What *really* happens in a CrossFit class?

... and is it as scary as its reputation suggests?
What *really* happens in a CrossFit class?

CrossFit is like the mythical creature of the gym world. Everyone knows about it - you probably even know someone who's obsessed with it - but what actually happens in the class remains a little bit of a mystery. Even the most proficient Googler will hit a bit of a brick wall when trying to decipher what really goes down in the four walls of the ‘box’ (that’s CrossFitter lingo for the club/gym) and I speak from experience...

“Functional movements, an infinite variety of movements and combinations at a high intensity.” Wha..? OK, that’s all very well, but what does that mean in practical terms, and more to the point... does it involve burpees? We spoke to CrossFit Coach David Pool at Goldbox Fitness Dubai to find out if it is really as tough as everyone makes out.

First, he broke down the workouts into layman’s terms: “Functional movements are natural movements like pushing, pulling, pressing, squatting, lifting and carrying,” he explains, “and ‘variety’ means combining all types of movements from lifting, gymnastics, running and biking.” The 'intensity' comes in through increasing your weight and speed as you go to ensure progression. So you can expect barbell lifting, dumbbell thrusting, rowing, running, pull-ups and, yes, the dreaded burpee when partaking in a CrossFit programme.

Here’s a typical WOD (that's a ‘workout of the day' to non-CrossFit folk)...

For time: 
100m walking lunge
100 push-ups
100 medicine ball cleans
100 pull-ups
100m walking lunge

Only for the fit and mighty then? “No! CrossFit is for everyone!” David insists. “The beauty of CrossFit is that you can do all the workouts, but the movement will be scaled to your current capability which will allow you to safely progress until you can perform the full movement”.  No fear then - if the standard push-up still eludes you (as it does many of us), you could scale the above workout with a tidy knee push-up and do a pull-up alternative too.

There’s no doubt that every CrossFit workout is a challenge, so why are people so obsessed with it? Firstly, David reveals it’s very easy to track progress. “How much weight you lifted, how much distance you covered, how long it took you to complete the workout – it’s all about numbers.” We get it. It’s always encouraging to see evidence of the results of hard work with cold hard stats.

As well as the weights increasing, you can expect to see your body shape change, though David notes it’s important not to reference the scales too much as you’re likely to replace fat with muscle. Community is also a reason people keep coming back. David explains, “People have made life-long friends, and some have even met the loves of their lives.” Hmm.

We can't promise a whole new dating scene, but we do think CrossFit has been somewhat demystified, though. See you by the barbells?

Photos: Instagram @crossfitgames, @crossfitgoldbox