CrossFit, The Ultimate Agile Exercise

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Brian Rabon With Coach Mike Burgener
Brian Rabon With Coach Mike Burgener

I first discovered Crossfit in the summer of 2012; since then I have participated in hundreds of workouts and earned the CrossFit Level 1 (CF-L1) Trainer and CrossFit Olympic Lifting Trainer certifications. Of all the workout programs I have tried over the years CrossFit is the most Agile of them all.

For those of you who haven’t heard of CrossFit, here is a working definition “Constantly varied, functional movements, done at high intensity”. What does that mean?

  • Constantly varied – Every day the workout is different, seemingly random (For those of us in the know there is a method to the madness, so it’s not quite random)
  • Functional movements – The exercises that we perform are designed to mimic real life, squatting is sitting down for example
  • High intensity – Ever try to do 100 pull-ups in only a few minutes? CrossFit calls for an all-out physical exertion in as short of an amount of time as physically possible

After practicing for a while and discussing it with my friend Dr. Thomas Soltau, we came to the realization that CrossFit is a very Agile way to work out. What makes CrossFit Agile:

  • There is a Product Owner – The coach facilitating the workout of the day (WOD) is responsible for defining “what” we are about to do
  • There is a ScrumMaster – Perhaps a little bit non-traditional… almost all workouts are timed, there is typically a really large LED clock, this clock reminds us of the goal and keeps us focused on the goal much like a ScrumMaster
  • There are teams – While most of the workouts are done individually, there is still a broad sense of teamwork. For instance, the workout isn’t done until everyone is finished. If you get done early you cheer on the others who are still exercising
  • The work to be done is in a backlog – Each workout is typically a collection of one or more exercises, this effectively is an iteration backlog
  • What we work on varies from iteration to iteration – back to the “constantly varied” part of the definition
  • We workout in iterations – Almost all workouts are considered as many rounds and reps as possible (AMRAP) in a specified time box
  • Before the iteration we define a goal – Most workouts require us to select a weight or time targets before we begin, in this way we are defining a goal prior to starting the workout
  • There is a standup – Prior to beginning the workout we all stand around to discuss what we are going to do and if there are any questions or roadblocks (Someone might be injured and we need to modify the workout)
  • Many of us keep a task board and chart our incremental progress during the workout, at the end of the workout we post our score up on the wall for all to see
  • We are very focused on the potentially shippable product increment – After each workout most of us keep a journal of our progress. It’s not uncommon for someone to update their journal with a personal record (PR); lifting a weight or completing a particular workout faster than before. These incremental improvements are proof that we are making progress and hitting our goals

While many of us wouldn’t consider our exercise routine to be Agile, I strongly believe that CrossFit shares many of the values and principles that we have come to associate with Agile.

What do you think? I would love to hear your opinion.