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Urban Sport of the Week: CrossFit

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Urban Sport of the Week: CrossFit
Photo: Victor Freitas/Victor Freitas
This content is an advertisement. It was not produced by The Local's journalists.
10:56 CEST+02:00
Urban Sports Club is the largest, most flexible and diverse sports offer in your city with over 50 types of sports and over 2000 partner venues in 20+ cities across Germany.*

*This content is an advertisement. It was not produced by The Local's journalists.

Visit your local yoga studio, go swimming, bouldering, have a gym session, take a dance class or make new friends in Urban Sports Club's team sport communities. All of this in one membership at a fixed cost that you can cancel at just one month's notice.

In the Urban Sport of the Week series a member of the USC team tries a different sport to encourage members to do the same - because new sports lead to new hobbies and new friends.

This week, the intrepid sports explorers tried out CrossFit, the workout with a fierce reputation and, as they found out, for good reason…

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a workout programme that incorporates elements of different sports including olympic weightlifting, bodyweight training, functional training and cardio. A CrossFit class will usually last 1 hour and consists of a warm-up, a skill and a WOD (Workout of the Day).

I expected CrossFitters to be huge bodybuilders but in fact there were men and women in my class of all shapes and sizes. Everyone looked fit and healthy but no different to people you see in a regular gym. The WODs are the scary things you’ve probably heard about - they’re high intensity and last between 12 and 25 minutes.

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In CrossFit speak it’s not called a gym, it’s called a box. This is because they’re usually in a warehouse with only basic equipment - weights, barbells, rowing machines, ropes, assault bikes and plenty of bars for chin-ups.

Most CrossFit boxes require you to take part in an introductory course to make sure you know how to do all the movements before you begin training. There’s a good reason for this - technique is vital to reduce risk of injury when lifting heavy weights at a fast pace. CrossFit has a reputation for causing injury for this reason, but with experienced trainers and smart technique the sport is perfectly safe.

Photo: Victor Freitas

Black Sheep Athletics is a CrossFit box located just off Bergmannstrasse in Kreuzberg. Black Sheep believe that anyone can do CrossFit from any fitness background. Their ethos is ‘Better Every Day’ with each workout designed to push you to the edge of your limit.

What can you expect?

Black Sheep Athletics is a short walk away from the bustle of Bergmannkiez. You’ll find the box through a courtyard and two floors above an ice cream manufacturer.

Black Sheep Athletics is open-plan with black matting on the floor. The space is filled with barbells, kettlebells, ropes and plenty of chin-up stations. There’s also a ping pong table and inspirational slogans on display. One of them says “Don’t let the WOD beat you.” I’m pretty sure the WOD will beat me.

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Olaf is the founder of Black Sheep Athletics and our trainer for the day. Each class has a maximum of 12 people.

How was the workout?

There’s another reason why you need introductory sessions - CrossFit is like learning a new language. A warm up, skill and our WOD was chalked up on the blackboard - don’t worry, I’ll translate.

WARM UP

AMRAP 6 MINS = As many rounds as possible in 6 minutes

1L WORM WALK = 1 length of the gym, similar to a plank but moving forwards

1L HO = Hip openers, very low lunge walks to open your hips up

1L TOE TOUCH

6 mins later I was already out of breathe and, quite frankly, scared. Each class at Black Sheep focuses on a specific skill to perfect your technique. This can be anything from rope-climbing to handstands to olympic weightlifting. Chalked up on the board today was:

SKILL - BP = bench press

8 x 60% 6 x 70% 4 x 80%

Olaf paired me up with a nice lady and we set up our bench press station. We had to do 8 bench presses with weight on our barbell that took up 60% of our ability. Then 6 reps of increased weight at 70% of our ability and then 4 sets of 80% of our ability.

My partner sat behind me as I added what I guessed was 60% to my barbell. I managed to do 8 reps without too much trouble. This wasn’t the case when it came to adding an extra 5 kilos to either side. Here I struggled to do 6 reps. I noticed that everyone in the class was helping each other, giving advice and encouragement when they needed it.

“GLAUBE” (Believe), Olaf said as I pushed the barbell up for my final 4 reps. On the last one my arms gave out and my partner had to help me push the barbell to the top.

And then I realised the workout hadn’t even begun.

WOD = Workout of the Day

AMRAP 20 MINS = As many rounds as possible until 20 minutes is over

10 X KB SWINGS 16kg = kettle bell swings

20 X WLK LNGES = walking lunges

1 X HOF SPRINT = run out the gym, down two flights of stairs, past the ice cream factory, sprint to the back wall of the courtyard, and then sprint back, up the stairs, back in the gym to start the round again (no break)

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Olaf set a timer on the wall to 20 minutes and the WOD began. The atmosphere is intense but motivating - I could only focus on what I was doing in that moment - there was no space to think about anything else.

Each aspect of the workout was challenging and there was no respite. After one excruciating exercise another came straight after. The courtyard sprints were exhausting, but the walking lunges were torture. My arms burnt as I swung the kettlebell. Every time one hell ended another hell began.

Sweat dripped into my eyes as I ploughed through the workout. For my sanity I didn’t look at the clock. I just kept going.

CrossFit is so popular for this reason that you truly push yourself. When you think you can’t possibly go on you somehow find the energy to do it. You know it’ll be over soon as the clock counts down the minutes and time goes surprisingly quickly as you focus on simply staying alive. It helped that there was a great playlist to accompany our workout.

When the timer was down to 19 minutes Olaf said “No more courtyard sprints! Burpees for the last minute!” I never thought I’d be relieved to hear that I had to do burpees.

How did I feel after?

For the first couple of hours I felt full-body fatigue. I was really and truly exhausted. But my energy levels soared later that afternoon and I slept extremely well that night.

For the next few days my glutes ached dramatically from the walking lunges. But I had buckets of energy and felt lighter - probably because I’d sweated out all my bodily fluids.

Benefits of CrossFit

The workout is completely different every day so your body is constantly challenged and you’re constantly improving

Your teammates are always shouting encouragement and going through the same experience - there’s a real community behind CrossFit

There’s no time for every day stress when you’re in the middle of a WOD. All you can think about is how on earth you’re going to manage the next round of exercises.

It’s one of the most effective ways to get fit. You work every single aspect of your body and focus on different skills.

It builds confidence as you push yourself to your limits and do things you never thought you could do

You won’t struggle with lifting a heavy suitcase or transporting a wardrobe again

It makes you really, really, really strong

Don’t forget to bring…

Lots of water and a towel to mop away the blood, sweat and tears

Urban Sports Club has plenty of CrossFit partners across Germany and in France. Have a look on our website to find a box in your area.

And follow Black Sheep Athletics on Facebook and Instagram for their latest updates and news.

Sign up to Urban Sports Club today - get fit, discover new hobbies and make new friends.

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