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CrossFit: fitness with function
June 24th 2013
If you haven’t already heard of CrossFit, you soon will. Over the last 10 years, this team-based, athletics inspired fitness craze has taken Australia and America by storm. Susannah Taylor speaks to James Osborn, personal trainer from Freedom2Train and CrossFit fanatic to find out its widespread appeal…
Not just another flash-in-the-pan fitness fad, CrossFit is serious about maximum physicality and achieving ultimate fitness levels. Now sweeping its way across the UK, it may also get you in the best shape of your life.
What is CrossFit?
“CrossFit is an athletic-inspired team fitness class designed to help you achieve ultimate fitness. It can be thought of as a cross between gymnastics, weightlifting, and high intensity training, all done as a team. The formula created by the founder Coach Greg Glassman is constantly varied and functional movements performed at a high intensity together with a communal environment.
“The other thing we should mention is that CrossFit’s aim is to provide people with the fitness to cope with any physical eventuality. As they put it on their website, CrossFit prepares you for ‘not only the unknown, but for the unknowable’. So, if you love to ski, CrossFit will give you the fitness to do that. Love to surf? CrossFit will make you strong enough to cope with the biggest wave. Addicted to climbing? You get the picture.”
Who will like CrossFit?
“Guys and girls who want to be leaner, stronger, hone their bodies and achieve maximum fitness levels. However, you can’t go into Crossfit half-heartedly. The coach expects you to attend three or five times a week, but due to the nature of training, the benefits are vast. You can expect to get lean and strong and your aerobic capacity will increase as will your anaerobic capacity. You’ll also improve flexibility due to a high emphasis placed on mobility. Doing this sort of training four to five times a week will lead to noticeable change within weeks. Provided that your nutrition is decent, of course.”
What is a CrossFit session like?
“A CrossFit session is like being part of a motivational fitness team. Prior to partaking in any class you have to go through an induction process. This involves as many 1-2-1 sessions as the coach of that gym thinks you need (they will assess you in session one). This is to learn key movements, techniques and language and allows for a much smoother transition into classes. Classes are capped at around 15 and there are usually two coaches involved.
“Every session has a strength element at the beginning and then a WOD (Workout of the Day) which can be anything from running, lifting weights, pull-ups to as many burpees as possible in 10 minutes. There is normally a goal – a time limit or a number to reach. Each WOD is scalable which means it’s achievable for all fitness levels and there is a real sense of comradery.”
Do you have to go to an actual CrossFit gym?
“Yes that’s right. The CrossFit gyms are called ‘Boxes’ and our ‘box’ is in Battersea in London. Due to the nature of CrossFit and its beliefs, the people in each ‘box’ become quite close. Everyone knows each others’ name and there is a big sense that you belong to a team. There’s some very specific equipment needed for CrossFit which is why it needs to be done in a CrossFit box.”
How big has CrossFit become?
CrossFit is huge – it is also becoming a sport now. There is an annual CrossFit Games in America which is a competition to find the fittest man, woman and team on earth. The sport element is growing with athletes finding it easier to find sponsors and become minor celebrities in the States. Some so much that they can CrossFit full time.”
Will I get ‘bulky’ doing CrossFit?
“You’d have to be going five or six times a week for 12 months to really get bulky. Put it this way - men strive for a muscular physique all their lives… but it takes them forever. You need serious dedication, super disciplined nutrition and help from supplements to bulk up.
“CrossFit will help you get leaner and give your body amazing lines (i.e. you can see the line of your quad, or shoulder). Those lines were always there and always will be, they may have just been covered by some fat.
“P.S. Lines are good - strong is sexy!”
Do you have to be super fit to go?
“You don’t need to be fit to go but you do need to be up for the challenge and seriously ready to make a change. CrossFit does profess to be very inclusive and if you look at the members they do have a range of all shapes, sizes and ages. In a class, everyone is at different fitness points but your trainer will guide you through the training and encourage you as you get fitter. The last person to finish gets a bigger cheer than the first person!”
How intense is it?
“It’s intense. One of the mottos in our ‘box’ is ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable’. Which basically means that every WOD is going to test and challenge. A lot of the workouts leave you crawling over the finish line gasping for air, while some will sap every last bit of life out of your legs, arms and shoulders. The recommendation from the coaches is to rest on every fifth day at least. Ultimately it’s up to you. Each week is written so that you could feasibly train six times (Mon-Sat) but it’s tough.”
Is there anyone you wouldn't recommend CrossFit for?
“People with long term injuries need to be very proactive in talking to their coach and working out a plan. It is quite easy to get carried away and over train or not look after old injuries so there is definitely a need to be responsible and disciplined. This being said, once the coach knows about any chronic or old injuries they are great at offering alternative exercises or moves that will help.”
Should I be worried about injury?
“As with every single type of exercise out there, there is always some risk of injury. However, there is a massive emphasis from the coach on efficient and correct movement above all else. There are usually two instructors to a maximum of 15 class members, which means they are more than capable of ensuring everyone is performing each movement correctly.”
Anything else I need to know?
“The last thing to say about CrossFit is that the ‘sense of achievement’ factor is off the scale. Movements you thought were impossible, or you thought you’d never be able to do become realities. You become strong and fit with function, i.e. not only do you look great but you can also do great things. Compare this to some models, or body builders who may look great, but find it hard to run up the stairs. This is fitness… with function!”