitness is perfect. For example, my friend does travel nursing with his wife and they move around every couple of months. CrossFit has a unique community aspect that you simply do not get in other fitness facilities – but if you’re moving every couple of months you’re never going to experience that.
Goal Number 1: Consistency
I will always come back to this quote from Simon Sinek, “We have to understand the interplay between intensity and consistency. You can’t go to the gym for 9 hours and get into shape. It doesn’t work. But if you work out every day for 20 minutes, you will absolutely get into shape. The problem is, I don’t know when [you’ll get in shape].” The funny part is that Simon Sinek is known for his leadership training, not his fitness. Still, the quote holds extremely true.
The biggest mistake I see when people set out to improve their health and fitness is not prioritizing consistency enough. You get a huge surge of motivation and make it to the gym five times one week. Then you have a conflict and miss Monday, and you decide that week is already shot. It’s illogical but it happens all the time.
Regardless of what you are doing for your fitness – CrossFit, personal training, working out on your own, or any other program – you have to be consistent with it to have it pay off. Big roller coaster rides of effort are the recipe for no results and feeling let down by fitness.
Goal Number 2: Variety
In CrossFit, we believe there are ten components to well-rounded fitness: stamina, strength, and flexibility, power, speed, and agility, coordination, balance, and accuracy. The goal for our program is to help you improve in all of these areas. You may excel in some and be average in others, but over time we are trying to help you run a faster mile, complete more push ups, and lift a heavier weight – all at the same time. In order to do this, our program is constantly varied.
In society today, a lot of times variety is skipped out on. Thanks to a big cultural push in the 90’s and 2000’s, running and endurance sports became synonymous with “being fit”. Yet is the runner who can run a 5:00 mile but is battling injuries and unable to do an air squat (or get out of a chair easily) any more fit than the power lifter who can deadlift 700 pounds but couldn’t run the length of a football field without stopping? Most people would rather be the former than the latter, but that doesn’t make either more fit.
Whatever you choose to do, think about improving in multiple areas of your fitness. Ten can be a lot to think about on your own, but set a goal for at least three. It can be as simple as one weight lifting movement (back squat, deadlift, bench press, front squat, etc), one cardio-focused movement (run, bike, row, swim, etc), and one bodyweight movement (push up, pull up, sit up, row, etc). Test these periodically while working out and see if you’re improving.
Goal Number 3: Adaptability
As nice as it would be, your fitness program does not exist inside of a bubble. There are going to be things that necessitate a shift in your normal fitness program, and that should be okay. To name a few situations:
- You roll your ankle running on the weekend, and cannot do any high impact (jumping rope, running, box jumps) movements for a period of time
- You worked late the night before, and you cannot do a very high intensity class at 6:00 am the next day
- You slept incorrectly on your shoulder and don’t have the needed mobility to push something over your head
- You are now pregnant, and need to have a different set of workouts from the group
This list can go on and on – the point of it is to ask yourself, “Can this program be changed to suit my individual needs?” If the program you’re following demands that you run during any class, you’re going to be in a tough situation if you have a rolled ankle – or a longer term injury which means running is off the table. Additionally, you should have the ability to gain understanding about how to change a workout for when you need less intensity. If you cannot press over your head, there should be other options.
The easiest thing you can do is make excuses when your life threw off your normal plans. But the people getting the best results don’t let a life event ruin the first and most important goal, consistency. Your fitness program needs to be infinitely adaptable to your unique situation, and all the changes that may come into your situation.
Remember, this isn’t a life-long contract
I think a lot of times people believe they are making a choice which will tie them down for the foreseeable future. The truth is, you’re not. If you try a fitness program and give it legitimate effort, and you don’t like it, just stop and try something else. Think about it like a restaurant. You hear about a new place serving your favorite food, and you go to check it out. You’re underwhelmed but you give it one more chance. Still not great. Are you going back? Probably not. Your fitness plan can be the same way, although you will need to give it more than two days to know. The point is simply to understand you have the power of choice, and if you don’t like something, don’t do it. All effective workout programs should challenge you physically and in the moment they may be uncomfortable. But they should help you to feel better and meet your goals.