Written by Brandy Centolanza
Intensive core and conditioning program gaining popularity.
Back in November 2011, Jende Davis was going through a rough patch and decided to make a lifestyle change. A friend suggested CrossFit.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Davis recalls. “I was very overweight and looking for something to help me feel better, so I gave it a try.”
Davis admits the first few days of the highly intensive fitness program were difficult, but “fortunately everyone was very encouraging and I just kept showing up. I weighed and measured myself on November 14 and by January 1, I had lost 25 pounds. That kicked my motivation into overdrive and I began working out even more. The weight loss, the way I felt and the quick results encouraged me to stick with it. My self-esteem and confidence also improved. I was feeling stronger all over.”
CrossFit programs, which first began about a dozen years ago, are gaining in popularity, with more than 3,000 gyms or “boxes” found worldwide on six continents. Numerous CrossFit programs can be found in Hampton Roads (see sidebar). CrossFit is described as “constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensities,” explains David Marmon, owner and head coach of CrossFit Williamsburg. The CrossFit workout focuses on core strength and conditioning and includes fundamental movements such as squats, presses, pulls, pushes and lifts designed to address all the physical skills of fitness: cardiovascular, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. The nutritional aspect of the program encourages people to choose fresh “quality” foods over processed foods. Workouts may include movements culled from various specialized sports such as gymnastics, rowing, running, biking, swimming and Olympic weightlifting.
“CrossFit prides itself in promoting functional movements,” says Dianne Koske, president and co-owner of CrossFit Oyster Point in Newport News. “For example, teaching people how to lift correctly so that when they are at home and have to lift something heavy, they will know to set their back, get their core tight and keep their chest high when lifting.”
Continues Koske, “Coupled with a good, clean food regimen, CrossFit can and will be the fitness program that gets people excited about working out and seeing results in their cardio capacity, lean body mass and strength. Life is unpredictable, much more so than a sport, so real world fitness must be broad and not specialized, both in terms of duration and type of effort. CrossFit prepares people for whatever life might expect of them.”
Adds Marmon: “The goal is to make the most balanced, complete human beings we can. A combination of the way we eat and the way we train here does amazing things for people. It really builds up confidence and self-esteem.”
Participants in CrossFit range in age, size and skill and include college students, stay-at-home moms, working professionals and retirees. Some enjoy the competitive aspect, as they attempt to beat their personal best after recording their progress during each workout.
Like Davis, Buddy League also began CrossFit at
the suggestion of a friend because he felt overweight and unhealthy.
“I lost 30 pounds in six months,” League shares. “I like it because every day is different, every workout is different and it is always challenging.”
At CrossFit Hampton Roads, “A typical workout would include a warm-up that is focused on mobility, specifically in the shoulders and hips, which is where most people are least flexible,” says CrossFit coach Nicole Gordon. Participants then would practice movements involved in the workout of the day (WOD).
“Each workout is appropriately scaled to an individual’s current fitness and mobility level,” Gordon says. “The workout is then performed in a group setting to help foster camaraderie, community, and the extra ‘push’ to keep up with those around you. CrossFit is beneficial to physical health in that it practices those movements that you already do in life. Our ability to do these movements in a safe and efficient way in a workout will transfer into our lives seamlessly. This will [reduce the chance of injury] and increase the length of our independence. The mental benefits of doing CrossFit are indescribable with words. A sense of accomplishment and being a part of a team that supports your health and well being gives a mental charge like nothing else.”
Davis, who has lost more than 50 pounds since starting CrossFit, agrees.
“I feel stronger in every area of my life,” Davis says. “I’m stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually because of CrossFit. I feel like I win at something every day. I love sweating and realizing that I can do new things and keep going. I feel better at 41 than I think I have ever felt my entire adult life. I’m completely immersed in CrossFit and the culture that surrounds it.”
Anyone can do CrossFit, gym owners, coaches and participants say, but beginners should pace themselves.
“Go slow,” Gordon says. “Do not assume that a short workout means it is easy. Allow the coach to help scale you. Injuries [result from] too many reps, too much weight or too much intensity before the body is ready. My other tip? Do not be afraid to see what you are capable of.”