You Can’t Stop It, It’s Already Here: The CrossFit Generation
Bending down, taking deep breaths, he wiggles his fingers over the 135-pound bar, making sure his form is perfect. “I’m almost ready,” he says. “If you rush it, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Matt Heffron is an infant crossfitter. At five months dedicated, he is completing his workout of the day, or WOD, that was posted on crossfit.com. This is the guideline that all crossfitters follow. “With these workouts, you don’t need to do more than 30 minutes a day,” Heffron says.
He lifts the metal bar with a rubber weight on each end up to his shoulders, elbows pushed out, wrists bent over backward, and then brings it down, tapping the floor as quickly as he pulled it up. He does this repetitively with a series of push-ups in between lifting sets.
Heffron is not the only person who accepts these bursts of fast-paced workouts as a lifestyle. There are now more than 4,400 CrossFit gyms or affiliates, according to CrossFit, up from 18 in 2005, according to The Fitness Black Book.
In northwest Arkansas, there are seven gyms strictly operating CrossFit. The area resembles surrounding, bigger cities: St. Louis, which has seven CrossFit gyms and Tulsa, Okla. which has eight.
“I’ve never heard of anybody not falling in love with CrossFit,” Heffron said. “With the type of workout it is, you get so many chemicals rushing through your brain, it’s awesome!”
Sometimes Heffron makes up his own workout program. After completing the WOD, he may do two more workout sessions.
CrossFit is developed for and geared toward training policemen and armed forces. Created by a former gymnastics coach, Greg Glassman, the workouts mimic everyday movements, like throwing, pulling, jumping, pushing and lifting, and are supposed to be quick and intense. Inside a CrossFit gym, or “box,” as crossfitters call them, there aren’t any big exercise machines. Instead, you’ll see pull-up bars, medicine balls, kettle bells and ropes for climbing. Bars and weights for power-lifting and Olympic lifting will be around, too.
The appeal is that routines can be done by anyone anywhere. The program is designed to disregard experience; the only thing that changes is intensity and degree, not movements. Makeshift boxes occupy a lot of garages and basements. People lay down rubber mats smothered by the bare minimum of an Olympic weight set, dumbbells, and a wall-mounted pull-up and dip bar. For the essentials of CrossFit cardio, this box would also need a rower, a bicycle, a jump rope and some running shoes.
Gyms devoted to CrossFit have certified CrossFit trainers who can give one-on-one attention and host small classes with a supportive atmosphere.
“There is a strong sense of community in the CrossFit gym,” said Trevor Belline, owner and trainer at CrossFit 540. “Most people become fast friends and actually start hanging out with people outside of the gym.”
Many devoted exercisers think CrossFit is too expensive. Discussion forums about CrossFit are peppered with frustration about the average $135 per month it costs to have a membership or the $20 you’ll pay per class.
“CrossFit is expensive,” Heffron said. “I know about the CrossFit gyms, but I go to Powerhouse because it’s only $15 a month.”
The average cost of a gym membership nationwide is $55 per month, according to a website on gym statistics. CrossFit 540 is close to Heffron’s house, but it charges $125 each month for a membership.
When prospective members of CrossFit 540 hear the price for the first time, Belline says, “We get some jaw-dropping, but surprisingly it turns into them saying that it’s actually a bargain because it’s like everything you would get with a personal trainer, but at a discounted price.”
Developers and followers of CrossFit believe that fitness is as much mental as it is physical. Athlete testimonials claim that they first got their body in shape (with CrossFit) and then the sharpness of their mind followed as they were able to perform daily mental tasks better.
Many parents keep their children on a CrossFit lifestyle hoping it will do just that. Children can start taking CrossFit classes at age 4.
CrossFit’s popularity has even taken a place next to religion with some of its followers.
CrossFit Born Again in Johnson boasts the phrase “life changing” on the homepage of its website, accompanied by a verse of the day and a cartoon underneath the WOD that has a woman jumping rope, captioned: “These bruises are because I Cross Fit not because my husband beats me, but thank you for your concern.”
Proof of CrossFit’s cult-like growth can be seen with this gym’s move to a newer, bigger location at the end of the month.
CrossFit as a sport has turned into a worldwide competition known as the CrossFit Games.
Last year, the CrossFit Games, held in California, opened doors for competing countries all around the world.
“People are always looking for something new,” Belline says. “CrossFit is effective, so once people see the results, it’s impossible for them not to get excited about it. Once they drink the Kool-Aid, they realize it’s awesome and they tell their friends, and they can’t help but try it.”