Way back in 2012, I started researching where I might be able to try Crossfit. Crossfit has exploded in popularity especially in the past year, so I feel a little silly introducing and explaining it, but here goes…
Crossfit started as a way to ‘Open-Source’ fitness. Open Source software is free to use, and the computer programming code is free and public; not kept secret. In fitness, the concept would be a workout that is publicly available as opposed to something you had to pay an instructor or trainer for. Every day a ‘Workout of the Day’ or WOD would be published that could be done with fairly basic equipment you could put into your home. Exercises were drawn from Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics to promote functional strength as well as endurance, balance, flexibility, agility and co-ordination; true multi-dimensional fitness. Where it grew as a business was again similar to Open Source software: though anyone could do it and the accessibility was appealing, this stuff was sophisticated enough that it made sense to engage an expert. Crossfit gyms, or ‘boxes‘ (called this, because they seem plain and spartan compared to the modern gym – no frills, just the weights and equipment you need) started springing up, and certifications were created by the originators of the movement. Nowadays, there are competitions, and they are sponsored by Reebok which has dubbed Crossfit “The Sport of Fitness”.
|The SquareOne Box
There are a few boxes locally, and they all had their apparent pros and cons (from what I could tell by web research), but besides proximity, one big advantage that SquareOne Crossfit had was a Kids program.
They run their Crossfit Kids program on Sunday mornings, and for parents who want to do the WOD, they’re able to do that in parallel. That clinched it, since we’re always looking for ways to keep Shark Boy entertained and active. I wanted to make arrangements for a free trial in December, but with the holidays, it took until now to get us ‘in the box’.
Shark Boy and I got there for 8:30AM when the classes for kids 3-5 take place. We met with the Kids’ instructor Arianne, and I did the initial paperwork. Unfortunately things weren’t yet in full swing post holidays, so Shark Boy was the only kid in class and I think he was a little intimidated. I hadn’t built it up for him too much, since I didn’t know what to really expect, but he was game for trying things as long as I accompanied him initially (and did some of the exercises too).
It starts, of course, with a warm-up. Arianne put an agility ladder on the floor and had him (us) do two-footed jumps over each rung of the ladder back and forth. We then moved on to jumping in and out (to the side of the ladder) and jumping on one foot. Though he’s very athletic, I was a little surprised to see he had no real idea of how to jump on one foot – the learning begins!
After the warm-up a class (adult or kids!) moves on to the skill lesson. We did squats, with hands overhead.
The ‘work-out’/WOD portion of a kids class seems to be game oriented, which was great. Shark Boy was in his element playing Lumberjacks and Farmers (knockdown pylons or put them back upright), Tail-Tag and Simon Says were all part of the deal, and it got more fun as some of the kids from the 6+ class started to trickle in. He was obviously having fun and getting more comfortable and needed less hand-holding from his father.
I got to meet some of the other Crossfitters and people walked up and introduced themselves; from what I read, this friendliness is part of the general culture, and I was glad to see it wasn’t just hype. It also meant I didn’t have to figure out the warm-up on my own:
Some of these were very familiar, but I’d never heard of Dislocates (sounds painful!). Essentially it was holding a bar with wide grip and rotating it around to your back without bending your elbows. Good mornings are bending over (from the hips) with a straight back.
I knew I’d need help on pull-ups; I can’t do them. I did like their method of assisting the pull-up: a resistance band looped through the foot – you end up mimicking the real movement very, very closely. I was a little embarrassed to be using the strongest band (giving me the biggest possible assistance) and I was reconsidering using that particular one as I got through my ten reps, but by the last one, I noticed I couldn’t quite get my chin up to the bar, so it was probably the right one after all.
The workout of the day was called ‘Linda’ and it meant doing sets of three exercises in descending number of reps: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 ,1.
The first exercise was the Deadlift. Here’s where I got my skill lesson prior to the WOD. Chris, the man in charge, showed me how to do these correctly. The second exercise was the Bench Press; I had done these on Thursday and had a good idea of how much weight I could handle. I shared a bench with another man who wanted to lift the same amount as me, since benches were limited and the turnout that morning was good. Rather than do a Power Clean (which is somewhat technical and would need a little more teaching/practice), Chris had me do a Sumo Deadlift/High Pull which was a Deadlift in a wider stance (with an narrower grip) combined with an upright row at the end.
The weight to be used was based on your own Body Weight (BW)… that wasn’t going to happen. I tried to pick weights that would be sensible for me to get the form right and not injure myself, and of course… sweat.
On deadlifts, I need a lot of work. I’m shrugging my shoulders and/or pulling my arms to get the bar moving up, I don’t bend my knees enough for the bottom, but I kept my back straight and didn’t hurt myself. Bench presses went very well, and I was generally struggling to get that last rep on every set. The Sumo Deadlift/High Pulls were a little weird – maybe I should have tried a bigger weight. Apparently the key is to really pop your hips forward and get the weight accelerating upward, but it always felt like cheating to me. Still it gave me an idea of the kind of motion that is involved in the Power Clean.
I finished in 20 and a half minutes, making me the third one done. I can’t be too proud of that since I know they were taking it easy on me since it was my first time. Otherwise, how could I have taken the boys tobogganning that afternoon? I gathered up Shark Boy and asked him if he enjoyed himself… was it something he’d like to do again? He said yes, and so help me, I felt the same way.
I spoke to Chris about options for my son and I and everything was very low pressure. I should say, no pressure. I was overall very pleased to note that this box focusses on form over intensity; I’d had fears that the kind of ‘all or nothing’/’pain is weakness leaving the body’ wouldn’t fit well with my history of injury. Chris’ outlook was refreshing in its simplicity: they’re there to get people fit. If they can’t walk the next day, how can they come back to work out the next day?
Both Shark Boy and I have packs of drop in classes bought, so I guess the cult of Crossfit can count us in.
Have you heard of Crossfit? Tried it? Loved it? What about Crossfit Kids?