WHAT IS CROSSFIT?
Crossfit was started as a fitness company in 2000 by Greg Glassman, a former gymnastic coach and personal trainer. However it is not based on the conventional exercise routines that you would normally see at your local gym.
“Glassman started it in California, out of an old petrol station. The idea was to train people for the unknown and the unknowable,” Iain Homan, head coach and owner of Crossfit Sandton, told CNBC Africa.com in an exclusive interview.
According to a blog written by Glassman, Crossfit Journal, the programme is unique in its aims, prescriptions, methodologies and implementation. It is fitness that harnesses natural camaraderie, competition and is something that cannot be matched by any other programme.
“In a typical gym session, you would do body building exercises. There’s no function in that so he [Glassman] wanted to take it one step further. He introduced the gymnastic movements, combined with weight lifting and cardio movements to create these wonderful workouts,” explained Homan.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE ROUTINES
The Crossfit exercises are based on programmes used to train policemen, fireman, as well as military forces.
The routines were born when Glassman was hired to train the Santa Cruz Police Department in California and began pairing heavy fundamental movements like weight lifting with cardio movements such as running or sprinting.
“A lot of the special forces, different divisions of the military, police, fireman, actually do use this training because it helps them to be ready for anything on the job,” added Homan.
With over 6,000 independently-owned Crossfit establishments worldwide, also known as “boxes”, the exercise routines differ depending on which box you go to as well as the Crossfit level of the coach.
“The owner of the box would have to be at a minimum level one of Crossfit in order to be a coach, and then from there they are shown how the programmes work,” he explained.
“You have to make sure that you are combining all your elements so that you’re getting a bit of strength, cardio and body weight. You’re working through all of the elements in any given week so nothing is missed.”
Typically, Crossfit workouts consists of warm up exercises, a “buy-in” routine, workout of the day and a “buy-out” routine.
“People arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the session to do a light cardio to get the heart rate up and then do mobility exercises to mobilise all of the joints for the workout,” said Homan.
He further explained that the buy-in routine, which comes after the warm up session, is based on a concept called “greasing the groove”. It comprises of exercises that are performed during the main workout in order to prepare the body, and to ensure that no injuries occur.
“Then you will do the workout, which ever it is for that day. Your buy-out is normally a cool down exercise just to round off the workout,” he added.
DO YOU NEED TO BE FIT FOR CROSSFIT?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Crossfit is that you need to be athletic or in good shape to join. Pezarro-Homan explained that since it is such a unique programme, the only way to become fit enough for Crossfit is by joining a box.
“A lot of people think that they need to be fit to do Crossfit but our argument is that in order to be able to get Crossfit is to actually do Crossfit,” he said.
“The way that we combine the exercises and the types of conditioning that we drive, you can’t just go to a regular gym and expect to get fit enough for Crossfit.”
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT CROSSFIT?
According to Homan and a few members of the Crossfit Sandton box, there are a number of great benefits to the Crossfit programme, besides becoming physically healthier.
Firstly, each box drives a sense of community in order to reduce the dropout rate usually seen at a regular gym.
“In Crossfit, one of the biggest things we drive is a sense of community so you become friends with the people that train the same times as you, and you become friends with the coach, ” explained Homan.
If you are missing for a certain workout, you will have someone call you out and ask why you aren’t there. The amount of times people drop out is much less than at a regular gym.”
Secondly, there is the element of surprise.
“One of the reasons that I enjoy Crossfit as much as I do is because you never know what to expect until you get there. When you go to gym, you know that on a certain day you’re going to be working out a particular muscle group. It becomes a little repetitive and boring,” he said.
“Our lives are already quite monotonous. There’s a lot of routine so the fact that Crossfit is able to break that routine is one of its biggest attractions.”
In addition, anyone can join Crossfit regardless of what level of physical activity they are at.
Kobus van Der Kolff, a 33-year-old Crossfit member who also works as a Cannon Office equipment manager, told CNBC Africa.com that when he joined Crossfit in May 2013, he had barely done any regular and physical exercise.
“The first four months was hard because I came from an incredibly low level of physical activity. Now I feel like I can do anything,” he said.
Dylan Baxter, a 38 year old sales representative for Raizcorp, added that Crossfit has improved his ability in sports such as rugby and athletics.
IS CROSSFIT FOR WOMEN?
Another misconception about Crossfit is that it’s for men. However, Janine Pezarro, a coach at the Crossfit Sandton box, stated that Crossfit is an ideal programme for women looking to lose weight and gain confidence.
“We’ve seen people come in and lose double figures in terms of centimetres and the only thing that they’ve changed is that they come to Crossfit. We’ve got women at the box who haven’t changed their diet, they haven’t done anything other than just come on a regular basis and they see the results themselves,” she said.
“Any woman that can drop a dress size is automatically motivated to carry on.”
In South Africa, the cost to join Crossfit ranges from anything between 75 rand per session to 900 rand per month for an unlimited number of sessions.