Saturday 22 October 2016

What you need to know about CrossFit - the workout taking Ireland by storm

Published 09/06/2015 | 15:21

Just when you thought you’d caught up with the status quo, fitness fanatics are declaring that CrossFit is the hottest trend in exercising. Here’s what you need to know about it.

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CrossFit is essentially a fitness class that incorporates strength training, weightlifting, gymnastics, cardio and anaerobic training - amongst some other elements.

“CrossFit is based on functional movements,” explains Peter Burke of CrossFit 353. “By functional movements, we mean multi-joint exercises that inform and train human movements safely and efficiently. For example, a squat is basically sitting and standing, while a deadlift is picking something up off the ground.”

A slow and steady phenomenon in the fitness world in the last decade, Peter’s attention was captured by CrossFit when he lived in Oslo in 2011. While in Norway, he was coaching the national men's’ rugby team and some of the players were devout fans of CrossFit.

Gary, Peter and Royce of CrossFit 353
Gary, Peter and Royce of CrossFit 353

When Peter and his partners Gary Featherstone and Royce Burke-Flynn started teaching the cult exercise, which has its roots in California, in Dublin three years ago there were less than 20 gyms around the country offering the class.

Keen to emulate the success of classes in Cork, Bray, Kimmage and Sandyford, the graduates of St Michael’s College initially held classes in their old school, but with growing demand - they eventually relocated to a purpose-built premises.

Just over a week ago, they launched their stand alone Crossfit 353 centre, in a prime location just off Bath Avenue in Dublin 4.

Since their open day, they have been inundated as everyone cranes their neck in the door to see what all the fuss is about.

“A typical class at 353 will start with a warm up and some mobility, then we will go through a strength portion of press, pull, gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting,” Peter explains. “The session will culminate in a ‘WOD’ or ‘Workout Of the Day’. This is the opportunity to get the heart rate up and get a great sweat alongside your peers in a safe, friendly and controlled environment.”

So how does CrossFit differ from any other cardio or circuits class?

“The tagline CrossFit uses is ‘constantly varied functional movement’ and variety is key to CrossFit’s effectiveness,” Peter explains. “If you expose the body to the same stimulus (training) regularly it will get used to the routine and progress will stall. Constant variety keeps the body guessing and means adaption and progress can be continuous,” he informs.

CrossFit also promotes the idea of a community, which explains how and why it has been likened to the “cult of CrossFit” (particularly popular amongst those who advocate a paleo diet.)

“There is nothing like working through adversity with your peers to bond a group and help you learn about yourself and your team,” Peter promises. “Some people lead relatively sedentary lives these days and it's nice to throw off the shackles and push yourself to a more primal head space (through exercise) - it's refreshing.”

“CrossFit is suitable for everyone, and everyone should try it at least once,” Peter recommends. “I know my ‘primal screaming’ may come across a little scary but in reality a CrossFit gym is one of the most friendly training environments you could enter,” he laughs.

He adds that while the training remains constant, the intensity can be scaled to suit each individual’s level and ability.

“For example if my mum and I were to train together and the ‘WOD’ was 50 squats and 50 pull ups for time: I may use a loaded barbell, at the same time my mum would perform an unweighted squat to a box or bench (effectively sitting down and standing up).”

With an emphasis on movement, consistency and (safe) intensity, Peter says there is a myriad of benefits associated with practising CrossFit.

“Every element of the program is designed and coached by trained professionals. Therefore there are always eyes on you which should help enforce the mechanics, consistency and intensity,” he maintains.

He is also adamant that it is not a fad or a trend, this is an exercise that ultimately serves its purpose - in that it helps people get in shape, and feel great in the process.

“It really works. Once you can trust the process and understand that slow and steady wins the race - then the sky's the limit with what you want to achieve.

Not to mention it’s a great way to meet and socialise with a new group of people in a healthy and alcohol free environment - which seems to be an increasing rarity these days.

If anyone wants to come try a class, they are advised to send an email to

Follow CrossFit 353 on Instagram and Twitter.

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