Joseph F. McCaffrey MD, FACS

 

The Best Fitness Program Ever

I want to tell you about the single best fitness Web site I’ve found (and I’ve checked out a lot of them). 

This site provides detailed instruction on how to reach levels of fitness you never dreamed of. The exercise sessions are short yet extremely effective.

I’ve exercised regularly and used a lot of different methods over the years. I’ve made more progress on this program than I have on any other, bar none. If it works for me, you can do even better.

I’m 59 years old. I rowed crew in college, and aside from the first two years of my surgical residency, I’ve never gone longer than three months without doing some form of exercise. I try to practice what I preach.

I’ve educated myself pretty well about exercise physiology. Even using that knowledge as best I could, over the last decade I’ve found myself working harder for poorer results. I had pretty much resigned myself to accepting that as a “man of experience” (not wanting to say old man) I would be doing well to maintain what strength and fitness I had and shouldn’t be looking to make any gains.

Then I found the program I’ll refer you to here. It changed my thinking..

My son is 20 years old. We have a gym set up in the garage – a pull up bar and some weights. This past summer a bunch of his buddies were over working out. I walked by, taking the garbage out, and, as young men are wont to do, they taunted me to join in. 

They were doing rounds of weighted pull ups. That is, pull ups with a weight strapped to your waist. It was a bit of a competition. 

A guy would do a pull up with weight and then the rest would see if they could handle it. Then weight was added for the next round. When you reached a weight you couldn’t handle, you had to take it off for your next set and put it back on for the guys who were still going strong.

A couple of years ago, I would have been hard pressed to do a single pull up, weight or no weight. I don’t think Jon’s friends expected me to accept their challenge. But I’d been following the recommendations of this web site for a while by that time. I accepted.

It felt good to hold my own with those young bucks. Sensing my son’s pride in his father felt even better.

I should expand my opening statement. This isn’t just a fitness Web site, it‘s the best fitness philosophy and program I’ve come across.

And it costs nothing. It’s almost hard to find something to buy on the site.  Really, their only product is a $25/year subscription to their ezine. It’s well worth the $25, but you don’t have to spend a penny to gain a fantastic amount of information.

What a wonderful world we live in that this level of instruction is freely given.

I’ll give you the Web address in a moment. First, I want to tell you why I like this program. Also, this program isn’t for everybody. It is intense and if not approached prudently, it does have the potential to be dangerous.

Here are a few reasons why I like this program.

  • It develops all aspects of fitness. More on that below.
  • It develops practical fitness, fitness that you can use in your daily life.

    For example, my family and I were traveling in Italy when we got stranded by an unannounced train strike (apparently such things happen with some regularity in Italy, most often on Friday afternoons). To get from the train station to the bus station people had to walk across a series of outdoor bridges that only had stairs - up one side and down the other. Rolling suitcases didn’t work well on those steps. People were really struggling dealing with it. It felt good to be able to pick up my bag and my wife’s bag and just walk up the steps carrying them without any difficulty.
  • The workouts are short – you don’t have to spend your life in the gym to get great results.
  • The workouts are varied and fun – you’ll never get bored with them. You may dread them, but you won’t be bored.
  • The workouts don’t require extensive equipment.
  • The workouts are great for fat burning.
  • The price of the program is right - free.

What Is Fitness?

When most of us think of fitness, we think of aerobic fitness – distance runners and the like.  Some of us may think of strength as well, but rarely beyond that.

True fitness encompasses much more that those two aspects.  The coaches behind this program identified 10 aspects of fitness they wanted to help their athletes develop (by the way, they consider anyone doing their program an athlete).  Here are the aspects of fitness this program develops.  If your goal is optimum physical com¬petence, then all these general physical skills must be considered:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance - The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina - The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility - the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  5. Power - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  6. Speed - The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  7. Coordination - The ability to combine several distinct movement pat¬terns into a singular distinct movement.
  8. Agility - The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance - The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  10. Accuracy - The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

Quite the list, don’t you think? Obviously, most fitness programs don’t come close to addressing all of these physical skills. How would you like to be the unique person that develops all of them?

Another reason I like this program is its efficiency. You invest less time to get in better shape. I won’t go into extensive details here, but the physiologic underpinnings of it are sound. 

Extended periods (beyond 45 minutes or so) of aerobic effort actually become a form a chronic stress. This shifts the hormonal balance of the body in a way that works against developing muscle mass and strength. 

To see this effect, just compare the physiques of marathon runners and bicyclists to those of sprinters and basketball players.

After a warm up, most of these workouts are 20 minutes or less. None are longer than 45 minutes or so.

Another plus is the workouts are highly varied. That’s why it develops such broad fitness. 

Not only are the workouts varied, but so are the exercises.  No matter what your fitness background, I’d be surprised if you don’t come across some exercises you’ve never heard of before when you start this program.

I’m sure this all sounds good. It is. Now it’s time to point out the potential problems.

This program is intense. I love the program and really love the way I feel after a work out, but still find myself kind of avoiding starting a work out because I know how uncomfortable I’ll be half way through.

You get great results in such short workouts because they are intense.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start the program. Modified versions have even been used with nursing home residents with great results. It means you need to be prudent. If you’re older and haven’t exercised in a while, you definitely need to see a physician before getting started.

If you’re already pretty fit from other programs, you need to be even more careful.  You just might be fit enough to get yourself in serious trouble.

Many of the routines place significant stress on multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It rarely happens, but it is possible to exercise so strenuously that the muscle cells break down and release their protein into the blood stream. The protein then travel through to the kidneys where it can plug them up and cause renal failure. 

There have been about 5 cases of this reported in people doing these workouts (that’s 5 out of many 10’s of thousands of athletics doing the program). People especially at risk are those who have a good aerobic base.  That base allows them to push themselves to a work load beyond which they’ve trained their muscles to handle.

Leaving your pride at the door and using common sense will prevent any problem. Start easy and gradually dial in the intensity.

As I said, old folks in nursing homes have benefited from the program.  Whatever your fitness level, just go slow for the first several weeks as you get use to the routines and the exercises. Then gradually build the intensity.  You’ll quickly see great results quickly.

Having said all that, here, at last, is the site so you can check it out:  www.crossfit.com

The folks at Crossfit also make available a free copy of the Crossfit Journal.  This issue summarizes their definition and approach to fitness. I highly recommend you download it, even if you don’t think you’ll try the program:

http://www.crossfit.com/cf-download/CFJ-trial.pdf

The site may seem a little overwhelming at first. You may not be certain where to start. I must admit, it’s not the most intuitively laid out site I’ve come across. But it certainly is one of the most content rich. 

You’ll get used to the site as you use it. For now just  check out the tabs and the FAQ’s and get a sense of what’s there.

In another article, I plan to give you a few tips on using the site and getting the most out of it.

If you have any comments, let me know at: jsphfm-jfm@yahoo.com


 

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