Pictured: Jo Cockrell does some barbell squats/
Look up a CrossFit workout on YouTube and you may be intimidated by the size of the weights, the number of reps, or the sheer physique of CrossFit trainees. As a casual visitor to The Body Shop here in Mammoth, I was therefore understandably nervous when I agreed to a trial workout at Mammoth CrossFit. But I bit the bullet—partly at my editor’s insistence, and partly to see what made this gym unique in town—and ended up having a blast.
Located in the Industrial Park next to Mammoth Powersports, Mammoth CrossFit is an affiliate of the national chain founded by Greg Glassman in 2000. Today the CrossFit company offers a worldwide network of more than 4,500 affiliated gyms, and more than 35,000 accredited CrossFit Level 1 trainers. Mammoth CrossFit is a relatively new addition, opened a year ago under the ownership of Bishop CrossFit owner Colin Broadwater. Broadwater explained CrossFit in the simplest terms as “constantly varied, functional movement executed at high intensity.” What this means is no fancy machines, just basic movements with the added intensity of weight and repetition. The overall aim: to increase not only cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, but also stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, and accuracy.
Mammoth CrossFit is also different from other town gyms in that you can’t just walk in, pay the monthly fee, and start a workout. Trainers Jordan Hawkins and Ian Nielson first assess each trainee’s overall fitness in a free introductory session, focusing on basic movements such as squatting or lifting, and then build the intensity of each subsequent workout until the trainee is ready to join group classes three times a week.
Trainer Jordan Hawkins, perhaps seeing the concern on my face as I took in the barbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, boxes, rings and jump ropes arrayed throughout the gym, was quick to allay my fears. “A lot of people go online and see crazy workouts and get kind of freaked out,” he said. But, he clarified, “we’re not a body-building gym. We’re a strength training facility. That’s our goal, not looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
I was relieved to hear this, as looking like the former gubernator was at best a remote possibility for me. Even so, the first workout was challenging. Hawkins had me warm up for 10 minutes on the rowing machine, taught me how to properly squat, and instructed me to perform 3 rounds of 10 air squats, 10 burpee broad jumps (a merciless combination of push-ups and jumps), and a 30 foot ‘bear’ crawl from one side of the gym to the other. We concluded with a 3 by 5 back squat, 55 pound barbell squats, and 3 sets of 5 pull ups. Was I sore after even this simple workout? You bet. Did it feel good? It felt great.
Attending a group workout a few nights later, I found I wasn’t the only one enjoying the CrossFit regimen. While the group sessions are intended to be competitive, pushing CrossFit trainees to outperform each other and achieve higher levels of fitness than they might expect of themselves, a clear camaraderie existed within the group. “It’s competitive,” Hawkins confirmed, “and yet as soon as you’re done, you’re always encouraging people to live up to their best potential.”
I saw this in evidence as group members competed against the clock to perform the ‘WOD’ (Workout of the Day, or, according to Hawkins, “what makes you want to puke”), 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, 50 pull-ups and 50 air squats, pausing to encourage each other to push harder and go faster until everyone had completed the exercise. “The across the board community is neat,” said group member Jo Cockrell, who joined a CrossFit gym in Big Bear before moving to Mammoth. “A lot of people think that we live in such a beautiful area, why go to the gym? But CrossFit helps propel you, and motivate you to be the best in whatever else you do.”
Hawkins also emphasized that Mammoth CrossFit offers an appropriately challenging workout for all ages, genders, and levels of experience. “We believe that the needs of an Olympic athlete and your grandma differ by degree, not kind,” he said. “Everything we do in here, we can modify for the client.”
Like Hawkins, who discovered CrossFit 3 years ago while training with P90X and never looked back, I found myself hooked. It may have been the opportunity to learn how to use equipment I had previously associated with vein-popping body builders, or the chance to be part of a fun, encouraging, competitive group of fellow trainees, but after 3 sessions at the CrossFit gym I decided to give membership a try. I may come to regret my decision when I’m fighting through the daily WOD, but for anyone else intrigued by a team-driven workout with full body fitness benefits, I’d suggest CrossFit.
Mammoth CrossFit offers a $100 monthly membership, with group workouts Mon-Wed-Fri at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Tues-Thurs at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.; and Saturdays 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. More information, call 206.919.8923, or visit www.mammothcrossfit.com.