What is CrossFit?
Although not new to the world of fitness, the term and fitness discipline of Crossfit has gone from strength to strength (literally) in the last 18 months, especially here in the UK. We wanted to find out the good, the bad and the ugly when it came the newest strength and conditioning program on the block. Needing some inspiration and an ever growing stomach, we decided to send out one of the Average Joes team to see what all the fuss was about.
I’m one of those guys who’s itching to have a ripped body like Becks (minus the photoshop) along with the strength of Carl Froch. Alas I typify the average male, at most a 5K run every week along with a couple of visits to the gym. I’d do the same old chest and bicep routine and maybe some triceps for around 45 mins and barely break a sweat or raise my heart rate. A lack of personal knowledge when it comes to fitness training and a severe lack of motivation kept me on the road to nowhere (not to mention the word beer).
For me personally, what I needed was a hard truth and a reason to tow the line, hence why I decided to look at Crossfit. The constant variety of workouts on a daily basis and learning a range of new moves was the biggest difference I found compared to my old gym routine. Much like eating tapas to mix up your evening meal, it’s the mix of different skills and disciplines in Crossfit which gives you the bug. With the aim of preparing you for all of life’s physical challenges.
CrossFit centres are currently in pretty much every single city in the UK, and even a few more after that. The typical centre will be open 7 days a week so you have plenty of options to attend the CrossFit gym and group classes. We found the groups were big enough to not feel isolated but also allowed for some tuition on a much more personal level. The class sessions begin with a warm up which could be air squats, 200 meter runs, planking, press ups and many more. Already a CrossFit workout was tougher than my old gym routine, and that was just day 1.
After the warm up, the class would move onto strength moves. This concentrates on practising our technique correct and making everything fit together – this is a massive part of CrossFit as we read more and more horror stories emerging in the press of people getting seriously injured in the sport. This can be due to poor form and technique so your instructor really should make sure every class member is lifting and practising safely. The strength lifts include dead lifts, handstand push ups, clean jerk, back squats, front squats, power clean, push jerk and many more.
After performing a range of these lifts, (which I thought was the end of the class in my first session) we would then move on to the Workout of The Day (WOD). Most venues create a new WOD for members to tackle each day they attend. All of our WOD routines were named after girls, nice touch. This is where the real workout begins. A small workout that pushes you to you limits of both strength and endurance. A typical WOD would look like this (based on the Norwich Cross Fit):
5 Handstand push-ups
10 1-legged squats (swapping leg each round)
As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes
As many rounds as possible in 20 min
400 meter run
Kettlebell swing x 21
Pull-ups 12 reps
3 rounds for your best time
Or the dreaded…
Thruster 95 lbs
Pull-ups / 21-15-9 reps
For best time
These might not look much on your screen but I can assure you these intense workouts will give your body a serious beating. With no one at the gym alongside you to encourage and drive you on to do one more it was always far too easy for me to give up. This group environment is full of camaraderie and doesn’t take long for a group of strangers encouraging and shouting at you (in a positive way) to beat your previous time or just to reach the finish line. A welcome change to any workout. This helps to give you the drive and determination to compete against yourself every time you set foot in the gym. And it’s not just for the super-fit athletes of this world – every class features a variety of abilities from beginners to some seriously fit guys and girls.
From the very first session we attended, that feeling of a group of strangers cheering you on to get to the finish line and reach my goal was an absolute buzz. This feeling of teamwork, passion, and the most painful pleasure you’ll ever receive is something I was never able to find in the gym. For us, we got hooked immediately and even two months on from our start, we are still coming back for more and feeling more and more as part of a team. And I’m actually seeing some changes to my body and all round confidence. If only I could cut the junk food out I would have the body of Becks.
A big thanks to Paul Emmons, instructor at CrossFit Norwich for helping us on our CrossFit journey and making sure we didn’t quit.