THE BASICS: The Cult of Crossfit. This is an American concept that has exploded over in the UK- think circuits of weight lifting and other such torturous activities, pitched against your classmates, with the aim of measuring how much faster and stronger you get across each session.
Crossfit Evolving is directly left out of Holloway Road Station and holds beginners classes on Wednesday nights- first trial session is free! (They will soon be changing beginner sessions to Sundays, so please check with the gym directly).
THE BITCHES: Carly
THE CLASS: To say I was a little intimidated when I peeked through the big open glass front of the Crossfit Evolving gym is an understatement. There were guys as far as I could see, lifting weights above their heads olympic-style, skipping and just generally looking a thousand times stronger than I ever will.
And to top it all off, there was a strong, sassy looking woman right by the front of the gym, olympic-lifting weights herself! This was genuinely the first time I have arrived at a class and thought “holy crap, I have definitely bitten off more than I can chew here”. I am ashamed to say that I went back round the corner to the station and had a little think about whether I was brave enough to actually go in and do this class.
After giving myself a good talking to, I took a deep breath, walked back round the corner and opened the door. That was it; I felt like I had just committed myself to certain death. But I was also pretty proud of myself for such an unprecedented level of bravery. GO PROJECT HB!!
There wasn’t much space to stand as beginners filtered in, so we all kind of loitered by the entrance and passed the consent forms round to sign before we began. The “open gym” session prior to our class was drawing to a close, and they were packing away lots of scary looking equipment. Our instructor Mark came over and said hi, showed us that the changing rooms were at the back of the gym, and told us to come and congregate when we had popped our things in there.
There were about 10 of us in total, and everyone looked as bewildered as I was, which was reassuring. The class was to be split into 3 sections- some warm ups, some weight-lifting technique training and practice, and then WOD AMRAP. Yep, you heard me right. Ay?! WOD stands for Workout Of the Day, and AMRAP for As Many Reps As Possible. So it basically meant, we had to do a circuit workout, as many times as we could, in the time left at the end of the class. Time to get cracking!
Skipping was first. The big digital clock on the wall had us working in intervals- 20 seconds of fastfastfastFAST skipping and then ten seconds of rest- repeat times many (Lost count. Was skipping. Must concentrate on skipping). Some of us were better than others at this- and I was pretty good which was a genuine surprise! One dude at the front had the most amazingly springy skipping technique- he literally sprung about 2 foot in the air every time he cleared the rope. It looked pretty impressive from my viewpoint, but my god he must have been exhausted at all of that extra energy expenditure!
Next was press-ups (I opted for knees down due to weedy-upper-body-strength syndrome) and Mark went around correcting our technique- elbows tucked in close to our obliques, and fingers spread wide. I struggled a lot with this as I really do have embarrassingly rubbish upper-body strength. We did a little more floor work to stretch out our arms with long, plastic poles which, after the skipping, left me sweaty and out of breath.
Weight-lifting was next on the agenda. I’d never done this before and so was excited to try. I partnered up with one of the other girls in the class- we set the bars (that hold the weights) to a height that we could both manage, and selected a 7kg bar to rest on it. We then went through the technique of picking it up correctly- balanced on the shoulders, hands underneath with inside of the wrist facing the same direction as your face, elbows in and not too far forward, and step away from the bar. Then in a smooth movement, tuck your head back (double chin time- sexy) and push the bar straight up. It should practically graze your nose.
Perfect! You are now holding a weights above your head and feeling like an olympian!
We did some reps of these, whilst Mark walked around and corrected technique. The tendency to bend backwards or thrust your arms forward-and-up rather than just up was difficult to shake off, but by the last reps we had all just about managed to master the basics.
We wrote up our achievements on the board, (9.5kg, pretty much olympic champion already), and then onto the final part of the class- WOD!!
We stood along one wall, about 5 ft away but facing it, and had to squat right down, and then hurl a medicine ball up into the air so it hit the curve of the arched ceiling as we stood up from the squat. The aim was to then catch it, and repeat. I honestly couldn’t catch it half the time- it was too heavy (6kg IS HEAVY, OK?!?!). I nearly knocked myself out on several occasions by standing too closely underneath the medicne ball as it fell back down to earth, and I kind of held my hands over my head and ducked. I may have also made a noise like this “EEEEEeeeeeee!!!!” which was neither Hot nor Bitchy. Shameful!
Next was burpees (I HATE BURPEES) and then we had to run over to the swinging hand bars and hang off of them like a chimp, lying fully back, and pull our whole bodies up. It was like an upside down press-up. (So, hideous by default then). This, ladies and gentlemen, was the WOD. And we had to AMRAP it (As Many Reps As Possible, remember?).
I achieved 3 AMRAPS. In 8 minutes. I am slightly sheepish about this but I was genuinely going as fast as my fat little legs could go. I mean, I may have stopped for a little chat with one of the other girls whilst we dangled from the hand swings but that was a necessary conversation. And it’s also not really my fault that I got stuck in a burpee and couldn’t get up again, is it?
Ok so perhaps I could have tried an incy bit harder at the end. But I did try quite hard, I promise. And I am still hurting 4 days later!!!
Anyway, after the shamefully low number of AMRAPS, we had a nice deep warm down that wouldn’t be out of place in a yoga class (it reeeeeally stretched my muscles out, I was impressed) and I then hobbled off to the changing rooms feeling overwhelmingly proud of myself that I came into the gym and completed the class. I may not be putting my name down for the Crossfit Games anytime soon, but it was super cool to learn all about it and to get some circuit training and weightlifting into my weekly workout!
Everyone was really friendly and supportive, it is nice to have a class dedicated to beginners, as you can all relax and don’t feel silly if you struggle with something. I would recommend giving this class a go!
THE VERDICT: This class was a beginners class, so the element of competitiveness was pretty much removed as we were introduced to the techniques and movements required to take part in a Real Life Crossfit class. It gave a good taster of what to expect in a full class, and was definitely a proper work-out in itself. I can imagine that a real class- 60 mins of the WOD (that we only spent 8 minutes doing at the end) leaves grown men lying on the floor crying for their mummies.
Crossfit Evolving was also a great gym to get introduced to Crossfit- no, it’s not a gym for girlie girls who like their fancy shower rooms, ballet barres and free fluffy towels, but it definitely is a gym for those of you who are serious about joining a let’s-not-eff-about, structured training programme with experienced, friendly trainers, and some great equipment.
THE EXTRAS: Dear single ladies of London. I have found where all the men are. They are in a long, brightly lit archway just off the Holloway Road, doing Crossfit!! Not that this should influence your workout decisions in any way.