CrossFit kicks up the heat

By Jay Greene


Run one mile and then do 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then run another mile. Do it as fast as you can. Pull-ups can be modified if need be. Oh, and you have to complete that all in 40 minutes.

You’re probably breaking a sweat just from reading that workout routine.

It’s not your average exercise plan. It turns the heat up and makes the sweat drip like never before.

It’s CrossFit, a new form of exercise that’s like no other. It’s a fiery program that pushes participants to new limits and extremes.

Five years ago, the word CrossFit probably wouldn’t mean a thing to any of us. Now, things have changed and CrossFit is all the rage.

In addition to the chemistry behind the new program, it holds a bit of patriotism for American heroes.

The new fitness regimen is gaining widespread recognition throughout the nation. Police officers, firefighters, military personnel and even your neighbors are taking up this new view of a workout.

“[The] high-intensity interval training has been used as an alternative to many traditional endurance training for the improvement of aerobic fitness,” said Dr. Steven Devor, associate professor of physical activity and educational services in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University.  “This high intense power training also offers improvement of aerobic fitness with minimal time commitment compared to traditional aerobic training.”

CrossFit provides accredited training programs throughout the world. The company, CrossFit, Inc., publishes several websites with extensive content including workouts and a growing journal of extended instruction.

Gregg Glassman founded CrossFit thirteen years ago. But in that time, a worldwide network of over 5,000 affiliated gyms and more than 35,000 accredited Cross Fit Level 1 trainers.

In general, CrossFit workouts can be pretty brutal. They test the limits of your strength, speed and endurance, and you’re often completing the exercises in a group setting where other guys are taking you to school.

CrossFit has its own sport of fitness known as the CrossFit Games, where the fittest man and woman on Earth are crowned.

In the military, where some of the world’s fittest men and women are found, Colton Fogler said CrossFit is a staple of strength training. He hated lifting weights but found CrossFit less of a “chore.”

“CrossFit gives me that strength training and cardio all in one and finds a way to make it interesting,” said Fogler, a member of the United States Air Force stationed at the McConnell Base in Wichita, Kansas. “Whether it is flipping tractor tires or running with ammo cans, it is a holistic physical approach to your body.”

Fogler, 22, called it a program that has something for everyone, which is why it’s gained such popularity.

“If you are a muscular, toned athlete or a larger individual who has never worked out before, the program caters to you and what you can do,” he said.

And, speaking of the military, the workouts are named in honor of members of the military and first responders who died in the line of duty, said Sean Gregory, a sports writer for TIME.

One of the “hero” workouts is named “the Murph,” Gregory said.  The Murph is a one-mile run along with 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats followed by another mile run.

Nathan Forster, owner and trainer of Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave in New York, says that the last mile is always the toughest part, no matter how well you’ve paced yourself.

“You want to sprint to the finish but for most people, they’re pretty gassed at that point,” he said.

Oh, by the way…it all needs to be completed as quickly as possible.

Core benchmark workouts have female names like “Cindy,” which is five pull-ups, 10 push-ups then 15 squats. And that gets repeated as many times as possible in 20 minutes.

According to CrossFit’s Facebook page, the workout for Oct. 30 was named “Ned” in honor Special Agent Nathan Schuldheiss, 27, of Newport, Rhode Island, who died on Nov. 1, 2007.

The “Ned” includes 11 body-weight back squats and a 1,000-meter row, all done seven times in a row.

CrossFit is an idea about what it means to be fit. Everything that happens in the training sessions is the process of fulfilling that idea.

Christopher Manna of Boise, Idaho participated in a CrossFit program and said it built amazing strength and endurance. Friends in college recruited Manna who participated in the program from the age of 19 to 24.

“I tried standard powerlifting, team sports my whole life, aerobics, step aerobics, and every other kind of group class,” said Manna, 35. “But nothing kicked my butt and really boosted my overall strength like this.”

Manna said one reason CrossFit is so popular, is because it’s great to do with friends and keeps your interest.

“It has a lot of changes in each workout, so you never get bored,” he said.

Bringing a friend is the best way to get a feel for different CrossFit programs, Manna said. And he said it’s best to do things in moderation.

“Do only what makes you comfortable,” he said. “Then slowly add more if it seems like it would be fun or a challenge.”

Are you sweating yet?

The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a non-profit organization that promotes safe and effective exercise and physical activity, recently conducted a study on CrossFit, a popular strength and conditioning program.

Women burned over 12 calories per minute on average while men burned over 20 calories per minute, according to the study. In addition, the program is reported by its participants to be an empowering experience.

But that with study is attached a large asterisk.

Those who are participating in CrossFit should make sure they are physcially able to do so without injury.

John Porcari, Ph.D., head of University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse’s Clinical Exercise Physiology program, who led the study, noted that screening should entail some type postural assessment, a functional movement screen, and a review of prior exercise and injury history.

As a result of the study, Porcari hopes of proper pre-participation screening, exercise training technique and adherence to appropriate exercise progressive will be employed by all CrossFit coaches and participants.

The ACE offers these five tips to help CrossFit participants feel the burn, without the pain or injury:

Take the introductory course offered by your CrossFit affiliate; know how to modify the movements to fit your fitness level; regularly communicate with your CrossFit Coach; respect your limits and avoid overtraining.

Cotlon Fogler said it’s fun and benefits your health. In his words, “just do it.”

“If you get a work out by doing kettle bell swings with a 5-pound weight then do it because it works for you,” he said.






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