If you've decided you want to get yourself in shape, or take your fitness to the next level, you may struggle with how to put this plan into action. Two options to consider are joining a CrossFit gym or hiring a personal trainer. While both can get you fit and improve existing fitness levels, it's really how you use them that will make the difference.
It's also important to be honest with yourself regarding your starting point, capabilities, willingness to work and goals. For some people, CrossFit is not the right choice, due to its intensity. Ask yourself a few questions to determine which option is best for you.
What's Your Current Fitness Level?
CrossFit is a high-intensity exercise system. It borrows movements from weightlifting, running, rowing and gymnastics. You're challenged to move large loads and maximize the number of reps you can do in a short amount of time. Sprinting, burpees, pull-ups, clean and jerks, plyometrics and other powerful, functional movements are staples.
Although many boxes, the colloquial name for CrossFit studios, claim they'll work you from coach potato-status, it may just be too aggressive for someone coming from a sedentary lifestyle. A personal trainer can help you take the steps toward fitness appropriate for your current fitness level and will modify for injuries and conditions, such as hypertension or arthritis, that may limit the exercises you do.
If you're already relatively fit, injury-free and familiar with how to wield a barbell, CrossFit may appeal to you. It can boost your current skill level and challenge you in ways you just can't — or won't — on your own.
Read More: 16 Essential CrossFit Moves
What Atmosphere Do You Prefer?
CrossFit workouts are done in a community atmosphere with a friendly amount of competition. Camaraderie happens as you suffer and sweat together. Competition happens as your stats are written on white boards and you try to reach more impressive lift goals. You're consistently encouraged to perform better by your peers and the CrossFit coaches.
If you respond well to cajoling and healthy competition, CrossFit may be for you. However, if you're one who easily gets discouraged when you can't do something or feel self-conscious in the gym, CrossFit could undermine your fitness aspirations.
A personal trainer may also keep track of important stats, such as measurements or weight lifted, but with the intention of measuring progress. He's interested in how the specific plan he's developed is working and how to help you achieve specific goals. Your achievements and your shortcomings remain private, unless you decide to share them with the world.
Do You Struggle with Motivation?
Unless you've got unlimited funds, the meetings you have with your personal trainer will likely be limited to once or twice per week. He can offer suggestions as to what to do on days you don't meet with him, but he can't make you do the workouts or eat right.
Monthly CrossFit dues usually cost far less than private personal training sessions. CrossFit typically meets on a three-day-on, one-day-off schedule. The off-day provides time for your muscles and nervous system to rest. If you need near-daily accountability to get to the gym, CrossFit may be a better option.
Are You Sport Specific?
If you've got very specific goals in a sport, such as running or soccer, a trainer is probably your best bet. A trainer can tailor workouts to correct weaknesses and hone skills required for performance in your particular sport. CrossFit is less focused on your exact needs and will emphasize the general workout of the day, also known as WOD, which everyone is expected to perform. Of course, a CrossFit WOD can have exercises that benefit your specific needs, but it may have a lot that don't.
Do You Want to Stay Injury-Free?
When you embark on any fitness program, the risk of injury exists. Some personal trainers with questionable education, ethics and experience could very well put you on an unsafe diet and exercise regimen. However, the likelihood of injury in CrossFit is far greater.
When you're dealing with a group, it's hard for the CrossFit coach to keep an eye on everyone's form at once. CrossFit is usually done as small-group training or with one coach overseeing multiple stations as in a circuit situation. You won't get a lot of one-on-one coaching.
A number of CrossFit exercises are of questionable safety, too. Take kipping pull-ups, for example. These are pull-ups done on a fixed bar in which you use a leg swing and hip snap to get yourself up and over the bar. While they may be used strategically for specific trainees who've mastered a strict pull-up to gain muscle and break through a rep plateau, they're not a general purpose exercise that should be performed by just anyone. Doing so is asking for injury to the shoulder and back.
Stacking a number of challenging, questionably safe exercises back-to-back instead of strategically placing them in workouts that allow for adequate rest and form correction is often a recipe for long-term injury. A personal trainer can help you design workouts so you progress at a healthy pace while leaving out exercises that are inappropriate for you.
Read More: How Quick Does CrossFit Get You in Shape?