By Susan Burke March, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE
CrossFit: What it is, and what it is not?
Unless you’re totally out of the loop, you’ve heard of CrossFit training – after all, some of the most popular celebrities grace magazine covers, showing off their phenomenal abs. But, is CrossFit training for the average Juan or Julia?
CrossFit is many things but primarily, it’s a fitness regimen developed by Coach Greg Glassman back in the 1970’s, and has evolved to be one of the fastest growing fitness concepts globally. The number of affiliated CrossFit gyms, or “boxes” as they call them, has doubled every two years, from Asia, to Europe, to all over South America. Livestrong.com reports that there are more than 10,000 affiliated gyms worldwide, attracting everyone from elite athletes to stay-at-home moms.
CrossFit is called the “sport of fitness” or “training for the unknown and unknowable”. CrossFit training is never boring – but it does include core movements that sustain those seen in day-to-day life. And in a CrossFit training class, everyone isn’t in lock-step with each other. The Workout Of the Day (WOD) is different each time, but everyone moves at their own pace.
CrossFit combines aerobic conditioning, weightlifting, and gymnastics along with some other old-school training elements like kettle bells, rope climbs, tire flipping and sledgehammer. Your WOD may include long jumps, box jumps, and pull-ups, and anything you can do with a barbell or dumbbell; in short, they mix it up and make it interesting.
Is It For Everyone?
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from CrossFit. You just have to be a little bored with routine, and want to get into the best shape of your life. CrossFit is as hard or easy as you want to make it. But what sets CrossFit apart from other fitness training is the element of surprise: you’ll never have the same workout twice. One day you’re doing presses and squats, the next you’re climbing and sprinting. This is what keeps you gaining additional fitness, not allowing your muscles to adapt. No slacking here: you keep challenging yourself to do more.
The movements are functional, meaning they’re multi-joint, using different muscles, and demand energy – the idea is to produce strength and power as well as getting the heart pumping – it’s an entire body workout, including the brain. There’s nothing repetitive about it; you can’t put your brain on “automatic” and get this workout done.
CrossFit is challenging, and that is the point. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) means you get more physiological benefits in less time compared doing one type of exercise at a low or moderate intensity, like jogging five to six miles, five days a week.
Don’t fear that you can’t do it; intense for one person might be impossible for another, but the CrossFit WODs are scaled to each person’s current conditioning and ability. You measure your progress against yourself instead of others.
CrossFit isn’t just for the young and fit, it’s for those who want to stay fit and pain-free as they grow older. Often we take for granted certain movements, but as we age, why suddenly are we full of aches and pains? Why do joints start hurting? Is it just growing old? Is it inevitable? It’s especially important to keep muscles and tendons strong and supple, and CrossFit core movements support movements used in everyday life, such as sitting down and standing up (squat/box squat), picking things off the ground (deadlift), and putting something up on a shelf or overhead compartment (standing press).
Core strength and overall endurance improves stability, kind of critical when negotiating crumbly Cuenca sidewalks and climbing steep steps up into El Centro.
Visit CrossFit Cuenca
I recently visited CrossFit Cuenca, conveniently located on Dominic Savio and Don Bosco. Founded in March 2012 by owners Alejandro Arroyo and Rocio Barros, (both certified CrossFit Instructors Level 1) CrossFit Cuenca is the first CrossFit training center in Cuenca.
It’s a big, open indoor space with high ceilings draped with climbing ropes and rings. On the perimeter of the “box” are barbells and kettle balls and bars, alongside medicine balls, and squat stands. The outdoor space is set up for activity too, and classes are regularly held “outside the box”. See these fun videos of classes held fuera del box, climbing up to Turi, working out in Parque Paradiso, and more.
Rocio emphasized that each instructor has their own style and workout, and each participant works to their ability, the idea is to find your level of fitness and improve from there. CrossFit Cuenca students range in age from 11 years to 65-plus; everyone who joins has a free physical by the facility’s consultant doctor. Depending on the individual, they might be referred to a physical therapist. For example, if you have a arthritic knee, you need to know the types of exercises that are beneficial or detrimental so you work with the therapist and the instructors to tailor your workouts accordingly. This way, you can work out safely and get the results you want…and need.
Rocio recommends that for best results, commit to at least three days a week, with a rest-day between workouts. Hour-long classes are help throughout the day, Monday through Saturday, starting at 6:00 am, until 9:00 pm.
There are a number of different ways to belong. For example, the “Gold” level gives you 24 classes for $35, or you can pay as you go. There are frequent specials and promotions: check their website or call.
You Are Never Alone
My friend Chad Davis took his first CrossFit class in 2011, while living in California. Chad says:
“I was 38 years old, 325 pounds, on medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. At my first workout I passed out! But I kept going.
“Soon after, I vacationed in Cuenca and didn’t want to stop my CrossFit momentum – and was lucky enough to find CrossFit Cuenca.” By the way, wherever you are in the world, when you walk into any CrossFit box, you are welcomed into their family.
“At CrossFit Cuenca, Alejandro Arroyo, the owner, welcomed me, and I joined a class. He noticed that I was having a hard time breathing, and immediately came over and guided me on what to do. At first, everything was awkward and I could not perform most of the movements, but in CrossFit, you are given only what you can do to stay safe but still gain strength. At CrossFit Cuenca, you get one-on-one and lots of support during a workout.
“Today, three years later, I am healthier than I have ever been in my life. I no longer take medication for anything. I’m stronger, and more confident. I’ve made new friends at CrossFit Cuenca and I can honestly say the people have really been welcoming, friendly, funny and helpful in many ways.
“They correct my incorrect Spanish, they help when I am not performing a lift or workout correctly so I do not get hurt. But most of all, they laugh at my jokes. They are very special people and very kind. The coaches are energetic, helpful, encouraging and fun. Nothing like laughing in the middle of a workout…
“Since attending, I have made new friends that I socialize with outside of the box. I cannot say enough about the owners and the staff. At CrossFit Cuenca, you are never alone.”
Check out Cuenca CrossFit’s website, where they list their credo:
Strength and Passion!
Crossfit Cuenca gives you the opportunity to integrate functionality, variation and intensity in one training program, no other sport can compare.
CrossFit is designed to be used by all people, men and women of all ages and conditions.
Classes begin promptly at all times. Arrive 5 minutes before your class.
Pay attention to your instructor.
Do not train without having first warmed up and remember to stretch properly after your workout.
Train in the present – be conscious and aware.
Perform the exercises correctly, as the instructor taught during warm-up. If you have any questions ask the instructor with confidence.
And finally, Enjoy your training!!
Dominic Savio and Don Bosco, Cuenca; Phones: 07 288 7671; 098 578 4285; or 098 455 0129