An exercise program emphasising short, high-intensity workouts and a back to basics approach is the latest fitness craze to take off in Canberra, but experts have warned that it could pose dangers to those taking part.
There are now at least eight CrossFit-affiliated gyms in Canberra and Queanbeyan which daily offer varied workouts using traditional methods and equipment, including rope climbing, weightlifting and running around the block.
But the program has copped criticism in Australia and abroad for encouraging those taking part to train harder than is good for them, and for exposing those involved to injury.
An exercise physiologist at the University of Canberra, Kate Pumpa, said while it was a positive that the program promoted activity, CrossFit was ''notorious'' for those taking part to overtrain. CrossFit's founder, Greg Glassman, a middle-aged former gymnast from California, told TheNew York Times in 2005 that his program was potentially fatal. ''It can kill you,'' he was quoted as saying. ''I've always been completely honest about that.''
CrossFit's head office in the US did not respond to The Canberra Times' request for comment, but CrossFit's website warns that their workouts are ''extremely demanding'' and ''will tax the capacities of even the world's best athletes''.
It encourages those starting out to ease themselves into the program with scaled back activities before working out with 100 per cent intensity.
Two gruesome cartoon clown mascots are widely used in CrossFit gyms. ''Pukie'' is depicted on his hands and knees vomiting, and ''Rhabdo'' appears bleeding, with some of his organs outside of his body, referring to the potentially fatal condition rhabdomyolysis, which can be caused by overtraining.
Local CrossFit trainers confirmed that ''a visit from Pukie'' was a commonly used phrase in their gyms for when those taking part vomited during or after training.
But Dr Pumpa said vomiting was not a healthy sign of hard work.
''It decreases strength and conditioning and skill level, and could increase the risk of injury,'' she said.
CrossFit.com publishes one new workout each day, which combines a range of different exercises, and those taking part post their results online.
Last year more than 25,000 people worldwide took part in the CrossFit Open, with the winners from the online round progressing to regional competitions, and eventually an international final held in California. One woman and one man took home the title of ''Fittest on Earth''.