CrossFit instructor Steve Willis instructing a group Session. Photo: Fiona Morris
You may love it or you may hate it, but for those serious about fitness, there is no ignoring the phenomenal growth in the fitness brand that is CrossFit.
It even has even spawned its own official sports event; The CrossFit Games, which ran last week in California and features four days of hill runs, swimming, handstand push ups, box jumps, and 70kg overhead squats.
The CrossFit games were not covered by the Australian newspapers nor discussed across pubs, because the fact is that many Australians still don't even know what CrossFit is. So here is my take on it for those who are looking for a simple, intense, workout regime that guarantees results.
CrossFit is a community that's centred around fitness, and every person has one thing in common – they all like to exercise with intensity.
The brand was founded by Greg Glassman in 2000, who designed a strength and conditioning program where exercises are performed at a high intensity via functional movements.
Workouts (known as WODs – Workouts of the Day) are varied and typically short in duration… some may last only 5 minutes, and some may last up to 30 minutes.
Although the emphasis is on intensity, CrossFit athletes don't tend to be bloated budgie smugglers with fake tans, and you won't be watching Justin Bieber videos as you work out.
Nor will you see sales staff looking to sell you everything under the sun while asking for all your friends' email addresses.
A CrossFit gym (or 'box') is typically a warehouse space filled with pull-up bars, barbells and weights, jump ropes, rowers, and kettlebells.
After you lace your runners in a CrossFit box, you warm-up, then wait for the WOD as prescribed by either CrossFit HQ in California, or by the CrossFit trainer at your local box.
My first workout is one I will never forget. I entered the box and written on the wall was this: 3 rounds of 50 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, and 100 bodyweight squats with a 40minute time limit.
Next to that wall (common in most CrossFit boxes), is a painted picture of a clown projectile vomiting across the wall, with names/dates/WODs of the CrossFit members who most recently lost their lunch. I wondered whether my name would be next on that wall, then Rage Against the Machine blared and we all started the WOD to compete against the clock and each other to record times.
Many CrossFit WODs are named after women. 'Fran' sounds like an easy workout, but try putting your body through three rounds of 21 reps, 15, and then 9 of two exercises: 40kg squat thrusters followed by pull-ups. (At The CrossFit Games, Scott Panchik performed this workout in 2 minutes and 41 seconds).
But while it is hard core, it's not exclusive, because right next to me were men and women of all levels of fitness. Some were CrossFit junkies as fit as anyone on the rugby field, while others were weight loss clients, grandparents, and even some with physical disabilities looking to build strength.
But like all things, CrossFit has its critics. Donal Carr, from Place of CHI, is a Paul Chek lecturer, presenter, and former training and development manager for personal trainers at Fitness First.
He said, "I appreciate CrossFit as a sport, watching elite athletes perform intense workouts, however I am not a fan of CrossFit expanding at the local level where personal trainers are learning Olympic lifting in a weekend course. Complex movements within WODs are being picked out of a hat in the morning, and poor exercise selection with improper technique is leading to injuries."
I was fortunate when I learned CrossFit, because I was taught by Steve 'Commando Steve' Willis and Mick Shaw – some of Australia's top CrossFit trainers. But I understand Donal's point, because varied and intense workouts with a weighted load can lead to injuries for the average Joe and even for elite athletes.
But as CrossFit continues to grow (3,400 worldwide affiliates and climbing), I will always be a fan because the workouts don't require machines and there's no popcorn and popstar atmosphere. It's about moving your body with functionality and intensity via WODs that aren't lead by tanned gym bunnies. CrossFit is simple, intense, and guarantees results… and it will bring your mind and body to the pain threshold where you'll ask yourself: 'Do I continue on with this WOD? Or do I quit and hit the couch like everybody else would?'
CrossFit will take the average gym enthusiast on a ride they have never ridden to push the mind and body to the limit.
So is CrossFit a fad? I say no way. It's here to stay and expand worldwide.
Do you think CrossFit is just a fad?