“The Crossfit Rx: How Crossfit is Helping Redefine Health and Medicine”
Written by J.C. Avalon
While I’ve spent the last few years in medical school studying the fundamentals of disease and treatment, I’ve noticed an increasing emphasis within the medical community on disease prevention and health promotion. After all, isn’t the best medicine not getting sick in the first place?
Having lost my father when I was 14 from complications of stroke, I’ve witnessed firsthand the crippling effects of chronic disease over time. But that experience is not unique to me. Many of us share similar stories of loved ones affected by the burden of disease. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease continue to run rampant through our society.
Despite the advancements in modern medicine with the development of new drugs and novel procedures, there is unfortunately no sure-fire way to prevent certain diseases from occurring. But there are decisions we can make within our own lives to help reduce our risk of disease, or at the very least, slow the progression. We can go back to the basics of medicine that focus on preventive and comprehensive care.
By making the decision to prioritize exercise, nutrition, and mental wellness, we can take control of our health and prepare ourselves to live the fulfilling life we all desire. My decision to integrate Crossfit into my life has reinforced this idea and enhanced my understanding of true health and medicine.
My journey at Friendship Crossfit began in July 2016 after my second year of medical school, with the intention of not only finding a new exercise regimen to break up the monotony of my own training routine, but to also establish a new lifestyle that would challenge me on a daily basis. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. They say you can see your life flash before your eyes right before death. That basically sums up my first training session with Maria. In addition to a day filled with testing my capacity in the fundamental movements of Crossfit (there was A LOT of failure that day), we discussed personal goals, nutrition, and mental development.
More importantly, we had come up with a sustainable plan that would help me achieve my goals during what was becoming an increasingly busy time in my life. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but as the psychologist Susan David once said, “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life”. Two years later, I still experience the positive effects from my decision to implement Crossfit into my life. I’ve improved my health across all domains, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Coincidentally, isn’t this what medicine is all about?
Crossfit’s emphasis on developing each of these areas is consistent with the movement in medicine towards preventative and comprehensive care. The physical benefits of Crossfit are the most obvious. Studies have shown consistent exercise can help lower blood pressure, control blood sugars, and improve cardiopulmonary capacity. More importantly, a healthy body is the vehicle that helps us participate in those activities that give our lives fulfillment. Whether it is providing for your family, climbing the ladder at work, winning your weekday golf-league, or doing “Karen” unbroken, making a commitment to our physical wellness will undoubtedly facilitate our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in and out of the gym.
Physical development is nurtured on a daily basis within the walls of Friendship through purposeful and unpredictable programming. Coaches are readily available to provide guidance on how to properly fuel your body through sustainable and personalized nutritional advice. With dedication and effort, focusing on these fundamentals will prepare our bodies to fend off the effects of father time and disease.
Crossfit also promotes being sound of mind. We are provided the opportunity to practice the invaluable traits of courage, humility, and mental fortitude every time we step into the gym. Think of the most grueling workout you’ve done to date. Better yet, think of a single movement. Courage? Today I will attempt to do all the pull-ups in this workout as the coaches prescribe. Humility? Ok, maybe I would benefit more by doing these pull-ups with a band. Mental fortitude? These banded pull-ups still suck, but I will finish them anyway. With time, these traits will inevitably transfer into our lives outside the gym, giving us the mental tools necessary to take responsibility of our own health and face any adversity life throws our way.
Lastly, regardless of whether you are a man or woman of faith, the Crossfit community has the capability to contribute to the wellbeing of one’s soul. The right environment nurtures a sense of friendship, companionship, and camaraderie amongst one another. This is evident within our own community. Initial pleasantries have developed into meaningful conversation, workout partners have become mentors, and coaches have become friends. There are no shortages of handshakes, fist-bumps, and hugs. These positive relationships contribute to the overall wellbeing of our community and even our own health. If you don’t believe me, plop yourself down in one of those beanbags and tell me you don’t make a new friend that day.
My experience with Crossfit has provided the powerful reminder of how the field of medicine, and we as a community, can take responsibility for our health by focusing on disease prevention and comprehensive wellness. If we prioritize seeking fitness in body, mind, and spirit today, we will be able to live a life free from the shackles of chronic disease and can truly say, “our best days are ahead of us”.
J.C. Avalon is a medical student at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dublin. He has been an athlete at Friendship for 18 months, has successful won rowing competitions at the Arnold, competed in the CF Games Open and you can find him throwing down with his arch-enemy Cole at 3:30pm usually (or making friends in the bean bags)!