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CrossFit workouts: the fitness phenomenon

February 3rd 2014

CrossFit is an exercise phenomenon taking the fitness world by storm. Philip Brennan, Level 1 Coach from CrossFit South London explains the programme’s worldwide popularity to Susannah Taylor

If you’re into fitness, you’ll know about CrossFit. If you want to get fit, drop body fat, get visible abs fast then you should get to know CrossFit. Haven’t heard of it? You soon will. CrossFit is a highly challenging exercise regimen developed by a Californian fitness coach called Greg Wiseman about two decades ago. Its aim is to not only make you physically as fit as you can possibly be but to strengthen your body so it can tackle any task thrown at it. CrossFit has become so popular it is spreading throughout the world faster than you can say “bicep”.

CrossFit is not for the faint hearted; in a word, it’s hardcore. Based on athletic principles, and using functional movements (e.g. moves your body should do naturally, such as lift heavy objects or move long distances in a short space of time rather than line dance, for example), a session of CrossFit would start with a warm up, a skill session (where you perfect your moves) followed by a WOD (workout of the day) which might have you lifting weights, rowing, squatting, throwing slam balls, performing press-ups, pull-ups or handstands, all to a timed clock. The aim is to better yourself every session. Sound full on? It is. By the end of a CrossFit class, attendees will be lying on the floor, often in a pool of their own sweat like dead ants drowned in a puddle of water.

It’s this extreme element of CrossFit - the idea that you are pushed by coaches way out of your comfort zone - as well as the sense of camaraderie (headphones are banned - you are in this together) that amasses such a cult-like following. Any elite athlete will tell you that in order to gain real fitness results you have to push yourself beyond what you thought your limits were. Don’t think you can carry on? The coaches will ensure you do five more reps. As a result, every CrossFitter is smug in the knowledge that they become stronger and fitter than the majority of people plodding away at their gym regime every week and not getting the results they want. What’s more, due to the highly effective moves performed and the intensity they are performed at, you cannot fail to start seeing changes in your body within weeks. The world clearly agrees - there are now 10,000 affiliated CrossFit gyms globally (although a CrossFit gym is called ‘a Box’ - beware, there is a lot of weird lingo) and 35,000 accredited CrossFit Level 1 trainers. There is even an annual CrossFit Games, now sponsored by Reebok, whose aim it is to find the fittest person on earth.

Is it for women as well as men? Yes. As I am often told by trainers, the biggest misconception currently held by women is that weights make them bulky. Steve Mellor from Freedom2Train always says that women need high levels of testosterone to build muscle, something most of us don’t have in abundance. If anything, lifting weights will make us more lean and toned. Is it for all levels of fitness? Absolutely - I have seen with my own eyes that all members are supportive of each other no matter of their ability, often cheering them on so they see a move through to the very end.

I have one CrossFit word of warning however - this stuff is highly addictive; most people that start it become almost fanatical about it. I imagine this is due to the results it reaps but also the sense of immense satisfaction it leaves with its members, who every week achieve something they never thought they were capable of. And as Philip Brennan, Level 1 Coach at CrossFit South London says, “I never saw a cult that got you abs like this.”


Film by Pocket Motion Pictures

Directed by Susannah Taylor

Model and athlete: Jenny Pacey at W Athletic

Hair and make-up: Camila Fez

Location: With thanks to CrossFit South London

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