It’s hard to argue with Nathan Mellalieu when he says that riding a stationary bike while watching the news is only so motivating. For health and fitness enthusiasts looking for encouragement, the personal trainer and Studeo 55 owner suggests they turn to CrossFit, an exercise regimen that’s used by military units, police academies, and fire departments.
As the form continues to gain in popularity in Vancouver and abroad, Mellalieu says it’s the kind of workout that pushes men and women to give it their sweaty all, time and again.
“No one wants to be a treadmill champion or bench-press champion,” the former college football player says in an interview from Studeo 55. “CrossFit lifts people up, inspires people, and encourages people; it’s playful fun.
“CrossFit is booming,” he adds. “It’s the most efficient way to get people fit. It doesn’t aim to have people specialize in anything but to be very good at everything. People who do it might not win the Boston marathon, but they could probably finish it. It helps you get to a point where the body can take on whatever you ask of it. It’s awesome.”
“Burpees”, squats, dead lifts, power lifting, and sprinting are just some of the common moves CrossFit asks of its participants. Some routines involve a certain number of repetitions, while others are timed. Take the “Cindy” (some workouts are named after women): it calls for five pull-ups, 10 pushups, and 15 squats, with the sequence being done as many times as possible in 20 minutes.
The “Murph”, meanwhile—which gets its name from soldier Michael Murphy, who was 29 when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2005—consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and another one-mile run, done for time.
“Whatever it is you’re doing, you’re working to the max,” Mellalieu says. “Say you might be doing the Cindy. The first couple of rounds you might be thinking, ‘Okay, this isn’t so bad,’ but by the end, you’re totally exhausted.
“It’s all about functional movement,” he adds. “It’s not the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, where you’re standing on a ball on one foot while catching a tennis ball in one hand….It’s anything a caveman might have had to do, compound movements that involve many joints and muscles.”
Besides functional movements (which replicate gestures used in daily life), CrossFit’s two other key components are high intensity and constant variety. According to the form’s website, it can be used by everyone from elite athletes to the elderly, as long as the intensity and load are tailored to each individual. So even though many of the workouts call for participants to wear a weighted vest if they have one handy, that particular option wouldn’t likely be used with older people.
By doing the workouts regularly, however, people can expect to improve their endurance, strength, flexibility, speed, agility, power, balance, coordination, accuracy, and stamina, the site claims.
More and more women are turning to CrossFit, Mellalieu notes. Part of the appeal of group classes for both sexes is that it’s easy to be motivated, physically and mentally.
“Where are you going to perform best: if you’re doing it in your basement by yourself or you’re in a room with 15 other people you respect and admire, with a timing clock, and an instructor encouraging you, helping you bring out the best in you? That increases the likelihood of giving it your all. It involves accountability. Every day you can feel you gave it your best. And if you did 15 rounds last time, chances are the next day you’re going to do 16.
“It’s a chance to test your heart—and I don’t mean your cardiovascular system,” he adds. “It pushes people to their limits, and every day you redefine what you’re capable of.”