Life & Style | Health

CrossFit is the new rage in fitness

The ultimate exercise routine for fitness

  • By Nathan Brown
  • Published: 10:00 December 13, 2012
  • Gulf News

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According to CrossFit trainers the goal has always been to be best prepared for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable. And that could include any contingency or physical situation that you can think of – be it lifting weights, sprinting, jumping, climbing, swinging and much more!

The exercises were put together based on activities and physical skills that would most lend themselves to performance advantage. Initial research led to the conclusion that the only way one could aim for and achieve fitness across all levels would be by culling exercises and adapting from all kinds of activities – primarily sports. In short – CrossFit’s specialty is that it is not a specialised fitness program.

The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness in a communal atmosphere. Developed by Coach Greg Glassman over several decades, CrossFit itself is defined as that which optimises fitness (constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity). CrossFit also refers to the community that naturally arises when people do these workouts together. And this community is made up of an eclectic bunch of fitness fans, ranging from teens to grandmothers. There is a CrossFit program even for kids.

How does CrossFit make sense to someone who works at a 9-5 job and is not planning to take part in the next Iron Man or even the local marathon? Simple. CrossFit aims to make one fit enough to handle the challenges in life. But this is not like a walk in the park. It is best approached with the guidance of a trainer, and involves understanding how to move safely and effectively and a thorough study of how to incorporate fit practices into all aspects of your life. CrossFit trainers are trained by a central body, which basically means a CrossFit trainer certified in Dubai will have the same skill sets and knowledge as one trained in the United States.

CrossFit is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of fitness and this, naturally, has led to many questions and fears, the biggest of which is, ‘CrossFit sounds tough and appears to be suited only for those who are already fit’. The fear is baseless. Unfamiliarity with exercises, lack of equipment, and the intensive demands of the WOD may seem like obstacles to a beginner, but these are issues that can be easily dealt with.

CrossFit is based on functional movements. Even though learning to snatch, clean, overhead squat, jerk, and muscle-up may sound daunting, they are movements that mimic natural movements like standing, throwing, lifting, pulling, climbing, running, and punching. What a beginner can do is to reduce the intensity of the WOD (workout of the Day) – for instance, where the hip and legs are too weak to squat, hanging on to a rope or racked bar with the arms for assistance will provide the same (if less intense) stimulus as the squat.

Any weightlifting exercise can be done with a broomstick or PVC pipe. The thinking behind CrossFit is that if due to strength (lack of it) or injury, if a particular exercise is not immediately possible, then one can find a method to reduce the load to insignificant levels while preserving the line of action or substitute movements of similar lines of action and over a period of time, improve the body’s capacity.

CrossFit is the strength and conditioning system built on constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity. The WOD is designed to tax the capacities and improve one’s performance but it has been designed keeping highly trained athletes in mind. In the beginning, you may find yourself not being able to complete a WOD. This does not mean you can’t do CrossFit. Taking a WOD and reducing the load, cutting the reps, dropping a set and taking longer rests is still doing CrossFit, but at a turned down intensity.

Once you have the movements and basic fitness down pat, it is the intensity of the CrossFit exercises that will most impact the rate of progress for any individual. Strength and conditioning gains come fastest for athletes who hold the highest average intensity over sustained periods. But intensity should only be raised after a certain degree of consistency is established at each level. Otherwise, you risk burnout.

One reason why CrossFit is best performed with a qualified trainer at a gym is the availability of equipment (though one can make-do with basic combo of a pair of 15-pound dumbbells, nine feet of rope, and a pull-up bar too), space and most importantly a supportive community.

Fact Box

Cool-down – Don’t ignore the basics

We have all heard of the phrase – cooling down. It may be the one part of an exercise routine we look forward to the most. However, it is also the most misunderstood. The aim of a post-exercise cool down is to prevent dizziness. A vigorous workout routine causes blood vessels in the legs to expand, bringing more blood into legs and feet. If the workout comes to an end abruptly without a proper cool down routine, the heart rate slows down suddenly and blood pools in the lower body, causing dizziness and even fainting. For non-athletes who exercise to stay in shape, even the walk from the treadmill to the locker room could bring about dizziness without a proper cool down. Recent research has shown that the idea of a cool down preventing muscle soreness and injury is actually just a myth. But myth or otherwise, a cool down followed by stretches is necessary to round up a workout session.

How does one cool down? By continuing your activity (like a jog), or a low-intensity exercise, but at a slower pace, continually reducing your pace every couple of minutes for a total of five minutes or more, until your heart rate, body temperature and respiration come down to normal. Once you’ve cooled down, gently stretch every muscle.

Stretching when muscles are warm can improve flexibility, which in turn helps prevent injury. Stretch every major muscle group, especially the ones that have just been worked on, holding each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and breathing throughout. Stretching shouldn’t be painful, but you should feel tension in the muscle being stretched.

Laughter – the best medicine

Every one of us has faced days when we feel out of sorts – with niggles, aches and pains all over our body. Nothing works. Then our funny friend drops in for a visit and five minutes later, you are rolling with laughter. Half an later, every single ache has disappeared… even that persistent headache. Laughter truly is one of the best medicines of all. In two people with a similar ailment who are undergoing the exact same treatment, the individual with a positive attitude who laughs more will respond better to treatment. Laughter strengthens the immune system, diminishes pain, boosts energy and guards you from the negative effects of stress. Laughter is known to decrease stress hormones and increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, improving one’s resistance to diseases. Laughter also reduces blood sugar levels, increases glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

Medically too, it has been proven that laughter helps blood vessels function better. It acts on the inner lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, causing vessels to relax and expand, increasing blood flow and benefitting the heart and the brain.

Researchers are not sure how laughter provides all these benefits. It could be because the movement of the diaphragm muscles as you chuckle or laugh provides a good inner massage or it triggers the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Whatever be the mechanics, the end result is there for all to see. You can laugh your way to better health.

I want her… beach body

Bipasha Basu has seen it all – the glorious heights of being a Ford supermodel and being an overweight Bollywood star. It is an indication of her level head that when she decided to get back to her peak form, she did not opt for a ridiculous diet, but sensibly combined exercise and healthy eating.

In the last six years, Bipasha, or Bips as she also known, has become a role model for women wanting a toned and fit body. Now Bips is ready to flaunt that body in a bikini in a new movie called Player. She says, “I did not follow a different diet or workout regime to look perfect in a bikini, as I stay fit all year round. I went on a strict, high-protein diet for some time and increased the intensity of my cardio workouts.”

Her workout routine is no secret as she has quite a few workout DVDs out in the market. Here is a brief preview of what you can do and eat to get her beach bod. Her diet is a combination of egg whites in all forms, mushrooms and broccoli, steamed fish with less salt, nuts, apples and several cups of green tea.

She is also a huge fan of yoga and follows Bharat Thakur’s school of yoga and does up to 108 suryanamaskars each day. In addition, she spends two hours, six days a week, in the gym. Her routine is fixed - with 50 minutes of cardio (treadmill, elliptical machine and rowing machine), an occasional spinning class and focused exercise for different body parts each day – upper body, abdomen, legs and lower body, gluteus maximus, upper body again and abdomen and gluteus maximus on the sixth day. To break the monotony, she adopts a new routine every four months.

Sounds tough? It is but not impossible. The end results are there for all to see.

(‘Fitness First opened their new ‘XFit’ studio - a high-intensity training studio that takes fitness to a new levels in the 1st week of December.)

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