Whenever I say to my friends, ‘come to CrossFit with me!’ the response is usually a grimacing shake of the head followed by, ‘but it looks so scary! And hard!’. It’s an understandable reaction, given the videos online of elite CrossFitters twirling heavy steel bars around and throwing gymnastic stunts. Yet CrossFit has turned out to be the most accessible kind of fitness training I have ever encountered.
In my first ever CrossFit class, I saw ‘Skill Practice: rope climb’ written on the whiteboard with the rest of the WOD (Workout of the Day – one of MANY CrossFit acronyms and abbreviations). I thought, ‘no way’. Even as a kid, I was completely un-gymnastic. There was no chance I’d be climbing up that 15ft rope.
But the coach took us through the precise technique and before I knew it, I was basically Tarzan. I had suddenly learnt a skill that, to all intents and purposes, meant I’d probably be jungle-proficient. No big deal.
CrossFit’s germination began in California. The brainchild of former gymnast, Greg Glassman, the CrossFit model of fitness training began in his humble Santa Cruz garage – the first CrossFit ‘box’ – before exploding across the globe with the advent of crossfit.com in 2001. There are now somewhere in the region of 8,000 CrossFit affiliated boxes worldwide.
Well, it’s certainly addictive. After my Tarzan moment, I was totally hooked. You start to realise that you’ve wildly underestimated your body’s physical potential. You get a bit high on seeing what you’re capable of doing at each WOD. All those ‘scary’, ‘hard’ things like powerlifts, gymnastic movements and hard-core cardio, suddenly become achievable.
Plus, everyone in the class does exactly the same WOD; it’s inclusive. You take it on together, encouraging and motivating one another until everyone has completed their final movement. Young, old, in shape, not in shape, male, female; it doesn’t matter. CrossFitters understand that everything is relative to the individual.
Evidently, CrossFit flies against a few current gym conventions. On walking into a CrossFit box, the most obvious defiance is the lack of machines, followed closely by the missing wall mirrors. With an emphasis on flexibility; strength; power; speed; endurance and coordination, having a toned body is a happy by-product of CrossFit training, not the primary goal. Whilst mirrors have their place, CrossFit classes are intimate enough for your coach to reflect your performance back to you, correcting your form and technique throughout.
All in all, there’s a great deal to expect from CrossFit. When you rock up to a CrossFit session, expect to work really hard at high intensity – it’s tough, but so are you. Expect to simulate functional movement patterns fundamental to everyday life – lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling. Expect to spend longer than you probably ever have before on stretching and mobility. Expect to embrace your inner child when you’re playing around on the gymnastic rings and doing handstands against a wall. Expect your hands to boast some awesome calluses, which you’ll proudly come to parade as badges of honour. (Gloves and tape are an alternative option here!) Definitely, expect to start seeing benches as opportunities to practice box jumps. And expect to make a bunch of really great friends who, when you almost fall off the rig with disbelief, will reassure you that you honestly did just do your first real, completely unassisted pull up.
For more information, visit www.crossfit.com