At Home in Lancaster: Eat, Hike, Pedal, Repeat - A community blog

Lancaster resident Stacey Kielman writes about food and fitness.

FUN-ctional Training, Anyone?

Written by Stacey Kielman, Community Blogger | Jan 25, 2013 3:49 PM

Lat pull downs have always brought a chuckle to my lips.  That is not to say that I have never done them.  In my hockey playing years, they were a consistent part of my "training program" and I was convinced that increasing my lat pull down max (the highest amount of weight I was able to pull down) would improve my slap shot.  Clearly, if I was increasing the amount of weight I could yank down while restrained in an awkward seated position, I would then, as a direct result, be better at balancing on skinny blades on slippery ice, aiming at a point some distance away, shifting weight back and then explosively forward while keeping my blades planted and hitting that puck really hard at the exact right angle to lift it about 4 inches off the ice.  There is an obvious correlation between the two.  I'm sure you can see that, right?  Didn't think so.  Me neither. 

Here is where I have opted out of writing a long explanation of functional training and its evolution.  If I do the rest of this post right (write?), that omission will not matter.  

Hockey is a winter sport despite the fact that the season extends into June.  In my hockey days, there was no dearth of activity in my life in the winter, no frantic need to find some fitness activity to replace other more summery activities.  Likewise, in Arizona, where winter consists of a few weeks of chilly weather in January and where one rainy day will definitely be followed (and was no doubt preceded) by a sunny one, there was no variation in my activity between the cold and warm seasons; there was no need to modify how much time I spent outside or inside.  

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Enter Lancaster into my life.  Enter cold, wet weather and grey days.  Yikes.  That "yikes" feeling seems to extend to lots of people, not just Arizona transplants.  Activity levels decrease, we spend less time outdoors, natural happy chemicals take a nosedive, and spirits can get a little low.  Biologically, we are designed to slow down in the winter; realistically, modern lifestyles don't permit that process to take place. 

Gym memberships peak from January to March, fueled by New Year's resolutions and a desire to "get that beach body" in time for spring break.  Memberships peak but people don't actually go more often or get fitter.  Over time motivation dwindles, the drive diminishes, the spark hisses and dies out.  Nothing is there to re-ignite it.  Being in the throes of the lows of winter does not help matters at all.  Many people are stuck in a cycle of attempted exercise coupled with frustration that ends with failure.  Between the time required to "get in shape,"  the personal hurdles that must be crossed just to get to "the gym," and the knowledge that there is no support system in place to keep them keeping on, it is no wonder many people give up on getting fitter and healthier.

What if you didn't have to go to "they gym" at all?  What if there was no lat pull down machine in sight in your chosen place of exercise?  What if there were no creeps lurking around the mirrors spending more time resting and admiring themselves than actually exercising?  That might be a good place to check out.  Believe it or not, this place exists.

Crossfit "gyms" are not your typical gyms.  In fact, in the crossfit community, the folks call the place where they go to work out "the box."  Sound weird?  Sound different?  You bet.  That's the idea.

Jeremiah Williams owns and manages the Crossfit Collective here in Lancaster.  He was nice enough to take some time to chat with me and share his perspective on fitness and the crossfit method.  There are many perspectives out there as well as a lot of information (and misinformation), so I encourage anyone who's curious to explore the many options and form your own perspective from a well-rounded set of information and experiences rather than just take my word for it.  I hope this information will provide a good start to the next part of your fitness journey.

Jeremiah's passion and drive for fitness stem from a love of what he refers to as "organic activity":  hiking, climbing, running, cycling, calisthenics.  Organic activity is a great way to describe them all:  you use your body to move and it provides the resistance.  You are moving naturally within your environment in ways that humans are designed to move, much unlike ... you guessed it...when you do a lat pull down. 

He found crossfit through a personal training client and was hooked immediately by the physical demand and mental commitment required to complete the workout:  100 pullups, 100 pushups, 100 situps, 100 squats as fast as possible.  After this baptism by fire into the crossfit method, he began working on these movements and incorporating the principles of them into his clients' workouts.  One thing led to another, and from the marriage of the crossfit method and his personal training business the Crossfit Collective, the first crossfit method gym in Lancaster county, was born.

The crossfit method is defined as "constantly varied, functional movements with high intensity."  It is a method that truly works for everyone because it addresses the body and the mind as one whole unit, each dependent on the other, each person differing from the next.  It addresses each person as an individual able to push within and sometimes outside of their own limitations whatever they may be, completely independent of what anyone else's expectation or preceptions may be.  It is difficult if not impossible to find this type of holistic fitness in a typical gym setting.  "There [are] far too many isolating movements in the confines of how a machine operates. These are anything but natural and have little to no transference to real life."  

According to Jeremiah, "[The] crossfit method will train an individual in the nine recognized fitness skills.  They are endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility, power, speed, balance, agility, coordination, and accuracy."  All you need is your body and some kind of external weight...a soup can will do!  Everyone can benefit from developing these skills:  a novice exerciser and a seasoned mountain bike racer alike will experience positive results from this type of training.  It is never too late to start.  Want to be able to help your aging dog into your lifted monster truck?  Wish you had the stamina to play with your kids longer AND still have energy left to wash dishes and go on date night with your honey?  Training for your first marathon?  Crossfit can help.

If you're curious, the best thing to do is just go.  The Collective has Basics classes starting every two weeks to make sure you get started on the right foot, so to speak.  There is no need to get in shape before you go.  The trainers will get you started on your path to fitness based on your needs and your goals, and from there it's up to you!

Jeremiah recognizes that there are some people who just need to do something to prepare, even if just for their own sake.  If you are one of those people (I am one of these people, so I understand the compulsion), he suggests that you play around with some diet modifications:  decrease sugar intake, increase fibrous carbs like veggies.  Once you have done that, head directly to the Collective.  The trainers will start you on your fitness journey with a good warmup, followed by work on range of motion of a particular joint or set of joints.  Then it's on to technique for basic lifting movements, and last, you participate in a W.O.D. (workout of the day) which will incorporate various movements and skills, usually to be performed for time.  Before you know it, you're done with your first crossfit workout and started on a long and interesting path that will nourish your mind and body as you get stronger and healthier, all without the help of that pesky lat pull down machine.

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