For the average mere mortal, stepping into a CrossFit gym for the first time can seem intimidating – with such a reputation for heavy lifting and challenging conditioning work, everyone’s going to be super hench, surely? Despite my initial excitement at having the chance to try out a MetCon class at WIT Training (Whatever It Takes), on walking into their spacious studio near St Paul’s for the first time, I suddenly understood that feeling more than ever; every woman in there seemed to have thighs of steel and a perfectly formed 8-pack to match. I, on the contrary, do not.
Reassuringly, Head Trainer Gus Vaz Tostes promised us – my boss decided to join me – that CrossFit is far from a competition about who can lift the heaviest, but about working with your own body and seeing it as a machine: “You have fun, surprise yourself, you learn about your body, about different muscles, about how they support you.” Nonetheless, we were both still fairly relieved that a couple of other people put their hand up when Gus asked if it was anyone’s first time here at the start of our class – the fact that it would later transpire that one had already been lifting for about six years is neither here nor there.
Now that Gus and the other trainers running the session knew who to keep an extra eye on, we were off. The warm-up consisted of 10 or so different exercises – think bear crawls, high knees, long lunges – before it was on to the main workout. To start with, the focus was on mastering just one move, the front squat, which Gus talked us through the mechanics of as another team member demonstrated. As everyone moved to their individual bars, a trainer joined us to check we were lifting correctly, make small adjustments and give us some reassuring words. So far, so good.
Then, came a 12-minute AMRAP round
, during which we moved through a circuit of 10 reverse lunges, 10 hang cleans and 10 box jumps, again each of which were first explained and demonstrated by the WIT staff. In principle, 12 minutes doesn't sound like such a long time, but by minute 11 it didn’t seem quite so easy, even with our comparative baby weights. Yet, before we knew it, 45 minutes were up and was walking around giving each other high-fives. We had survived!
As two people used to being able to boss a Barry’s class and comfortable in a BodyPump, trying CrossFit for the first time was a bit of an ego-check, but in a really good way. Despite me not being the strongest person in the room – and that’s being overwhelmingly kind to myself – the thing that did stand out was how much the focus was on individual progress, not perfection. Although I’d looked around slightly open mouthed when everyone started racking up at least 60kg on their 20kg bars, it was abundantly clear that no one was looking my way - everyone was focused on their own goals.
Overall, I’d say that if you’re intimidated to walk into the weights area of a gym, WIT could be a great and highly useful introduction; just people passionate about lifting, keen to share their knowledge, in a genuinely encouraging environment. Sure, there weren’t the kind of ‘you can achieve anything’ speeches that you find in a spin class, but in the space of one session, we both agreed that we’d gone from that “we don’t belong here” fear to a “would love to go back” kind of attitude.