Coinciding with the start of the Christmas countdown was the opportunity to sign up for a 21 day trial of the phenomenon that is CrossFit. It seemed like great timing to change up my usual workout, get in shape for Christmas and also to better understand the hype behind the regime that has attracted near cult status. Is it possible to be converted to CrossFit in 21 days? Can you truly understand CrossFit in 21 days?!
The concept was created by former gymnast, Greg Glassman, in order to prepare clients for the “unknown and unknowable”, because you never know when life is going to need you to burpee your way out of a sticky situation. I’d heard rumours about CrossFit long before I signed up. Anyone with a hint of sports training experience telling me it promotes bad technique that can lead to injury, but despite this, there are more than a handful who have had positive experiences and most importantly seen great physical results. With a reputation for pushing you punishingly hard and embracing those with a competitive nature, it seemed like the perfect match for me.
First impressions did not disappoint. Sprawling out across the large floor above Normans at Commercial Buildings, the gym was surprisingly swish and abuzz with activity; there’s always something to stare at a little agog. Whilst we were talked through the Fundamentals that teaches you the principles of CrossFit and the techniques applied, a girl casually paces the length of the gym in a walking handstand, whilst another bangs out ten pull ups, something that has alluded me for many years. Already impressed with these achievements the trainer explains to us that all is possible with dedication, practice and breaking down each move into manageable steps. There were more than a few topless men (which with the December chill was perhaps not entirely necessary - but from the looks of them I feel they probably earned the right) and the women were athletic, muscular and lycra clad. You could see why this gym claims to offer something for everyone!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the CrossFit movement was a cult - it even has its own bible! Updated daily the CrossFit Journal features information on workouts, movements inspirational stories and news to subscribers and offers that vital learning material necessary if you want to strip back and re-learn a brand new approach to working out.
My first class was a success, mastering the techniques enough so that I didn't break myself and enjoying the sprint circuit finish where you are pitted against your own best time pushing yourself as hard as physically possible. After week one I had been put through my paces in handstands, squats, skipping, rope climbs and kettle bells and my head was a whirl with technique and CrossFit lingo. But the atmosphere remained friendly, encouraging and most importantly competitive enough to make me WANT to come back.
You would do well to bring a linguist with you for the 21 days. The days workout (known to most as the “WOD”) is scrawled on the whiteboard taking members through moves such as the “double under”, “Turkish get ups”, “kipping” and my personal favourite, the “thruster”. You would have to devote an equal measure of time to learning the names of moves as you do practising them. Then there are the workouts named affectionately as “The Fran” and “The Grace”. I never got to experience the “Filthy Fifty” but it sounds like whoever was in charge of naming routines had one hell of a little black book.
The trainers themselves were worth their weight in gold. Attentive and encouraging they assist each person perfect their technique and bend over backwards (quite literally) to help you reach goals or to advise on how to get the most of out the gym classes. The cynic in me thinks this is all part of the plot to get me to sign up to full membership, but maybe it was just good old-fashioned Christmas cheer! Whatever your view, this is precisely what CrossFit offers as opposed to other gyms, the chance to buy into group personal training sessions at a fraction of what a one-to-one session would cost.
As true as this may be, with a monthly starting price of £95 CrossFit membership comes across as a little elitist and not just because of the athletes and pros it attracts. After speaking to several “Crossfitties”, it became evident that to get the cost benefit from the gym you needed to commit regularly to classes. I spoke to one guy who trains before work, at lunch and even after work, putting my exercise addiction to shame, and another who admits they attend religiously 3 to 4 times a week. Everyone I spoke to about the excessive costs proclaimed that what they were paying for was more than just gym membership though, it was access to a family, or a community of people that want to train and push each other to reach team goals. To them, it was totally worth the money.
By the start of my third week I became so bogged down in technique and jargon that I failed to experience the hardcore training sessions I had envisaged at the start of the trial. Understandably, it is looking to set you up for transition into full membership and starting you on the long road to perfecting moves you wont encounter at any other gym. But for someone like me, merely CrossFit curious and devoted to their existing training regime, you’d be hard pushed to notice any real effect from the 21 days or to find a way to work CrossFit into a busy life.
By day 21 I've decided to reserve judgment on the whole experience; there were elements more rewarding than others, but realistically 21 days is not enough for me to fully understand CrossFit. Who cares if the moves look a little awkward or it’s not quite textbook? If it produces results and leaves you injury free you should be entitled to train how you wish. Any fitness routine has to be an individual choice, it’s so much more than just a quick route to washboard abs; its about self-esteem, mental well-being and making lasting relationships and it was clear that CrossFit has a lot to offer in that respect.
I'm waiting for the New Year to provide me with an unexpected windfall so that maybe one day, I'll be able to return to the church of CrossFit and worship the WOD!
Fine out more about CrossFit in Jersey here or sign up for your 21 day trial.