I’ve tried out a hell of a lot of different types of fitness over the last ten years or so. Running, HIIT, weight training, cycling – I’ve done a fair bit of all of them. Somehow I’ve always managed to bypass CrossFit though. Which seems a bit weird considering the concepts behind it seem to fit almost perfectly with something called “The Allrounder”.
To be honest I think it’s always boiled down to two things: firstly, it can be a bit expensive. The most I’ve ever paid for gym membership in the past has been about £75, CrossFit tends to come in around £200 a month in London – which is a bit of a jump.
Secondly, I always thought it looked a bit too cliquey. As a natural introvert I’ve always enjoyed training alone. Even when running in a race with 40,000 people I don’t actually have to talk to anyone. CrossFit always looks to me like a club of like-minded people training and hanging out together – which is obviously a major selling point for the brand, but at the same time something that would put a weird loner like me off the whole thing.
CrossFit was something that had been floating at the back of my mind for a few years
Anyway, last year I did a lot of running. 76 races in total to be exact. I got PBs, I ran further than I ever had before and I did a lot of writing about it. By the last month or so of the year, I felt like I’d overdone it a bit. It was time for a fitness change. I’ve also been seeing noticeable signs of a paunch appearing, even though I’m getting some of the fastest times I’ve ever got in running.
CrossFit was something that had been floating at the back of my mind for a few years. I always wanted to give it a go but never actually took the plunge. That’s kind of the thing about CrossFit, it feels like you have to jump right in. It’s not like a HIIT class at Barry’s Bootcamp. You need to want to go and actually learn stuff. You can’t dabble, especially at the start.
So, I did my research on the various CrossFit boxes around East London (there aren’t that many outside of the city), and finally stumbled across CrossFit Aldgate. Not only was it one of the cheaper options I could find, they also had a trial session option. With nothing else do do between Christmas and New Year, save for some financial thriftiness, I booked in a session called “Squat Foundations”. CrossFit – here I come.
I’m not going to bother explaining the history of CrossFit to you, or how it’s meant to be different from other training. Instead, I’m just going to take you through what happens week by week when you decide to give it a go. Sorry, I’m lazy like that – check Wikipedia or something.
Week 1 – Fundamentals
If you’ve ever seen anyone doing CrossFit on TV or in a class, you’ll probably be aware that they use some pretty technical exercises. An average class can have a mix of some of the trickiest, and most most dangerous, fitness movements you’re likely to see; ranging from kettle-bell swings to Olympic lifts. If you’ve never tried these before and suddenly jump into a 45-minute class where you need to do as many as possible, you’re probably going to make a mistake and injure yourself.
To ensure that anyone taking CrossFit knows how to perform movements safely, everyone who joins needs to complete a series of initial training sessions knows as CrossFit Fundamentals. These are basically 45-minute training workshops used to teach form and acclimatise new people to how CrossFit works. As part of the class you get to use some of what you’ve learned in a short CrossFit workout.
There are five different Fundamental sessions at Aldgate East: Pull and Kettlebells, Olympic lifting, Overhead, Gymnastics and Squat. The entirety of which should give anyone an ability to carry out the various movements required to attend the various CrossFit classes throughout the week.
I won’t go into each of the individual workouts as they’re relatively self explanatory. To complete the full lot costs £79 and you can repeat as many of them as you want over a month. If you already know a fair bit about training, you may be able to get through them quickly, if you’re new to one or more of the formats, you may have to do it a few more times.
After the first week I’d tried every one. The majority I was fairly confident with, having covered movements like the squat, pull-ups and kettlebell swing a fair bit over the past few years. The one I struggles with was, as you’d probably guess, was Olympic lifting – something that I’d never tried before and demands a lot of complex technical movement. I’d need to repeat that fundamentals session until the trainers were happy that I knew what I was doing.
Did I enjoy my first week? Yeah I did actually. It’s been a long time since I’ve learnt anything completely new in fitness and CrossFit has a hell of a lot to learn. I sat and read about the most popular WODs (workouts of the day) so I knew what the various things written on the whiteboard meant, I watched a couple of CrossFit documentaries on Netflix (scary as hell, but really interesting) and I even ordered myself a speed rope so I can learn to skip better for the inevitable double unders (the skipping rope going under your legs twice during a single jump).
As workouts go, the fundamentals aren’t as full on as a normal 45-minute WOD, but the ten minute workouts they finish the session with are pretty tough, especially when you’re trying to remember what you’ve learned. Aside from that, the studio itself is an impressive space – loads of equipment, showers + towels and a nice modern design. The trainers and other CrossFitters are also a nice relaxed bunch. So far so good.
Next week I’m hoping to get to grips with the Olympic lifting and move on to the real workouts.
For more information on CrossFit Aldgate/Aldgate East, head to their website here.
Picture Credit: Pond5