I have always loved sports, but I've never enjoyed the gym much. Finding the motivation to go is hard, and even when I get there I am quite non-committal in my efforts without anyone to push me. I much prefer playing games, in particular badminton and team sports like hockey. This is because I am competitive (probably to an unhealthy extent). And in order to improve (aka win every single one of) my badminton games, I need to build up my strength and fitness, so after very little thinking, I volunteered for Crossfit. This brought me to my first question: what exactly is Crossfit? The team vaguely said it involved different gym exercises and weights, so I enthusiastically agreed and awaited my fate.
On Saturday I went for my first session at Crossfit852. Walking in the door I felt a little intimidated: a guy was casually doing pull ups for a solid two minutes on a bar that was higher than I could even reach. Everyone is ripped, beautiful and enthusiastic, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was a Stepford Wives-style cult which I was being lured into.
I was there for my "On Ramp" – a compulsory session for beginners of five hours split over Saturday and Sunday which covers the correct techniques and form for each of the moves. This is particularly important for the weightlifting side of things.
Everyone was very friendly and down to earth, and the "gym buff" stereotype wasn't something I needed to worry about. The trainers – Howard, Tracy and Bernard – got straight to the burning question: what is Crossfit? Crossfit can be summed up in six words: constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement. Sounds reasonable. This is a mantra that came into play throughout the weekend, as Bernard often pointed out how a particular way of weightlifting was also the correct form for bending to pick up a heavy item around the house, or a certain stretch was the best way to avoid injury.
We all nervously clutched our weightless bars as Bernard broke down each move into simple steps and we practised air squats, back squats, front squats, overhead squats ... you get the idea. Let's just say after day one I had perfected the squat.
Day two: My legs hurt, as expected, but it felt good – that kind of yes-i've-been-working-out burn where your body is gloriously declaring that it never needs a pizza again and will live off of protein until it sees Arnold Schwarzenegger in the mirror.
Exercising with sore legs isn't as sore as you would imagine, because once you start working out again your body adjusts, and I was able to push myself just as hard on day two as on day one. We worked on sumo deadlifts, cleans and snatches, which are technical weightlifting techniques, first with a weightless bar and then with the weighted bar.
We finished our On Ramp session with a "mock" session to give us a taste of what to expect when we come to the classes. "Mock" lulled me into thinking it would be reasonable – a taster class would be a good way to see what the regular sessions are like. There was nothing mock about the workout – it was the same length, intensity and exercises as the regular classes, and all this after an hour and a half of training!
Every day there is a Workout of the Day (W.O.D) which is where the "constantly varied" part comes into play. No two days or two workouts are ever the same. Each workout is split into warm up, part A and part B. Part A is strength based and part B is cardio-based. Part A involves weightlifting a certain number of reps at your own weight and pace. Then, when everyone has finished and grabbed a drink and asked themselves why they signed up, everyone starts part B together. Part B is a timed workout. The clock starts at 0.00, and the goal is to complete the prescribed workout as quickly as possible. Our practice workout was 500m of rowing, 40 air squats, 30 sit ups, 20 push ups and 10 pull ups. You are only racing against yourself though, so it's not about trying to beat anyone else, but rather about trying to improve on your previous times/weights. At the end of the W.O.D., everyone's scores and weights are recorded on The Wall – a huge wall that tracks everyone’s weights and times for the day – so you can see how you compare to other people.
Monday was painful. I was walking like a scarecrow, and hoped no one would notice as I winced every time I sat down.
On Tuesday I had my first real session. It was myself and three guys, but as you are only competing against yourself, this isn't actually too intimidating. I did 150 squats, 45 pull ups and 45 rings pulls in 12 mins 58 seconds. Then, I played badminton for an hour, which seemed like a good idea beforehand but at the time I wondered if I had somehow gone insane since the weekend.
On Thursday I went for my seventh hour of Crossfit. I went to the Central box (box is the fancy name Crossfit use for the workout space) and I was the only girl in a class of what seemed to be regulars. They all seemed really good; lifting ridiculously heavy weights during Part A and racing through Part B in the fastest times of the day. Afterwards I learned that one of the these guys was co-owner Jamie, who has been cross fitting nearly every day since 2009 (!) However, he was very friendly and approachable and reassured me that all the workouts are scaled to individual ability so I should never feel out of my depth. I do think the group class and positive atmosphere of that class pushed me though, as I managed to complete Part B in 10.42.
At the end of week one, my introduction to Crossfit with the Crossfit852 team has been overall very positive. I like that each workout is varied, as it means I am never bored or dreading class. Rather I am usually quite excited to get there to see what the W.O.D. is and if I'll be able to improve my time or increase my weights. Looking forward to what next week brings!