CrossFit - the Cult Fitness Trend Fitness Professionals are Advocating
"What's CrossFit really about?" a family member recently asked when I told them I was going for a first attempt at the fitness regime. Last week, Reebok Singapore invited two CrossFit experts – Rob Forte and Tia-Claire Toomey, both Aussies who coach and have taken part and won in the CrossFit Games – to come to coach fitness experts and armchair writers such as myself to show us just how scalable the method was. It was also a chance for the sportswear brand to showcase their new gear the CrossFit Nano 7, designed with a reinforced heel and a front sole that's designed to help you leap and land safely.
I tried to explain it with some humour (bear with me, CrossFit aficionados). "You know professional movers, the people you hire to help you move your furniture? It's basically replicating more or less what they do, except you're paying someone to do it instead of being paid to be a mover." It's a joke but not an inaccurate one. The idea of CrossFit is, according to Forte, to replicate the motions of natural activity in order to ensure you don't injure yourself when going about life. Except that you can scale up or down the intensity of your CrossFit experience, adding weights or speed or repetitions in order to add to this fitness programme.
In addition, CrossFitters swear by what's termed #WODs, or Workout of the Day and not, as I'd assumed, something much more inappropriate. As Forte and Toomey explains, the idea is to not let your body get used to the same motions as you do in a standard gym, so workout formats change each session. That means you’re working out your muscles in different ways all the time, allowing it to develop faster and better. Nearly all CrossFit exercises involve more than one muscle part, and are often core-strengthening.
The CrossFit Experience
Other terms include AMRAP (as many reps as possible), ATG (ass to grass, get as low as you can during squats) and Tabata (work-and-rest). The idea is similar to circuit training, where you’re repeating the format in interval training so you then improve stamina needs as well as muscle growth. Judging from the people who were taking part in the professional training session, CrossFit definitely does a lot for the body.
The expert guys were doing stuff like handstand walks, snatch and lifts and weighted lunges, but there were common exercises that were part of both the amateur and expert sessions. We did the rowing machines, box jumps (a simpler option is step-ups), burpees with pushups and weighted squats.
As a middle-aged man whose fitness level probably matches that of an infant, I was pretty much wiped after a 30-minute CrossFit session. But in the following days, I definitely felt a stronger back and core. And with a couple of our A-Listers now having set up their own box, I have little excuse to not get in on the action.
The CrossFit Social
What I found a little discomforting about CrossFit (even though I get how it works) is that innate idea of competitiveness and the social aspect of working out. Apart from the terms that only CrossFitters use (it’s a gym guys, just call it that), it’s a little like working in an open office. You see what everyone else is doing and vice versa, and the idea of counting reps and totalling them up might make some feel like it’s a name-and-shame game. But the benefit of this is social encouragement and liberal postings on social media of what’s happening (or else it didn’t really happen). Some people will surely find CrossFit a little cultish and others will embrace it. But if you’re looking to shake up your workout routine, give it a shot. You’ll find it a good challenge.