Personal trainer Dominic Munnelly: 'Crossfit is great for people jaded with normal gym routine'
CrossFit-style training is not just a workout for members, it’s become a whole new way of life, writes Joanna Kiernan
The rise of CrossFit and similar ‘Strength and Conditioning’ style gyms around Ireland has been a major phenomenon over the last few years, with many followers taking on an almost evangelical position on this unique corner of fitness world.
In the strictest sense CrossFit is a particular type of strength and conditioning based fitness programme and a trademarked brand, which was founded by American Greg Glassman in 2000.
Dominic Munnelly (39) is one of Ireland’s biggest CrossFit stars and an active competitor in the CrossFit Games. In 2011, he placed an impressive 12th in the European regionals and has qualified for top-level European competitions, such as the Battle of London.
“CrossFit basically opened the door for all of the other strength and conditioning-type facilities who already ran a similar system,” Dominic explains.
“It has become popular now because I think people are quite jaded with the normal gym routine; going to the gym had become quite an isolating and solitary experience and that is not the experience in a CrossFit-style gym,” Dominic adds.
According to Dominic, who is a personal trainer at CrossFit Green in Sandyford and also co-owns The Performance and Fitness Academy in Kildare with his brother Niall, the appeal of this method of training is often strongly psychological.
“It gets people away from that idea of just wanting to lose body fat and get fit, that might be why they start, but you will find people soon become more interested in developing better skills — like a handstand or a pull up — and being in great shape then becomes more of a by-product of that desire,” Dominic says.
Dominic believes that the cult-like reputation earned by CrossFitters the world over, is the result of enthusiasm and passion, much the same as “people going to church or going to Star Wars conventions.”
“It’s the same with everything. Generally the people who are most enthusiastic are the people who have only just started CrossFit who rock into their second session head to toe in Reebok gear,” he laughs.
“But over time people get a little bit more of a measured approach to to it and there is no harm in it, as long as people aren’t trying to convert all of their friends to it.”
Colm O’Reilly founded Ireland’s first CrossFit affiliate, CrossFit Ireland, in 2007.
“We joke that it is a cult, but it is a fun cult,” Colm says.
“It’s something that is not talked about much, but for a lot of people it seems to be their therapy, their counselling. That can make it quite emotional, so people become close; there is a very strong social element just like you might have with members of a GAA club.”
However, not everyone is such a fan of the CrossFit lifestyle. Originally tailored for Navy Seals and police forces in America, average men and women the world over are now using the same methods, leading detractors to claim that CrossFit’s inherent culture of pushing oneself to the limit often leads to people training beyond their fitness levels, increasing the risk of injury.
Colin Roles of CrossFit Clonmel, founder of the Irish Throwdown, Ireland’s biggest annual two-day competition for CrossFitters, takes a similar stance on the issue.
“It is like anything you have good places and bad places,” Colin explains. “I apply exercise in a prescriptive way. There were 70 people in my gym yesterday, every single one of them did the same workout, but for at least half of them that was slightly scaled to their level of fitness.”
“It is so important to have the right trainer,” says Carol Brennan (38), who began training at The Performance and Fitness Academy in Kildare two-and-a-half years ago and has played hockey all her life.
“I have heard horror stories about CrossFit injuries and if you start piling on the weights too soon, without having the proper technique, then of course you are going to get injured.
“There is nothing to fear once you are in the right place, so it’s all about choosing where you train wisely and listening to your body.
“I have been doing a mix — a bit of power-lifting and weight training — it’s only the last couple of months that I have really started to concentrate on the CrossFit side of things. I’ve only done a handful of CrossFit style competitions, but I’m loving it.”
In recent weeks, Carol entered the intermediate level in a competition for the first time and was thrilled to win second place.
“After hockey, to have another outlet to compete in is just great,” Carol tells me. “And it gives you a much healthier view of your body.”
Carol’s outlook on food has also become healthier.
“I definitely eat a lot cleaner now,” she explains. “I eat more with a view of food fuelling my body, but I still enjoy my food and I go out the weekends and I have dessert.”
Carol has even extended her new healthy living philosophy to her business, Brennan’s Maxol and Mace, where she offers healthy deli options for customers, such as turkey burgers and sweet potato fries.
Earlier this year, athletes from over 15 countries travelled to Ireland to take part in the Irish Throwdown and many more are expected at next year’s event in Belfast.
“There is a huge CrossFit community,” Colin explains. “You can walk into any CrossFit gym and you are totally welcome. When a lot of people are making their travel plans, one of their top priorities will be to find a CrossFit gym nearby.”
For more information see www.crossfitireland.ie