Crossfit Craze Bringing Variety, Strength For Devotees
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
Kristi Armstrong, 51, stood tall and lean in a warehouse, or box, as it is known to CrossFit enthusiasts.
Like other boxes around the country, there's no fancy equipment, designer art and creative lighting -- just an unpretentious warehouse where athletes squat, pull, lunge and lift their way to fitness.
Ms. Armstrong has always been active but is prone to injury, so she was meticulous about her form when deadlifting 65 pounds at the beginning of a workout at CrossFit of Tyler last week.
She has been attending the classes there for two months, after years of triathlons and weight lifting. The individual attention and variety the workout offers is what keeps her coming back.
"They make you feel like I matter, like I'm important, and I feel like they want me here," Ms. Armstrong said.
Most importantly, she said she's dedicated to health, understanding that what she does now keeps her healthy later in life.
"I want to be able to get up off the floor with ease," she said. "I want to be able to go up and down the stairs without a fear of falling."
During the beginning of class, co-owner Amy Chesley explained the tasks members were to perform and they undergo a warm-up, which includes getting the heart rate up. The actual workout only lasts between seven and 20 minutes, but is very intense. CrossFitters go from jump roping to dead lifting to pull ups, all in 15 minutes. They cool down with a stretch before journaling the day's progress.
CrossFit began in Santa Cruz, Calif., more than 10 years ago by trainer Greg Glassman. It has been described as a "sport of fitness" and quickly garnered a following. It's since been adopted for military and professional athlete training regimens.
"It is general physical preparedness," Mrs. Chesley said. "So, this can get any athlete ready for what they need to do, but they can still do their own sport specific (program)."
CrossFit is available in gyms in Tyler and independent boxes are sprouting up. It's one of the fastest-growing fitness trends nationwide.
It's different from circuit training, which uses repetitive motion in one-minute stations. CrossFit, Mrs. Chesley explained, integrates functional movements but doesn't isolate muscle groups.
"It's become a huge subculture of thousands of boxes all over the world," Mrs. Chesley said. "It's a core, strength and conditioning program. It utilizes Olympic weight lifting. It utilizes cardio. And then it utilizes gymnastics."
Mrs. Chesley, a former stay-at-home mom, and her husband, Brad, a real estate appraiser, had worked out at another gym that offered the program.
"I was just an average person working out doing the weight-room floor stuff," she said. "I got bored, and this was introduced there, and I fell in love with it."
They soon earned certifications, began coaching and then opened their own box.
CrossFitters have a chance to attend any of the six to seven classes offered each day at the Chesley's box, and every day, the workouts change.
Throughout workouts, Mrs. Chesley pays careful attention to each class member's form -- the positioning of their arms, legs, hands and head. But members are responsible for knowing what their limits are. After the workout, members log their progress in a journal.
"It's different from personal training because I'm going to empower you know how much weight you can lift," she said. "You're going to load your own weights. You're going to know your weaknesses and strengths."
There's a program for children, too. At the Chesley's box, ages 4 to 15 get the same workout but with less intensity and little or no weight.
"There's no difference in our needs, whether we're 4 years old or 80 years old," Mrs. Chesley said. "We still have to move and live life."
Sue Kummerfeld, 58, joined the box in January. She's done Zumba, kickboxing, yoga and running. CrossFit gives her the benefits of a workout, and she likes that it can be modified to an individual's level.
"They make it doable even if you're not 25," she said with a laugh. "We have this one body that we need to keep healthy. If you don't take care of it, it's not going to serve you well as you get older."
Earlier this year, 70,000 tried out for 2012 Reebok Crossfit Games Open and the Chesleys held tryouts for this area. On Aug. 4, the gym will hold the Festivus Games -- a national CrossFit competition designed for novice and intermediate CrossFitters. Registration has closed for competitors, but it is free for spectators with a donation of three nonperishable canned fruit items. Proceeds benefit PATH.
IF YOU GO
: Festivus Games
: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 4
: 2912 E. Grande Blvd.
: Registration is closed for athletes, but spectators can attend for free with a donation of three nonperishable canned fruit items to benefit PATH.