So far, we’ve discussed being more active, recreational sports, exercising at home and traditional gyms as ways that you may exercise. This week we’ll finish the series with HIIT type programs and CrossFit, both methods that have a strong community around them.
HIIT type programs
Many gyms use a type of group class that typically incorporates both cardio and strength training. A specific gym might only offer this type of class, or it may be one of many options at a larger fitness facility. A few examples include Orangetheory Fitness, boxing inspired group fitness classes, spin classes, and other classes and programs that use a high intensity interval training (HIIT) type focus. HIIT workouts alternate brief periods of hard exercise with periods of rest. For example, you may do a 20 second sprint and then a minute of rest.
Orangetheory Fitness will be our example in this category. It is a worldwide chain with standardized daily workouts. The workouts are an hour-long and based on HIIT with a somewhat scientific focus on heart rate and being in certain zones (e.g., being at greater than 84% of maximum heart rate for more than 12 minutes per class) as a measure of work. Calories burned per person are calculated in real time on a screen adding an element of external motivation. Approximately 2/3 of the class is cardio-focused (usually using a treadmill or rower) and 1/3 is strength-focused. These types of gyms are great for any level of fitness, provide a highly motivating community, have built-in variety to keep your workout routine interesting, and are highly efficient and effective.
- May be part of a nationwide chain with a very consistent program across locations so it is easy to visit other locations (true of Orangetheory Fitness)
Highly efficient workout
- Accountability is high due to having to schedule classes
- Can start at any level of fitness (for example walking on the treadmill or using a glider or bike for those with joint pain)
- Doesn’t require prior knowledge of the exercises
- In non-COVID times, features an excellent community to help motivate you to continue attending
Risk of injury
- Low; all exercises are demonstrated but if done incorrectly or with a weight that is too heavy, there is still potential for acute injury
- Cost is often higher than membership at a general gym where you create your own program
- Possibly low flexibility for cancellation (for example, you must cancel 8 hours before your class for Orangetheory Fitness)
- Difficulty scheduling at desired times due to high popularity
- Significant variability in how much coaches correct your form or how motivational they are
CrossFit is another example of a gym that does group classes, but it earns its own category for its increased focus on strength training and weightlifting. CrossFit is also uniquely competitive, with CrossFit competitions culminating in professional-level events such as the CrossFit Games. CrossFit gyms are widely variable in quality and type of programming, unlike gyms like Orangetheory Fitness. The quality of coaching has a huge impact on the efficacy and safety of individual gyms. CrossFit is an excellent option for anyone who is looking to increase their overall fitness, would like to work on strength training, is able to commit to learning new techniques, and wants to join a focused and fun fitness community.
- Can start at any fitness level and all exercises can be scaled
- A significant focus on strength training including weightlifting, which can be difficult and dangerous to begin on your own
- A highly motivated and motivational community
- Many different types of exercise to keep workouts varied and interesting
- Excellent coaching, which can vary based on location
Risk for injury
- Moderate based on the complexity of some of the lifts as well as the intensity. As an orthopedic surgeon, I’ve seen a number of CrossFit injuries and even rhabdomyolysis, a serious type of muscle condition caused by an intense workout that can lead to kidney damage. The intensity of the workouts is high compared to other types of gyms and although it can easily be scaled, people who are interested in this type of training tend to be self-motivated to compete which can predispose them to this type of injury.
- Variation in quality of coaching and programming and lack of standardization
- Relative complexity of exercises which take time and patience to learn and are associated with relatively higher risk of injury
No matter what type of exercise you prefer, it is important to prioritize regular activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Some key takeaways from every type of exercise listed in this series are to plan, avoid injury and be consistent. If you do get a strain or sprain during exercise, know we have convenient Ortho On Call locations across the state to get you back to the activities you enjoy – whatever exercises they may be!