Tuesday, 17 July 2012

CrossFit trial lesson

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that combines constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movements, with the goal of improving fitness.  Jeff Grant, who runs the Wednesday night running sessions that I regularly attend, is also a CrossFit level 1 and multi-specialist certified coach.  He gave me the opportunity to join in with one of his regular CrossFit classes in Burghalden near Richterswil last Thursday evening, and I jumped at the chance.

I turned up not really knowing what to expect, to find the previous class still underway and watching a group of pretty darn fit people through a gap in the door engaged in some seriously high-intensity exercise.  The "tools of the job" seemed to include a mix of kettlebells, free weights, benches and cardio machines.  By the time I came back after changing my clothes, the door was closed so I was no longer able to spy on the class.  I would have to just wait and see what on earth I had got myself involved in it seemed.

Two others arrived ready for the 8pm class, and that was it - just the three of us.  One is ex British military and also goes to the Wednesday night running classes at Saalsporthalle and the other was a new face, but looked like he did CrossFit on a regular basis.

With the other class over it was now time to enter the Hillseeker gym.  The gym is a fairly small room but has tons and tons of well placed equipment so as to make maximum use of the space.  There are some Concept2 rowing machines, Concept2 SkiErgs, spinning bikes, benches, kettlebells, sandbags, a tractor tyre, sledgehammer, free weights and rack, ropes, slam balls and the list goes on.

Jeff started the lesson by telling us what he had in store for us.  There was an initial warmup consisting of a mix up of step-ups, press-ups, inclined press-ups, tricep-dips and squats then it moved on to the main body of the workout.  Our workout routine for the night was named "Linda".  CrossFit workouts are often named in people's honor and there's a series of benchmark workouts named after women. While CrossFit workouts vary greatly from day to day, CrossFit coaches program benchmark workouts from time to time to allow athletes to measure themselves.

Linda is a tough woman it seems, as the Linda routine involved performing a set of 10 deadlifts, power cleans and bench presses followed by a set of 9 deadlifts, power cleans and bench presses and so on all the way down to 1 deadlift, power clean and bench press.  Jeff made it a little easier for us by starting with a set of 8 instead of 10.  He also set a maximum time limit for completing Linda at 20 minutes. According to Jeff, learning proper technique and scaling both the load and volume are key parts of successful CrossFit training.

As I have never done cleans before, Jeff spent some time going over technique.  I used to do some bodybuilding when I was younger, but the only Olympic type move I have done before is the deadlift.  I used to do my deadlifts with 100kg, but there was no way I was going to try to do that last Thursday.  My physique nowadays is much more of a distance runner's physique.  Since I have not done weights for some time, Jeff wanted me to start out light and focus on technique.

I did my bench press using 15kg weights in each hand.  I do not recall how much weight I used for the deadlift and power clean, but it was a very comfortable weight that allowed me to get the hang of the technique.  Nevertheless it was a really tiring workout and the session was still not over yet.

The finale of the session and the part that really made me feel the burn was a 6 minute 6 station workout.  One minute was spent at each of the 6 stations, with no rest in between stations.  I cannot recall the names of all 6 exercises, but they included battle ropes (2 huge, thick ropes that you need to swing like a warrior), mountain climbers, sledgehammer blows (on the tractor tyre) and one legged raises from plank position.  The final station was one of our choosing, and I chose to do kettlebell swings.  I finished the lesson completely exhausted, but really glad that I had made it through in one piece, without having had to give up and take a break at any point.

Jeff's CrossFit sessions are just as fun as his running sessions, and I would definitely recommend them. Especially if you are already living in the Richterswil area, as then they are easier to get to.

My muscles were aching for quite a few days after the CrossFit lesson, but I felt really good and manly.  It may be psychological, but I felt as though I had more testosterone in my body for a day or two afterwards.

Below are some more photos taken during the class.

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