In 2014 I had a fun colleague at work who was heavily into CrossFit. At the time, I had just started to realise that I just couldn’t go on with smoking, drinking and eating as I was doing. I weighed in at 73 kgs for 1m72, and was on the road to becoming a complacent couch potato. “No more!”, I thought, and I started hitting the gym at the time with my main man Bobby Phoenix, who introduced me to the wonderful world of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pumping Iron (a must see for anybody who wants to be inspired), lifting, and eating to bulk (which I didn’t do, thank god). Phoenix (still) is a fitness monster and he taught me a lot. He took me to the gym and worked me through the basics. He’s a real bro that uses real Bro-science ;). But, he represented one side of the fitness continuum, while my CrossFit colleague represented the other side. She was enthusiastically sharing her experience on WoD’s (Workout of the Day) and the paleo-diet, which seemed very popular within her personal CrossFit group.
As you can imagine, both sides of the story had very different opinions about each other, and used different strategies to reach their respective goals. One thing that I have learned up to this point is that there’s no such thing as the ideal strategy for everyone. Fitness and nutrition has certain base rules, but the executions and details are as varied as you can imagine. It’s very confusing and I have tried a number of things before figuring out what works for me. And even now I often plateau or try something different because in the end, it needs to work. But most importantly, it needs to be sustainable. So in 2014 I had Bobby Phoenix telling me to lift big and eat loads and “Bulk up”, while CrossFit Tanja was telling me to “join CrossFit, be dynamic, squat, and eat paleo”. Hah.
Fast forward to 2017. I’m relatively in shape (weigh in at 67 kgs, before 63 on fighting fitness), found out I enjoy a combo of boxing and calisthenics (works for me), and am still looking for the ideal nutritional balance, although I think I’m more prone to the paleo-diet now than ever before: I eat fairly healthy, avoid processed foods, and only consume alcohol during weekends. But what about the CrossFit?
Well, because I’ve taken a break from boxing due to an injury, and since there was a CrossFit gym close to the office, I wanted to give it a shot. I’ll probably move in with my girlfriend somewhere in the upcoming months, and I’ll switch to another boxing and MMA gym because of that. Summarised: I’m on a crossroads of subscriptions and need to assess the situation. My own trainings in the free corporate gym at my office are decent, but I always heard glorious stories about the intensity of CrossFit, and hoped it would replicate the boxing intensity before venturing in the ring or octagon again. Because they also focus a lot on technique, I hoped my knee would forgive me the intensity and become stronger than before. The CrossFit gym was really cool: it had an industrial feel, lots of open space (simplicity), and, as I had suspected, a simple calisthenics setup with bars and rings. The atmosphere was very friendly and supportive, and I thoroughly enjoyed the workout. My knee was very sore the next day, but feels relatively ok today and hasn’t locked up since, so personally I think my mission succeeded.
While I was high on sports dopamine, I knew that this could work: close to the office, high intensity and an elaborate and convenient schedule that I could work with… I was ready to sign something! After being shown to main desk where a cocky “gym bro” very sparsely provided me with information as he was busy hitting on a customer, I took matters into my own hands and browsed through the information he was supposed to explain to me. Horrified I learned that I would have to pay an administrative fee of 80 euro, and a whopping monthly fee of 90 euro, adding up to the annual amount of 1160 euro. That’s about 1360 US Dollars. There was no option to subscribe to something less than a year. I don’t know about you all, but I think that’s a lot of money for exercise. My annual boxing gym subscription is 350 euro, and I would like to see CrossFitters do a couple of sparring rounds and see how fit they really are. There’s YouTube calisthenics guys who pay nothing and just use public calisthenic setups (that are very rare in Belgium unfortunately). Realising this made me fall off the dopamine cloud quite fast. And hard.
Without wanting to dismiss CrossFit too much: it has its merits: there’s a strong group foundation, interesting and dynamic movement taken from several disciplines, and the WoD system that pushes you to keep on coming and improve. It’s great to get in shape if you can’t muster up the motivation to train by yourself. I just wanted to point out that getting decent guidance and access to exercise and fitness centres should not be a right of the wealthy or middle class. I understand that business is business, and that trainers and equipment need to be paid for. But allocating almost 100 euro of your monthly budget is very steep for a large part of the population. And that’s just sad. Everybody deserves a Bobby Phoenix or a CrossFit Tanja to inform you and get you started. Free of charge.
To end this blogpost I want to share with you two YouTube channels that can get you started with simple and free exercises:
Official ThenX : Chris Heria is a calisthenics athlete and shares a lot of training routines on his YouTube Channel. He’s a bit of an intense dude, but the exercises are a very good foundation to get started and to improve in calisthenics. Free of charge
Simnet Nutrition: I call him a fruity little Vegan for fun and giggles, but he’s a great inspiration and I think he really genuinely means well. Derek of Simnet Nutrition is a very friendly Vegan Canadian nutritionists, and his channel has a lot of feel good videos and tips on nutrition and exercise. I’m not vegan, but his post workout smoothies are definitely worth trying out. Free of charge.