Everyone from medical professionals to mountain bikers is joining in the CrossFit fun these days. Physician assistant, Aaron Hewitt, gives us an inside look at what all the full is about.
About.com: How is CrossFit part of your life?
Hewitt: Looking back, I can't ever imagine going back to the "normal" gym, rotating through the machines and then spending a half hour on the treadmill or StairMaster. Going to CrossFit is FUN! People tell you, “good job” when you do well and yell for you to finish when you may be lagging behind. It's a very supportive community. If you skip too many days, one of your friends will text you and ask where you have been. This fellowship encourages everyone to try hard. Over the course of four years, I've cleaned up my diet (in large part to the Paleo diet a lot of CrossFit athletes do). I've lost upward of 40 pounds. I currently carry 7.5% body fat. Before, I'd get winded going up a flight of stairs. Now I have more physical confidence to the point I've even done some local competitions in Charlotte and Charleston.
About.com: Are people surprised to find out you are both a medical professional and CrossFit participant?
Hewitt: You’d be surprised at the amount of medical professionals that participate in CrossFit or other forms of high-intensity workouts. In my orthopedic office, there are at least four or five of us. Sometimes people seem surprised, but if you think about it, as a provider I know how the body works. Sure, I want to push myself like anyone else does, but I also know when I should back off or take a rest day. Something like CrossFit isn’t a type of exercise that you start full-force if you are new to it. When I started, I had to work my way up slowly like anyone else. I think a lot of CrossFit athletes like the opportunity to talk to someone who understands the "jargon." Athletes just don't want to be told "don't do this/that."
About.com: How has being a physician assistant influenced the way you exercise?
Hewitt: I get to work with patients and athletes of all ages and talk to them about the human body and its abilities. I watch many of my patients return to their sport oftentimes in better condition than they were before. I see their struggles and I see the mistakes they make. Some don’t eat properly to fuel their workouts. Others push their bodies to the limits and don’t let it rest properly. Some will focus too much effort on one element of exercise, like cardio, while neglecting another, like strength, and that can cause injury. It’s all about balance. So, you could say I also learn a lot from my patients and what they experience. A huge part of my satisfaction with the work I do is in returning those patients to the sports they love.
About.com: Can you explain a bit more about the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) utilized in CrossFit?
Hewitt: HIIT intervals combine intense periods of work with subsequent low-intensity segments or rest. This method increases both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, which is what you want to do to really get in shape. Adipose tissue, which is body fat and what many people want less of, is burned more effectively with these types of intervals than through low-intensity exercise. HIIT helps your metabolism increase, and as you develop muscle mass you’ll burn more fat at a quicker rate because muscle requires more energy.
CrossFit offers constantly varied high-intensity workouts. One day we may be doing rowing and burpees and another day we may be doing windsprints. Because it encompasses all forms of physical fitness from endurance to strength to cardiovascular to mobility, those intense intervals are a workout that trains your whole body. You go into the gym not knowing what you have to do, just like in life you never know when or what you will have to push or pull, or what obstacles you may encounter.
Read Part 2 of this interview here.