CrossFit; it’s one of those sports that has such a serious following and I never really knew how to approach it – I found it so intimidating, which is why it has taken me so long to give it a go. It just looks so intense, and everyone walking into the CrossFit gym clearly knows what this is all about – built like adonises (and that’s not just the men) walking into battle. OK, I take it too far, but you know what I mean – it’s hardcore.
And then a good friend of mine told me that Reebok athlete, Tia Toomey was coming to town this month – namely the ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’, and she just so happened to be instructing a CrossFit session, hosted by ReebokME at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. I am having a ‘yes man’ (or ‘yes woman‘) month, which means I have to say ‘yes’ to everything (within reason), so of course, I am in. So here we go – it’s certainly about time I lost my CrossFit virginity.
We walk into the event: a seriously impressive outdoor setup, with the Burj Al Arab as the backdrop, the sun shining, and the beach in full view. I cast my gaze to the lineup of rowing machines, which is fine – I am pretty good with those, and then more apprehensively towards the row of boxes – much less keen on those. The rest of the competitors start to arrive – built like absolute machines; I turn to my friend, only slightly terrified, and we know the challenge is on. We get in to our teams of four, and it’s safe to say that we are the least intimidating of the bunch, but I feel much happier in a team of people who are at the same fitness level as me, seeing as we’re all in this together. Tia then takes us through a brief warmup session and explains the routine before we get started. Box jumps and burpees – my two worst nemeses are on the agenda, but the good thing about CrossFit is that you’re in it as a team; the camaraderie is part of the experience, and you’re all cheering each other on, helping one another out, and getting through the reps together. Of course you’re also being held accountable, and you’ve got to get the job done for the sake of the team (it’s a competition after all), but the support is what motivates you through each rep, because you know the whole team is counting on you.
I mentioned at the beginning that I wasn’t too worried about the rowing machines – usually pretty happy with those, but when you’re rowing to hit 150 calories in total, you’ve got to have the stamina to see you through, and I noticed my arms getting really tired after each of my sets. When Tia came round to see how our team was doing, she corrected my stance, and I started driving my movement through my legs a lot more, saving the energy in my arms. Obviously the leg muscles are much bigger than those in the arms, so you’ve got to think about the sequencing of your muscles, and where you drive the power from, in order to be most efficient with your energy and strength. So I learned something new about my positioning that day. I also learned that I need to work on my burpees and my box jumps – with an equal amount of enthusiasm. Perhaps I will get to those next week.
It was amazing having Tia Toomey coaching us through the session, and it was definitely a pretty great debut to my CrossFit experience, but what do I think of CrossFit overall? Well, I was certainly happy to get through the session alive, and I would definitely give it another go in a gym environment – but I am not sure that it’s one for me on a regular basis. I am all for trying different things, new workouts, but I don’t see myself as a CrossFitter through and through. What I do see myself doing, is dissecting the CrossFit workout, and taking different elements from it, incorporating those into my own workouts, and modifying them to suit me. It’s all about listening to your body, how you respond to a workout, what feels good, what feels less good, and ultimately what brings you results.
What I do recommend, is testing your body in different ways, with a variety of workouts, to see where your strengths lie, and what needs work. It could also be a good idea to have a few personal training sessions one-on-one, to gather the information you need about your body and your overall fitness before you get started. That way, you have a point of comparison for when your body starts to change and you begin to see results. Fitness is a journey – sometimes you’re really motivated and other times you just want a burger and chips, but I am really pleased that I finally tried CrossFit, and now I can go into a session much less intimidated and ready to hit the ground running, or rowing.