CrossFit vs Cardio Conditioning

by Christie Leclair April 14, 2017 0 Comments

What might CrossFit offer that cardio conditioning does not? How can you be sure you are getting the most effective workout to achieve your goals?
CrossFit offers its members “elite fitness” workouts. This is a term coined to describe people who simply want to be in shape, but in the best shape they have ever been. CrossFit became successful because members were seeing good results very quickly, partly because they were adhering to a single program and partly because they were engaging in high intensity interval training that combined weight lifting exercises into a sort of sport. The ‘all out’ nature of crossfit, led to great physical conditioning results, all in a quick 1 hour, guided class.
Debating between two activities, which seem to offer the same outcome? How can crossfit aid your cardio goals?
The real question we like to ask potential clients is, “What brought you here? What is driving you to make a change now?” By making clear your motivations, you will decide what your true goal is. Knowing where you are going will help to establish how to get there.

What is CrossFit, anyways?

Crossfit is a guided group fitness class which combines exercises from gymnastics, bodyweight exercises, powerlifting, weightlifting and aerobic conditioning into a single 1 hour workout. Members work on skill progressions together, and everyone follows the same program, scaling the exercises according to each persons ability.
Let’s look at a few scenarios which you might be going though, to help you figure out if traditional cardio training is what you need, or if CrossFit is in your future.

How it resembles “Cardio Conditioning”.

Anything which elevates heart rate for a sustained period of time improves cardiovascular conditioning. Aerobic capacity is the rate at which the lungs consume oxygen. While we need a scientific machine to measure it accurately, most people who feel winded after climbing stairs know that this means they are aren’t in great shape.
Participating in any aerobic activity can improve your cardiovascular health. Each time you place a demand on the body, it will improve. For some, it might be a brisk long walk which leaves them winded. For others, you may find that you need more stimulation to create a change. Certain activities are more efficient at improving cardiovascular health; the greater the demand, the greater the adaptation. The duration of a workout is less indicative of physiological improvements than the output of effort. What does this mean?
Well, if you are jogging at 6 miles per hour for 30 minutes, you will have covered 3 miles, burning between 300 and 500 calories of energy, depending on your size. If you participate in a crossfit workout that includes lifting weights and performing at your maximum capacity for 30 minutes, you will easily burn 1000+ calories of energy. The number of calories burned is a simplified method to measure work done. Luckily, most crossfit workouts are shorter than a continuous 30 minutes, though no promises can be made!

When is traditional cardio training better than crossfit training?

If you are recovering from a serious injury, whiplash, concussion, surgery, etc, crossfit is likely not the ideal place to start. However, most crossfit gyms never turn people away, and depending on the experience of the coaches, will make serious modifications to workouts to allow participation in classes.

If you are training for a long race, such as marathons or triathlons, participating in crossfit regularly isn’t usually the best way to improve your times. The workouts are too short, and involve too many varied exercises.
The intention of crossfit is to make members into fitness jack-of-all-trades, competent in many different aspects of exercises, and a master of none. Members feel stronger, healthier, and more able to participate in all the other activities and sports that happen in “real life”.
Still contemplating between traditional cardio conditioning and crossfit training? Start by creating a healthy habit. Schedule your workout time into your day and form a habit for 21 days. Regardless of what exercise you do, something is better than nothing. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop! Up your game by challenging your body to perform measured exercises with a greater intensity. Find out where a little exercise each day can take your body!

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Christie Leclair
Christie Leclair


FD Bulsara, BSc is a competitive athlete in Olympic weightlifting and a student in Osteopathy. She coaches private and group fitness classes and freelance writing about her passions: fitness, health, sport, nutrition, weightlifting, CrossFit, injury prevention, pain relief, injury rehabilitation, and the latest research on all these topics! She is a dog person and spends free time training at the lake. Find her

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