In a departure from its previous macho man image, CrossFit is fast becoming a popular workout routine for women across various age groups in the city. A newbie CrossFitter, Smitha Menon investigates
Loud music blares in the background. Encouraging cheers surround me and, as I finish, there's a thunderous round of applause. I'm exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. A hand reaches out and pats me on the back. "Welcome to CrossFit," a voice tells me. It's day one and I'm intimidated, but excited.
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A sucker for new exercise routines that promise results, I've had my fair share of Zumba, spinning, yoga, contemporary dance and aerobics routines, along with a few failed attempts at training for the marathon. Exciting as they were at first, routine and boredom soon set in.
The result? A long list of abandoned gym memberships, a low bank balance and a few pounds of guilt to add to the weighing scale. When I did decide to step on it, that is.
The kilo(w) down
Introduced to CrossFit by my flatmate, I was apprehensive about signing up for a workout that seemed so intense and decided to do some reading and research before I started. What I found not only piqued my interest, but also surprised me.
"While it is tough to explain CrossFit to someone who hasn't done it before, it's best described as high intensity, constantly varying functional training," said Ashutosh Bhosle, owner and trainer at the new studio CrossFit Blackfire in Andheri (W).
"The idea of the routine is to build your body in a way that it doesn't become complacent. While gyms focus on isolated training, CrossFit uses functional movements that exercise a varied number of muscles," he says.
While most of my frantic Internet searches threw up images of women CrossFitters with super strong bodies, I didn't want to end up looking like a weightlifter. Sagar Prabhakar, part time trainer at Reebok CrossFit Colaba, assured me that it wasn't a possibility, "CrossFit is especially beneficial for women as it builds their metabolic conditioning, along with endurance, stamina and strength.
The routine doesn't bulk you up, but in fact leans you down." While there are widespread misconceptions about the routine building too much muscle for women, over the years, more female participants have warmed up to CrossFit. "About two years ago, women formed just 20% of the classes. That figure has now climbed to 35%," says Prabhakar.
Our Powers Combined
In search of a more challenging routine, Sarah Sham, director, Essajees Antique Store took to CrossFit on the recommendation of a friend. Fast forward to one year later, and she's still as excited as her first day."Physical endurance aside, the sense of community that CrossFit builds is a strong support system to have during a workout.
You're encouraged to push yourself and are constantly cheered on," reveals Sham. Having started with lifting a meagre 6.8 kg, Sarah now lifts 58 kg (approx) and has made sure that she keeps up her routine during her upcoming break, having already scoped out boxes (CrossFit lingo for studios) in New York and Miami.
Care and caution
Rest and restraint however, is as important as the workout itself, explains Dr Himakshi Basu, a Mumbai-based sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist. "While CrossFit is a great tool for exercising, it is imperative to know your limits and keep them in mind," warns Basu.
Basu also recommends starting a class with people at similar fitness levels as you, and stresses on the importance of stretching properly before and after the workout. "With mixed groups, it's difficult for trainers to focus individually on specific problems," she says.
While the routine can be extended to children as young as seven years old, and adults as old as sixty-five, depending on vital stats, one must make sure the trainer is fully aware of all limitations as well as past medical history, in advance.
When Mumbai based psychologist Meherangiz Davar suffered a slipped disc a few years ago, the idea of an intense workout was unthinkable. Having been introduced to CrossFit by her husband, Davar started out fairly slowly, taking her time to build strength in her legs, arms and core.
"I thought it would be these highly unfeminine, beastly workouts. At first glance, it all looks larger-than-life, but you are systematically trained through the schedule and allowed to scale the routine to your own capability," says Davar.
After about a month of doing CrossFit, I feel stronger, more powerful and am amazed everyday by how much I can push myself if I'm really motivated. From laying on the couch and binge watching GoT (Game of Thrones for the uninitiated) episodes back-to-back, I've finally begun to wage my own wars. Even though it is against cellulite and not a fire-breathing dragon.
Bollywood’s doing it too!
46-year-old Bollywood stylist Niharika Bhasin Khan attributes her superwoman-like energy and powers to the routine: “Living in Mumbai and working in Bollywood is a constant challenge.
Niharika Bhasin Khan
Nowadays, when I’m in a tough spot at work or home, I think about the fact that I did 100 pull-ups in the morning and that makes me feel tough enough to take on the world!”
A fan of the workout for nearly two years, Bhasin Khan told us that the variation in the routine is what initially had her hooked but the feeling of power is what made her stay.
Crossfit in the city
A woman CrossFitter burns it up in a gym
At: 11, Kishore Kumar Ganguly Lane, Juhu Tara Road, Santacruz (W).
Time: 6-10 am, 4-9 pm
Log on to: crossfitom.wordpress.com/
Reebok CrossFit Colaba
At: Ground floor, Palkhiwala Building, opposite Café Universal, SBS Road, Fort.
Time: 7-9 am, 5-8 pm
Log on to: instagram.com/reebokcrossfitcolaba/
At: Bungalow no 174, SVP Nagar, 4 Bungalows MHADA, Andheri (W).
Time: 6-8 am, 6-8 pm
Log on to: www.facebook. com/crossfitblackfire
At: Bungalow no 96, Aram Nagar Part 2, Versova, Andheri (W).
Time: 8-11 am, 6-8 pm
Call: 98215 89595
Log on to: www.facebook.com/funcfitindia/