By Lauren Harris
Everyone seems to be looking for that perfect workout to achieve the optimal healthy body – and some are finding their fitness fix with CrossFit.
CrossFit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains, according to a statement on the CrossFit website by Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit. The fitness domains that CrossFit focuses on are: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.
This sounds like an impossible list, even for someone who’s already athletically inclined. However, CrossFit attracts people from all age groups, and from all levels of activity.
“We can’t just throw you into a class,” says Tyrell Gill, owner of CrossFit Spearfish, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. “CrossFit starts out with very individual training, to help people achieve their own personal goals.”
Gill says the foundation of CrossFit exercise is the HIIT method: High Intensity Interval Training, which utilizes core movements (squats, presses, Olympic lifts) to mimic the movements of everyday life. During the course of training, progression of muscle patterns ramps up to more concentrated, high velocity routines.
CrossFit’s focus on range of motion, functionality – and the 10 fitness domains – makes it adaptable for any body shape, level of muscle tone, or age.
“All toddlers move perfectly,” Gill says, “and then somewhere around the teenage years, we all start practicing muscle imbalances and moving incorrectly.” This often leads to injuries over time; at a minimum, causing a loss of range of motions.
But if done correctly, CrossFit works all the muscles so efficiently – hard and fast – and pushes the body into power. The results will come quickly.
In addition to muscle development, CrossFit trainers also concentrate on the individual’s diet, because of food’s affect on the body’s ability to build muscle. “Certain types of foods cause chronic inflammation and allergies in people, so we focus on what to eat, when, and quantity,” advises Gill. Not everyone is the same, so Gill always starts with a nutritional consultation, and often puts his trainees on a Paleo Diet or Primal Blueprint menu for at least 28 days to assist in “cleaning up” the body and provide a health baseline free of symptoms.
Stephanie Gill, Tyrell’s wife and training partner (she is Power Pilates Certified, and holds a BA in Dance Performance), says that incorporating Pilates into the workouts will add spinal health and core awareness to the blend.
“Pilates is there as a fine-tuner for the CrossFit aspect of weight lifting. It gives you body awareness, and overall sense of postural health. It helps you answer the question, ‘Is my back supported?’”
So often, gym workouts are done alone, with an iPod and a treadmill the only necessary components. Not so with CrossFit. Groups of three to eight individuals work simultaneously, in a community of kinesis. Tyrell describes his classes: “We have people coming in who want to do their best. They aren’t worried about what anybody else thinks; they are here for themselves, to work, to improve themselves. These are the most inspiring to me.”
The WOD, or workout of the day, is built by the trainers, and is set for everyone in the program, like a team preparing for a meet. Participants all know what to expect when the list includes moves like burpees, push presses, and tabata air squats.
Stephanie says that when people come to CrossFit, they’re glad they made the decision. “They are excited to be here, smiling, interacting with friends they’ve made, and supported because everyone works hard when they’re supposed to. It’s such an encouraging environment.”
Kids are also good candidates for CrossFit, and though the Gills say kids’ classes are “really, really down to the basics,” they say the principles of muscle building and flexibility are the same. “Kids classes teach them to keep the chest up, keep feet at shoulder width, just like adults, but in a much lighter environment,” says Stephanie.
Whether you have intense personal fitness goals of running a marathon or bench pressing a certain weight, or just being physically fit, CrossFit may be the best option. Stephanie explains that the fundamentals of the workouts are transferable to all tasks of life. “Lifting your baby the correct way is important, too, not just saying you can lift a weight in a workout.”
“The point of all of it is to give you strength to do things you didn’t even imagine you could do,” Tyrell says. “CrossFit makes people unstoppable in the classes, and then in their daily lives.”
Lauren Harris is a freelance writer who lives in Spearfish with her family.