Maxine Barrett – CrossFitter since September 2014
My husband and I moved to St Albans in August 2014, and organising a gym membership was high on our list of priorities. I have always enjoyed sport and been committed to maintaining my fitness, and had previously belonged to gyms and health clubs. I liked the variety I felt classes offered, and spent my time dipping in and out of Spin, Combat, Yoga, Pilates and weighted interval training, as well as enjoying the odd swim and sauna. A friend, who admittedly has always had incredible fitness, had been raving about CrossFit for a long time, and had joined the St Albans box as soon as it opened. Having heard about the focus on Olympic weightlifting and the pared back work out space I was certain it would be perfect for my husband, but for me? No. I imagined it would be monotonous, that flexibility would be neglected – and wouldn’t I miss the pool, sauna and steam rooms I had become accustomed to?
My husband convinced me to attend a free trial, and I arrived with the view that this would be a good personal training session, but my only visit to the box. I was immediately struck by Ben’s professionalism and expertise, and the focus not on lifting heavy weights, but on accurate, high quality movement. The sessions carefully prepare the body for movement through a tailored warm up and mobility programme – far from being neglected, flexibility is a central component of CrossFit, and a range of stretches, both dynamic and static, challenge you to really extend your range of movement. The workout that closed the session was both challenging but accessible, and I finished a convert. I knew that CrossFit would make me far fitter and stronger than I would ever achieve on my own in a gym, or in an impersonal and meandering group exercise class. I was prepared to forgo the extras of a health club to see just how far CrossFit St Albans could take me.
I began CrossFit with a reasonable level of cardiovascular endurance, some leg and glute strength, and absolutely no upper body strength whatsoever – typical of lots of women who have lacked the confidence and guidance to attack the free weights at the gym. Our first session involved rope climbs, and I could barely support my own body weight. As all movements at CrossFit are ‘scalable’ – accessible through modifying the weight or movement – I was able to develop my strength at my own pace, without fear of embarrassment or judgement. Seven months on I can now climb a rope, perform a strict pull up and press up in a handstand – all I would never have imagined possible at the start of my training. Far from being monotonous, CrossFit is exciting – I am sadly keen to see the work out every day even when I’m not training! Every session is different, and as you see yourself progress over time you feel spurred on to push yourself further. Working with all the excellent trainers – Rich, Emma and Tristan as well as owner Ben, also lends variety to your training, as different coaches have different strategies you can employ to develop your strength. I think the box, and CrossFit in general, can appear to be quite ‘masculine’ and macho from the outside, but I would urge all women to attend a trial class if unsure – there is a lovely sociability and supportive quality at St Albans that shines through once you’re inside. Honestly, you won’t give the sauna a second thought when you’re squatting and skipping along with your classmates.
It has changed my outlook on fitness forever, and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t be a CrossFitter.
Chris May – CrossFiter since August 2014
Semi-pro rugby player and school teacher
I first came across crossfit about four years ago. I was getting bored of the usual gym routine: chest, biceps and triceps, legs etc…It started to get a little dull and repetitive. I would often leave the gym feeling like I hadn’t really had a good workout. So I started like most others, searching YouTube for workout routines and came across videos from the crossfit games in 2011. The guys and girls had almost ‘super-hero’ like physiques, throwing around ridiculous weight and then walking on their hands…It looked pretty cool! A few of us then began to try some of the workouts at our local gyms but it was tough with a lack of space.
Playing semi-professional rugby means that I have to keep my strength up without sacrificing overall conditioning. I came across Crossfit St Albans on Facebook early in 2014 and saw that they were planning to open locally later in the year. A couple of us rang Ben Stacey the owner and arranged to come down and have a chat with him. He was very enthusiastic about his vision for the box and passionate about crossfit…we signed up that day!
The box is a great space and the trainers Ben, Rich, Emma and Tristan really know their stuff and all bring something different to all aspects of fitness. One thing I neglected previously was mobility. Every day we do a warm up together and have a good 15 minutes to focus on mobility, which has helped dramatically increase my flexibility.
I have recently suffered from a reoccurring hamstring injury and the trainers have all been fantastic in helping with recovery and strengthening the muscle back up, and I was able to still workout by scaling the movements. I love that no day is the same and we only repeat workouts every so often to see just how much we have improved…the results are amazing. There are a great group of us who regularly attend the ‘daybreakers’ sessions and it’s great to see everyone improving their overall fitness and bettering themselves.
My strength has increased dramatically since joining crossfit St Albans in August 2014 as well as my capacity to do constantly varied functional movements at high intensity. After all that’s crossfit! All of this combined has made me fitter on the rugby field and means I can recover quicker during a game. So much of a rugby game is mirrored in crossfit…Short/long intense periods of work with short rests/recovery in-between. There are now a few of us from the rugby club (OA Rugby) who work out regularly at the box and all have been amazed at our improved fitness and recovery during games.
I would recommend crossfit and crossfit St Albans to anyone in the area. Give it a try…once you start, you’ll get the bug and never workout the same again!