Back in February, some friends who were 'Crossfitters' offered to me to go and try and try a session with them. I was sceptical at first. In hindsight I'm not sure why. However, let me try and explain.
I consider myself to be quite fit. In the past I've done some epic, hard, long, steep, trips, journeys, adventures, races, blah, blah, blah... I have always done something through my life to keep up my fitness. However, I've had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, for quite a long time (years) that I've reached a plateau.
It started after I finished my bike trips and moved back to the UK. Whilst on a bike trip I was always exercising (albeit only cycling). Whilst living out in Tbilisi, Georgia, I was up the mountain most days biking or running. When I moved back to the UK, and moved to London my cycling fitness, like muscle memory meant I cycled everywhere - to uni, around London, any time I went out, to work etc etc. I complemented this with running in the park, the odd swim etc. My life was still active but perhaps not AS active as travelling or living in the mountains - not in the same way anyway.
I hate gyms
I also coupled this with a disdain that had grown from somewhere for 'fitness' in general. The idea of 'fitness' - going to the gym (and paying), work for work's sake, building muscles etc etc. It was against a philosophy / idealism I had in my head. Life should be all or nothing- all my activities and energy should go into my explorations, ideas, designs, projects etc. My days should be physically active and hard in themselves without needing to then go to the gym in order to feel good. A somewhat foolish and narrow way of thinking.
Now there is still stuff I agree with in these ideas. Gyms are weird and so is gym equipment. Wanting to build muscles is the equivalent of a peacock's plumage. However, having said that, like anything there is always a middle ground.
I remember one evening after work in around the end of 2013 I went out for a run in the evening to a local Downhill's Park (in North London) and I found spot on the grass by the trees and did a workout based on some martial arts training that I had done in the past. Doing this a few times brought back some of my conditioning and made me realise that cycling to and from work, walking about the streets of London and the odd park run were not enough to keep a level of fitness that would boost my mental state. Life can sometimes be hard and lonely and London isn't an easy place to be if you don't feel great. I've always used exercise as a way to feel happy aswell and I started to benefit from this again.
Trail Running and Hiking in Spain
I also visited Spain late 2013 and got myself some trail running shoes and spent a week running up (small) mountains and pushing myself. This then lead to a week hike later on in 2014. On this hike I carried a heavy backpack with all my food and kit. After 3 days walking I had that horrible feeling of having gone from an office to a outdoors, hard, activity and I was destroyed by the sun, my feet got blisters and my macho self-image was reset. The 4th day I in a slow and fragile state. Anyway by the end of the hike I recovered and felt strong and good.
Later on that year I was back in Georgia doing mountain biking and running with Strava on my phone and that caused me to compete against my own times, find new routes and also become a lot more aware of other people's routes, times, activities etc. I participated in a few races and did ok but was not in the elite top group. I knew I probably wouldn't be either, especially without proper training. I knew that I was a long way off the top people and this was inspiring because it was humbling and I realised I've got a lot of reasons to train. Also there are a lot of people out there also training for all sorts of reasons.
The last couple of years I done a lot of running in the winter and mountain biking with a group in the summer. I also have restarted and regularly attend martial arts training (Genbukan Ninpo). My martial arts training is also social aswell as the mountain bike group (Wakerley Wheelers). However, the martial arts training is only once a week and the mtb group is more social around a shared interest. In the back of my mind I also wanted to do something else. This would also help to counterbalance my sometimes sedentary work as a developer even though I have flexibility in my work I wanted something else that was training and social.
I knew strongly that I should try Crossfit purely as a new experience. I was extra nervous because deep down I thought that maybe I would also get hooked on it like my friends.
What I love about Crossfit (and particularly Shirefit formerly Crossfit East Northants)
- Great instructors
- Program of activities that is designed to not overwork you but strengthen all areas of fitness
- Social in a good way, great energy
- Good equipment
- Range of personalities
The gym in Wellingborough has:
- Bars for weights
- Range of bar weights
- Dumbells in range of weights
- Kettlebells in a range of weights
- Skipping ropes
- Frame for pull ups, rings, different types of weight lifting
- Rowing machines
- Wall balls
- Assault bikes
And plenty of other stuff. The difference between this lot of kit and a normal gym is that it is much more simple but you still get to workout all areas and better than I would in a normall gym because of the tuition. You are also more likely to be working against yourself and improving things like balance and stability.
Exercises without Gear
- Air squats
- Press ups
- Bear crawls
And tonnes more. The point that there is plenty of calesthenic, plyometric and general athletic stuff without the need of any gear in Crossfit.
I currently go twice a week. I go to a morning class starting at 7.15 am. It is a great way to start the day, social and full of energy. There are people of all abilities and experience level in the class. I have found areas that I am already good - athletic and endurance side of things. I am a right beginner with anything weights related and there are many areas I am a total novice which is awesome because I get to feel the progression and the challenge of starting from scratch.
Crossfit has helped me to feel that I am getting back some of the core fitness I had before but it is also helping me to explore my own abilities in ways I never have done before. Training with a great group of people also helps to keep it feeling very dynamic.