Many people work out because they have to, not because they want to. And finding a class you look forward to week in, week out is tough. Convinced exercise should always be fun, we sent our editor on a mission to track down her favorite fitness classes.
This week, she tries CrossFit – a strength and conditioning program based on a series of functional movements performed in short, high-intensity bursts.
Intense and effective, CrossFit has taken the fitness world by storm. Workouts last anything between three and 30 minutes, but are said to be equal to hours of tough training. As a general rule I like to avoid weights, competition, and being forced out of my comfort zone – which in essence is what CrossFit is all about –so I was curious to see if I’d make it through a one-hour session…
The class experience
As I walk into the gym (a garage-like structure filled with weights, kettlebells and ropes) I worry I’m late – four guys and a girl, all young and muscly, are busy doing jumping jacks. Turns out they’re warming up for the warm up…
To ease me in, my teacher Oscar explains the principles. “Push your body and force it to outdo itself. Every move originates from the core, so always keep your abs engaged.” I do the obligatory 100 jumping jacks before moving on to the actual warm up: five rounds of hollow rocks, arch rocks, push presses, squats, and ring rows. Each set is shorter and faster than the last and I struggle to keep up, but I’m determined to complete the circuit. By the end my heart is really pumping.
Time for the main course: the workout of the day (or ‘WOD’ as it’s known in CrossFit vernacular). Today’s consists of five chest-to-bar pull-ups, 10 ring dips and 15 overhead squats – this last move is the trickiest, so we spend ten minutes perfecting our technique before launching into the workout. The aim is to complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes; after each set Oscar high-fives me and tells me I’m doing great.
I’m close to toppling over with every squat, but the endorphins have kicked in, blurring the pain. Plus I’m loving the camaraderie and I’m pushing to keep up with the others. And although their 30-40kg weights make my 5kg ones seem quite feeble, when I look at the results board I’m proud to see I’ve managed five sets – who knew I had it in me?
The next morning I notice an ache so deep in my core I can feel it in my lower back. By mid-afternoon I ache all over. I’m surprised – I didn’t think I’d worked hard enough to feel this sore.
But CrossFit is clever. The moves are functional and mimic things we do every day like crouch, lift and push – it almost feels useful and rugged, different from pounding the treadmill. It’s competitive too - your performance is tracked and ranked to measure your progress each class, and this pushes people to surpass themselves each time.
I’m not sure I’ll be joining the WOD squad quite yet but, to my surprise, CrossFit turned out to be seriously motivating and a lot of fun (despite the weight-lifting…!)