There’s no doubt about it: Getting regular exercise is vital if you want to stay healthy. Minnesota’s esteemed Mayo Clinic lists more than half a dozen health benefits derived from exercise, from weight control and disease prevention to improvement in overall mood, sleep, and yes, even sex. But — from aqua-aerobics to Zumba — local gyms and studios offer an alphabet-soup of workouts, so choosing the regimen that’s right for you can be a challenge.
CrossFit training is a relative newcomer to the Valley’s exercise scene. Founded 11 years ago in California by Greg Glassman, a former high school gymnast, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that (according to its Web site) “specializes in not specializing.” To put it another way, rather than engaging in a repetitive activity — biking, running, swimming, weight-lifting — that works a single set of muscles at a moderate intensity level, the CrossFit program “utilizes functional movements done with intensity,” says Peter Nathan of Gunx CrossFit in New Paltz. “All of the exercises are total body movements, from toenails to fingernails.” More of an exercise philosophy than a fixed regimen, the aim is “to help you get fit across the board,” says Greg Lobotsky, a trainer at Rhinebeck’s Hudson Valley CrossFit. “We don’t want to be great at any one thing, but damn good at everything.”
A typical one-hour class at Gunx CrossFit, says Nathan, might begin with a warm-up, followed by short sets of squats, pull- and/or push-ups, running sprints, bench presses with weights, and other activities meant to build overall strength. A timed workout follows: Participants aim to do as many repetitions as possible of prescribed moves within a set time period. “You try to do as much work in as little time as possible,” says Nathan. “This helps you do more and increase your intensity, which is the key to fitness.” Each session also includes the Workout of the Day (or WOD), which is posted on Glassman’s Web site, as well as a period of stretching.
If the most exercise you’ve had recently has been walking from the couch to the fridge, then the CrossFit program might seem more than a little daunting. But both Nathan and Lobotsky insist that everyone — rank beginners as well as senior citizens and those with physical limitations — can benefit from this fitness approach. “The beauty of CrossFit is it’s very scalable,” says Lobotsky. “You can be at any level, and we can scale down the weight or number of repetitions. We don’t want people to leave saying ‘I can’t walk.’ ”
Both gyms offer free introductory classes so new users can get a firsthand taste of the program. Regular clients include serious athletes, police, fire-fighters, and — perhaps surprisingly — women of various ages. “Initially, they’re very hesitant,” says Nathan of the latter group. “But after a while, they’re saying, ‘I can lift 200 pounds!’ That’s very empowering.”