Considering Crossfit


Is Crossfit the answer to a Bond body? Photographer and CrossFitter Marc gives Militant Ginger the low-down.

Crossfit is the antithesis of bodybuilding – with a minimalist approach to equipment and a constantly rotating cycle of exercises.

A while ago, I wrote about how one of my new projects was to get a James Bond body – and it’s not as easy as it looks! Although theoretically it’s simple enough (eat right, workout regularly) it’s not as easy to do when you’re working 13 hour days, running a side business and have two kids to look after (and a new one on the way.)

Which is why I recently checked in with one of my oldest friends, Marc. A hugely talented photographer and light artist (you can check out his incredible work here) Marc is not just impressive with a digital camera – he’s also sleeker and fitter than he ever was when I knew him.

When I went to school with Marc, over twenty years ago now, he was the big kid with the big heart. Now he’s the dude with the big biceps. I wanted to learn what his secret was – and how the results had stuck.

I’ve know you for, like, 25 years now. When we were kids, you were always the big kid with the big heart. Now you’re all ripped and buff and badass. What happened?

I’ve always struggled with my weight, probably always will, I just…love…food.

Those people that say they tried everything to lose weight? I am one of those people. Seriously, all manner of fad diets, exersise regimes, you name it, I tried it.

It wasn’t until one day, when I was shooting the formal shots at a wedding, that it really hit home; I needed to do something. I was simply standing still, squatting down, standing up again taking pictures and the sweat was bucketing off me. I was trying to promote myself and my business and all I could think about was all the guests wondering who this sweaty fat guy was.

I joined a regular Globo Gym, got into interval rowing and got the bug. I started to see real improvement so took up classes, BodyPump, Spinning etc…It wasn’t until a bodybuilder friend of mine said “Ok, you’ve got the dedication to get fit, try CrossFit, that’ll REALLY get you fit”.

He looked up my local box, gave me the address. Within a month of joining, I’d cancelled my Globo Gym membership. A year and 3 months later, I’m still a CrossFitter who’s looking to take up Krav Maga as a side interest as I hear it compliments CrossFit.

So everybody I know who’s doing CrossFit swears by it. What exactly is CrossFit, and why does it work so well for you?

I’m not going to bore you with the finer details as I could talk for hours about it. I try to resist the cult mentality it brings but it’s hard not to sound off about it!

Basically, if you want to get fit, you need to change your mindset and make fitness a part of your life. CrossFit promotes ‘functional fitness’. It incorporates many different disciplines from the fitness world making you a kind of jack of all trades, master of none. Think the middle ground between a long distance runner and a massive weight lifter.

That’s where the beauty of comes. You turn up to your box, you could be doing some kind of Olympic weight lifting that day, say the Clean & Jerk. (Think picking up a suitcase on a plane and putting it into an overhead locker – functional). The next day, you’re doing a 20 minute workout involving x-amount of kettlebell swings, x-amount of pullups, x-amounts of squats. The day after that you may do a sliding scale of double unders and situps. You then take a rest day and go back in for 3 days of completely different stuff.

The great thing about it is you’re benchmarking yourself. You’ll finish the workout of the day, or ‘WOD’ in 12 minutes. You’ll write your time down and then when it comes around again, say in 6 months time, you’ll have a time to beat, you’ll smash that time and be able to see how much fitter you’ve become.

It works for me because it never gets boring. There’s no sense of ‘the grind’ you get when going to a Globo Gym. Add in the camaraderie (the workout is hard for everyone, no matter how fit you are), the coaching and the subconscious desire to compete against your friends. What more do you need to push yourself? You’ll work harder in CrossFit than you will in the Globo Gym. You’ll see gains so much quicker. It’s addictive.

So I’ve heard a lot of people who do CrossFit also eat something called the “paleo diet.” What is that? What’s the philosophy behind it?

Ahh, the Paleo diet. It depends who you ask about it as to what answer you’ll get. It’s basically the diet the Paleolithic man would’ve eaten. Meat and vegetables. Nothing processed. No refined sugars or grains – in a basic sense.

I find it hard to stick to but take some of the thinking behind it when I’m making food choices. There is a common joke amongst CrossFitters “I’m 80% Paleo, 20% of the time”.

CrossFit champions two diets, Paleo and another called ‘The Zone diet’. Again, basically splitting your food groups up into blocks, protein, carbs and fats. I’ve never done it but hear it’s a lot more palatable than Paleo.

So how do you factor in “cheats” like essentials to a happy and balanced diet such as pizza and beer? And more beer.

Cheats. In my opinion, you have to. Life would get boring without it.

If you’re actively looking to lose weight, then have a cheat meal once a week. Not a cheat day…important. That being said, gorging on a massive pizza wont make you fat, just the same as having one Paleo meal won’t make you lean.

If you’re eating properly most of the time and really working yourself hard, you’re going to be burning off a lot of calories so you can have the occasional burger, just not all the time. Everything in moderation. – This is all just my opinion, of course.

Strikes me that CrossFit is intrinsically more social than going to the gym to pump iron or run on a treadmill. Do you think that’s one of the reasons it works so well for some people?

CrossFit is very social. There’s no getting away from it. You’re exercising with the same people day in day out, it’s more like a club.

You could go for a year at a Globo Gym and not talk to one person. Whereas with CrossFit, give it a week, you’ll know everyone, what they do and would quite happily invite every single one of them back to your place for dinner!

I’ve made some really good friends. There’s so many different disciplines to learn, all the Olympic lifts, double unders, the dreaded ‘muscle up’, rope climbing, kettlebells, running, all manner of bodyweight exersies, different kinds of pullups. It’s endless. What with the whole community, It becomes more of a hobby which keeps you coming back for more. That’s why I think it works so well.

Finally, if Crossfit sounds like something to try out, how would somebody get involved? Where’s the best place to start?

Look up your local ‘box’ (CrossFit gym) and get yourself down there. Chances are your first session will be free to see if you like it.

You’ll probably have to do something called an ‘on ramp’ class. This will teach you the fundamental movements in CrossFit, such as how to squat properly, the Deadlift, Cleans and presses and so on. Some of these lifts, particularly the ‘Snatch’ are very technical and can take months to learn but you’re always trying to better yourself so it gives you something to work on over time.

There’s so much you can take out of CrossFit, it truly becomes a way of life. I’ll always be a CrossFitter!

I have to admit, Crossfit is something that looks very interesting. What appeals to me about it is that it’s “functional fitness” – which is very much in the mold of the James Bond regimen.

When Daniel Craig was training for Casino Royale, he told trainer Simon Waterson: “I’ve got to look like I could kill someone when I take my shirt off.” When he was training for Quantum of Solace, he added boxing to his routine – so he could (theoretically) do exactly that.

No promises yet (I’m having enough trouble sticking to my existing routine) but I’m definitely going to check out my local box!

Thanks, Marc!

Militant Ginger on the Road