A Guide To Using CrossFit® During Addiction Treatment

Using Crossfit In Treatment

What Is CrossFit?

Typically when people think of CrossFit, they picture sweaty, heavily muscled men and women working out at a high-intensity level. 

Unlike other exercise programs that focus on particular aspects of fitness such as building stamina or strength, CrossFit is a fitness program designed to promote overall wellness and fitness. 

Developed by Greg Glassman in Santa Cruz, California, CrossFit is a lifestyle that incorporates exercise, nutrition, and community. 

How CrossFit Can Help Someone Conquer Their Addiction 

There are a lot of benefits to maintaining the CrossFit lifestyle. This program is designed to work for everyone, from those just starting out to people who have trained for years. 

Here are a few ways CrossFit can help individuals conquer their addiction: 

1. A Powerful Community 

A large part of recovery can be losing the community that you were once a part of and, in turn, feeling isolated. Participating in CrossFit during addiction recovery is a great way to bond with other people going through similar struggles.

After leaving an addiction recovery program, joining a CrossFit gym can be an excellent way to continue to build bonds with others in your local community.

Getting to know others can be beneficial in other ways, too. New connections and friendships may lead to new job opportunities, and developing new skills can help open doors.

2. A Positive Emotional Outlet 

Exercise provides a healthy way to release intense emotions; even emotions individuals don’t recognize are there. 

CrossFit works as a good coping mechanism because you move from one station to the next. Constantly moving leaves little time to think about anything else but what is right in front of you.

3. Increased Sense of Purpose 

Enrolling in addiction treatment can be an intense experience, especially for those attending an inpatient treatment program. Completely changing the landscape of your life can feel overwhelming, but CrossFit can help keep your mind off the struggle. 

CrossFit is all about improving yourself. You set goals and accomplish them in each workout, so it’s easier to stay motivated. 

Plus, CrossFit routines are designed around several different workouts that keep you always moving, which leaves little time to think when you’re focused on moving your body.

4. Rebuilding After Addiction

Substance abuse almost always negatively impacts individuals’ health to some degree. Most addiction treatment programs that include CrossFit or other exercises will also have a nutrition element as well. 

With a focus on becoming healthier, CrossFit helps individuals rebuild their bodies through exercise and proper nutrition. 

/nutrition-during-drug-alcohol-rehab/This can help increase the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones (dopamine and serotonin) and help negate any nutritional deficiencies someone developed due to their substance use.

5. Improved Sleep Cycle

Someone who is physically exhausted will fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than someone who isn’t. 

After killing it in the gym, individuals in recovery are likely to experience improved sleep. 

Substance abuse can often mess with someone’s sleep cycle due to the effects different substances have on the brain. 

When someone is in recovery and has stopped taking drugs and alcohol, they may find that intense exercise helps them get more sound rest. 

6. Increased Perseverance

The goal of CrossFit is to challenge yourself. Most people would claim that while CrossFit isn’t necessarily easy, it is worthwhile. 

Individuals will feel their perseverance increase as they return again and again to their CrossFit routines. These small gains slowly build into large gains and make someone feel that they can handle more than they ever thought possible.

A common phrase used by CrossFit trainers is, “It doesn’t get easier, you get better.”

7. New Perspective 

When someone has abused substances for a long while, they can begin to identify themselves by some of the following labels: addict, failure, homeless. 

While these labels may be left behind or changed during the recovery process, CrossFit can give people a new, positive way to label themselves.

Also, regularly working out can improve someone’s body’s shape, giving them a confidence boost in their looks and strengthening their recovery. 

8. A Healthy “High”

Intense exercise, such as CrossFit, can trigger a ‘high’ sensation, as it folds the brain with serotonin and dopamine. 

These are the same chemicals released while abusing substances and can provide a healthy alternative for those going through recovery. 

When these chemicals are released regularly, they can help regulate mood and increase someone’s ability to cope with depression symptoms that often occur during recovery. 

9. Easy Access 

CrossFit has been around since the early 2000s. And CrossFit gyms (also referred to as boxes by those in the CrossFit community) are very popular. 

If there isn’t a CrossFit Box in your area, there are also many CrossFit routines that can be done from home, with little to no equipment. 

What Makes CrossFit Different From Other Exercises?

CrossFit is all about variety, and workouts are designed to be different every time. 

This variation helps people develop a wide variety of core abilities and get the most out of the short, intense training sessions. 

Cross-training involved the following ‘fitness domains’: 

  • Cardiovascular and respiratory
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Accuracy
3 Ways To Incorporate CrossFit into Substance Abuse Treatment 

Working out is a part of a well-rounded life. It doesn’t have to be a chore. 

There are many ways to incorporate CrossFit into addiction recovery and life, including: 

  • Specifically searching for an addiction treatment program that offers CrossFit classes (either on-site or through a gym partnership.) 
  • Using YouTube to find CrossFit routines you can do on your own at home or a rehab center. 
  • Joining a CrossFit Box and participating in classes when possible. 

Whether you choose CrossFit or another form of physical activity, make sure that it is something you enjoy. Otherwise, the likelihood of you committing to it are much lower. 

Does Exercise Really Help People In Recovery? 

Yes. Exercise is increasingly becoming a component of many treatment programs, especially holistic programs that focus on healing the whole person.  

Working out has been proven effective at helping people quit smoking cigarettes when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Exercise may help individuals recovering from substance abuse by addressing psychosocial and physiological needs that nicotine replacement alone does not. 

Daily movement can help reduce negative feelings and stress and even help prevent weight gain following quitting smoking. 

Research to determine if and how exercise programs can play a similar role in treating other forms of drug abuse is underway.

CrossFit Can Be Individualized For Virtually Anyone 

Anyone can do CrossFit. While CrossFit workouts will vary, they are designed to be tailored to individual needs. 

CrossFit workouts are designed to be scalable. A trainer can scale them down to meet individuals at their current fitness level and gradually increase the intensity when they feel ready to do more. 

CrossFit training works for people of all fitness levels, ages, and walks of life. The point is to challenge yourself. You are your only competition. 

6 Commonly Used CrossFit Terms 

Many things separate CrossFit from other fitness lifestyles. One of the main ones being the terminology surrounding the movement. Here are some common terms you may hear thrown about a CrossFit Gym: 

1. WOD = Workout of the day 

This is the workout you will perform when attending a CrossFit class. Sometimes WODs are named after different women like “Fran” or “Annie,” and other times, they are short phrases like “Fight gone bad.” 

2. AMRAP = As many reps/rounds as possible

Because CrossFit is designed to meet anyone at their current fitness level, many of the exercises will be timed, and then AMRAP will be used for the number of reps required. 

For example, a WOD may have a 45-second slot to do squats. How many you do is based on how hard you push yourself. 

3. ATG = Ass to grass 

ATG is how CrossFitters indicate a type of squat they are going for. In this version, instead of squatting parallel, individuals must go all the way down to the floor (or as near as they can get).

4. EMOM = Every minute on the minute 

This acronym is used for workout challenges that require individuals to complete an exercise for a certain number of reps in less than 60 seconds. 

5. GTG = Grease the groove 

This term references many moderate sets of exercise spaced out throughout the day. 

6. YBF = You’ll be fine 

This term is used to encourage new and seasoned CrossFitters alike. It’s not uncommon for people to use it as a motivational tool to help individuals push themselves to new heights.

Examples of Scaled CrossFit Training 

It can be easy to feel intimidated after watching others perform CrossFit. However, it is vital to keep in mind that they are working out at their comfort level, not yours. 

When you participate in CrossFit training, your only competition is yourself. Yes, you will be working out with others in the same space, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do the same things. 

Here is an example of the “Murph” WOD scaled for beginner, moderate, and advanced athletes:

  • Walk 100 ft. at a brisk pace.
  • 10 modified pull-ups (Stand facing something that won’t move, like a signpost. Place your feet about 6 inches from the post, grab the post firmly, and use your arms for control as you lean back until your arms are straight. Then pull yourself back to vertical. Rest when you need to.)
  • 10 modified push-ups (Stand at arm’s length from a wall, with your hands flat on the wall at shoulder height. Bend your elbows to bring your chest and face to the wall, then push on the wall to go back to vertical. Rest when you need to.)
  • 20 modified squats (Sit down in a chair and stand up. Rest when you need to.)
  • Walk 100 ft. at a brisk pace
  • Run 1 mile
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • Run 1 mile

While wearing a weighted vest: 

  • Run 1 mile
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • Run 1 mile

The best way to determine what level you are at is to try a workout; if it gets to be too much, rest. If you feel like you can do more, push yourself harder. But be honest with yourself, and do not try to compete with others. Simply focus on how you are feeling. 

Combining CrossFit with Other Healthy Habits 

It’s essential to know the most effective way to reap CrossFit’s benefits during addiction treatment and beyond is to incorporate other health habits, too. 

Other healthy habits that will help during recovery are usually other aspects of the program, such as one-on-one or group therapy and family counseling. 

While participating in CrossFit is a good step towards physical healing, it is not the only thing someone in recovery should be concerned about. 

Ensuring that these workouts are combined with other therapies aids in recovery and can help individuals be more in tune with their own needs. 

CrossFit At Elevate Addiction Services 

As a holistic treatment center, Elevate offers CrossFit classes as a part of its addiction treatment program. The EAS Crossfit box features a large open floor plan with all the Crossfit and workout necessities, including:

  • Medicine balls, dumbbells, and kettlebells
  • Olympic style weights
  • Rowing machines and exercise bikes
  • Pull up bars, ring rows, and climbing ropes

CrossFit is an excellent option for anyone looking to maintain their sobriety, as it helps focus the mind and build the body. 

At Elevate, our treatment is centered around addressing the whole person, not merely curing their addiction symptoms. 

We want our clients to feel like they are healing on every level, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Our goal is to help those suffering from addiction lead meaningful and purposeful lives they love, all without the need for substances. 


  • Overcome Addiction at Elevate Addiction Services

    Elevate is currently offering immediate enrollment in inpatient, outpatient, or telehealth programs. Reach out today to learn more.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Elevate Locations

Treatment Resources

elevate addiction services logo
Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.
elevate addiction services logo
Is an accredited drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, that believes addiction treatment should not just address “how to stay sober” but needs to transform the life of the addict and empower him or her to create a more meaningful and positive life. We are dedicated to transforming the despair of addiction into a purposeful life of confidence, self-respect and happiness. We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful.