As I arrive for my first ever CrossFit session at the age of 47, a bare-chested, exhausted-looking man is running up and down outside the venue. Feeling worried, I wonder what I’ve let myself in for.
Inside the industrial unit, heavy barbells litter the floor. Everyone looks shattered. Calum, one of the friendly trainers, reassures me I’ll be fine. After all, the oldest member at the club is 85.
It turns out the Saturday class is the hardest. The one I’ve just watched the end of started with a one-mile run and finished 40 minutes later with an outdoor sprint. Eek.
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Trainer Ben explains to me that CrossFit is all about functional fitness – whole-body cardio, gymnastics and weights-based exercises that build strength and stamina for everyday life. Farmer walks, for example – walking up and down holding kettlebells – prepare us for carrying heavy shopping.
Every exercise is scalable to the ability of the person doing it. If a person is unable to squat, they’ll start by sitting and standing from a bench and progress from there.
My first CrossFit session
The session starts with a 250m rowing machine sprint. With wobbly legs, I then dash to the chin-up bar.
As I have absolutely no hope of pulling myself an inch into the air, let alone all the way up, I stand on a strong stretchy band for leverage. Five chin-ups are followed by 10 push-ups, then 15 squats, before the five, 10, 15 sequence is repeated. A final 250m sprint on the rowing machine completes the course and I finish in just over six minutes.
‘Now you’re going to do it again,’ says Ben. ‘But try to beat your time.’
Feeling fired up, I push myself even harder. When I complete the course almost 40 seconds faster I’m delighted, even if I can’t walk!
Workout of the Day (WOD)
Later that week I return to the club for a full-length session: an hour-long WOD (Workout of the Day). I’m teamed with Tammy, 42, also attending her first class.
After a series of warm-ups designed to support the exercises we’re about to do, we embark on six exercises for five minutes each.
We take it in turns to push up the calorie count on the air bike and ski machines, and hit as many reps as we can on the lunges, push-ups, farmer walks and dumbbell lifts.
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Our totals are added to a computer system – members track their own progress and compare their results with everyone else who took part.
At the end of the class I feel great and, a few days later, my aching glutes and thighs confirm I’ve had a great workout.
CrossFit: the verdict
CrossFit gyms, or ‘boxes’ as they’re known, aren’t like your typical health club, but there’s lots to love. People talk about getting addicted to CrossFit and I can see why. The tracking system is really motivating and the fact that every exercise is designed to enhance your life makes this the ideal workout for older people rather than something scary. As for me? I’m hooked.
Kirstin visited CrossFit St Albans (opens in new tab) in Hertfordshire pre-Covid 19. Find your local class at map.crossfit.com (opens in new tab). Before taking a CrossFit class you must take a Fundamentals course to learn safety and technique.
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