Training diary 1: Fundamentals – we head to CrossFit London to see what it's all about

Learning the ropes, kettlebells and bars at London's famous CrossFit box
CrossFit: A beginner's training diary

CrossFit has become more than just another workout class. It's a byword for extreme intensity, outstanding athletes doing gravity defying workouts and protein-huffing high-fiving shredded gym masochists.

So I embarked on CrossFit Fundamentals at CrossFit London in Bethnal Green. It’s an amazing space, and a quick tour got me itching to start. “Good luck,” quipped the manager Luke, who’d inducted me, as I stepped into the converted railway arch for my first session – an attitude that played up to every stereotype.

But what was on the other side of that big black door was a welcoming, structured and thoughtful session that belied my expectations – mostly.

Let’s rewind. Who am I and what is CrossFit?

I’m James Stables, the director and co-founder of Get Sweat Go. The site is about helping fitness fans to step up to the next challenge, and that’s why I’m embarking on CrossFit. I’m a runner, because it’s easy and my brain responds to goals.

Crossfit diary: Starting out

I run, I race, I improve. But my general strength is weak, especially in my core. I have worked on areas in isolation with a PT, but those have mostly been related to running, and not getting injured. And that’s an extremely worthwhile, but inherently unmotivating goal.

CrossFit is outside of my comfort zone – but few really understand what it is.

It’s an all-encompassing ‘functional fitness’ discipline that mixes cardio, strength and (to my surprise) gymnastics. It’s designed not to get you ripped, but to get you strong and to teach you skills.

It will make you good at everything and a master at nothing – a proficient CrossFitter will be a proficient lifter, runner, rower and even pull out some nifty gymnastic moves enabled by core strength, stability and cardio fitness.


Crossfit diary: Starting out

But before you start, it’s all about Fundamentals. This is an introductory course that teaches you how to do CrossFit. The real classes are pretty technical, so you need to learn some moves first. They're also going to put stresses on some muscles, so Fundamentals is about prepping those for the full CrossFit experience too.

I was surprised about the slow, accommodating pace of the session. That’s not to say we weren’t working out, but plenty of time and care was taken for each move – and we built up slowly. Also, a word on the people present: I was the only first-timer, the rest had done roughly eight each.

It was a shoulder and core session, but everything was structured, with the opportunity for everyone to push themselves at every turn. We started with a three minute row – and went into pilates and even yoga moves, then continued with planks.

Even in my first session, I was keen to make each move slightly harder when offered, but was a little bit stunned when we moved to the wall to do hand stands. That’s well out of my comfort zone, and school gymnastics sessions came flooding back.

Crossfit diary: Starting out

But everything was structured and broken down, so I was able to start some wall walks towards a hand stand in the future. And the small class size meant I got plenty of tuition – I wasn't just left to struggle.

One guy did his first unassisted handstand against the wall, someone else got some assistance from the instructor. I was offered but declined – maybe not for my first ever session.

The class finished with a simple circuit, which is known as a WOD – the workout of the day. 20 squats, 15 v-ups and 10 push ups. Repeat until the end. Easy right? Not for me. I was by far the worst in the class. The v-ups especially were embarrassing – so tough. After my first set of 15, I couldn’t get through another.

I have a long way to go. That fear of the unknown has gone – CrossFit is something I can do. CrossFit is something fun. Can I imagine life outside Fundamentals after one session into a full on class? Not even close. But that's what Fundamentals is about and over the next few weeks – by taking on each movement one step-up at a time – I'll get there.

Check out part 2 of our CrossFit training diary.

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