Less Training, More Living

By Hilary Achauer

In The CrossFit Life

February 14, 2013

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The members of CrossFit Alaska use CrossFit to get into shape for the physical demands of daily life in the North. One member used it to save his life—twice.

Alaska’s wilderness is breathtaking and majestic, but everyday life requires a high level of fitness. The rugged environment is unforgiving, and little mistakes and small errors in judgment can have disastrous consequences in the North. When everything goes to hell, strength, endurance and grit can literally mean the difference between life and death.

That’s where CrossFit comes in.

In Alaska, functional fitness means being strong enough to rescue stuck ATVs, shovel snow, chop wood and survive an avalanche. Residents hunt game, catch salmon and forage for wild berries. Many Alaskans have physically taxing jobs, and common hobbies including backcountry skiing, mountain climbing and mountain biking. Strength, balance, flexibility and endurance are not skills developed in the gym only to be used in the gym.

“When it comes to training, we train in here to get better out there,” said Tony Reishus, owner of CrossFit Alaska.

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2 Comments on “Less Training, More Living”

1

wrote …

"Fitness as a sport" and comfortable lifestyles can lead many CrossFitters to a very narrow focus on formal CF competitions as the ultimate measure of fitness. This article is a good reminder that there are other, more practical tests. But how do you apply this, especially if you live in a typical first-world suburb where the most serious foreseeable physical demand is having to help a friend move furniture someday? I think there are a few options, and they don't necessarily require a rifle and a plane ticket to Alaska. Some of these ideas may seem overly dramatic, but no more so than office workers defining "functional fitness" with goals like muscle-ups, 300 pound deadlifts, and 3 minute Fran time:
--Disaster prep. Look at the US over the last year: multiple hurricanes even in non-typical areas; roving drought zones; forecasts of the biggest quake in centuries in SoCal; flooding; tornadoes; etc. Are you prepared to carry bodies and supplies, perhaps miles at a time? Can you row boats or swim safely with your clothes? Spend nights outdoors or in the cold (and if you think that's not a physical skill, you haven't tried it)? Chances are very high you'll never need it, and that's great; but can you imagine the difference it might make if disaster did strike and you'd been training every day for it?
--Vacation prep. It might sound silly, but I've seen several newly fit, fired-up CrossFitters launch out of their box into an intense vacation and promptly roll an ankle or dislocate a shoulder. I don't care what your clean PR is; two, four, eight hours on your feet hiking on uneven terrain with a backpack is a skill. And all the non-CrossFitters who have to carry you off the mountain will never let you forget it. If you are a recently recovered couch potato, consider spending some time sharpening your skills in hiking, swimming, kayaking too, before putting them to a big test.
--Sports. It's one of the core CrossFit tenets -- "play new sports" -- and yet so many CrossFitters never leave the gym. I don't care how you randomize your WODs, you can still get into a rut in CF. Sports take everything to the next level.
--On a related note (to sports and to disaster prep): Develop a practical, physical hobby. I think farming is a great skill; even in some cities, there are programs for urban gardening, etc. EMT certification can be surprisingly cheap if you live near a school. Same for massage certification. Or self-defense courses. Community colleges offer classes in carpentry, plumbing, engine repair: the first time you drag an 80 pound bag of concrete mix out of your car -- "what, no bar to hold onto??" -- something will click. I just started as the assistant technical director of a community theater: sometimes, I come down a 20-foot ladder after bolting a string of big stage lights to an overhead bar, and people ask me why I'm smiling. Well, a very expensive CrossFit addiction just paid off, that's why.
--Try WODs with irregular objects: sandbags instead of barbells, rocks instead of dumbbells, etc. Climb on and off a tall object instead of doing pushups. Wear street clothes. Warning: Go light and pace yourself, because you'll be surprised how much harder it is when everything isn't smooth/stable/clean. And therein is the problem with being a factory-fresh CrossFitter. If your fitness gets ahead of your ability to apply it, you can really set yourself up for injury.
In conclusion, nothing builds confidence and appreciation for CF like putting "functional fitness" to the test. And you might pick up some skills that change or even save lives along the way. So connect CF and life! Thanks for reading.

2

wrote …

Living in Alaska is the best thing to happen to me, next to marrying my wife and having an awesome son born to us in November. Truly, CrossFit has made all the things I love doing in Alaska easier. Not easy, but less "sucky". Last year's caribou hunt could have ended differently if I had not been preparing for it for 8 months in advance. Forget the Open; go carry caribou quarters across tusuks on the tundra for a mile or two and then get back to me.
Getting a muscle up is great, but being physically prepared for anything can't be beat. I CrossFit to hunt (and split wood, and shovel and swim and...)

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