Formula for fitness

John Connolly is a CrossFit Coach at Gainesville Health & Fitness Center.

Matt Stamey
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 2:53 p.m.

Thruster. Burpee. Goblet squat. Box jump. Snatch. Muscle up.

While you may have only heard these phrases uttered around the gym, they are part of a large vocabulary used by members of a workout craze that’s sweeping the fitness world.

In a grass lot behind the main Gainesville Health & Fitness Center, a group of five to 10 gym members jump on boxes, thrust barbells, crank out push-ups, swing kettlebells and snatch them out of the air.

They are engaged in CrossFit, known as the “sport of fitness,” according to John Connolly, the director of GHFC CrossFit.

This workout regimen, developed in 1995 by coach and former gymnast Greg Glassman, is a fitness regimen based on Glassman’s equation: constantly varied (CV), functional movements (FM) performed at high intensity (@HI) in a communal environment leads to health and fitness. The regimen mixes high- and low-intensity exercises and a combination of body-weight exercises with weights.

Now coached at more than 5,500 affiliated gyms worldwide by 35,000 accredited CrossFit Level 1 trainers, this fitness routine, once used exclusively by military and law enforcement, is now attracting people of all fitness levels.

The official CrossFit group maintains several blogs and websites that feature a “Workout of the Day” and an expansive FAQ section, where readers can learn how to do exercises, and find variations for building up to the toughest ones, such as pull-ups.

Questions on include “How do I burpee?” “What’s a Samson Stretch?” “What’s the ‘official’ CrossFit warmup?” “What about abs?” “What’s a good substitute for running? “Will I/can I get big doing CrossFit?” and dozens of others.

In Gainesville, several facilities cater to CrossFit (see below).

GHFC CrossFit has clients from ages 14 to older than 70, and the workouts are scaled to each person’s ability and comfort level. Like any fitness program, it can be as difficult as you want it to be, Connolly says.

“Our definition of fitness is very broad,” Connolly says. “It’s our goal as coaches to make you the best possible athlete.”

“CrossFit is universally scaleable,” he says. “We can progress and regress any of the workouts to suit your ability level.”

Many people approach CrossFit with a short-term goal in mind. But Connolly says people keep coming back, even after they have reached that initial goal.

“We have a very good retention rate,” Connolly says. Some members come once a week, while others sweat through CrossFit five to six times a week.

“People will hit short-term goals and then fall in love with it,” he says. “Usually in the fitness industry, a lot of people deal with short-term goals. CrossFit allows people to hit that first goal, and then change their goals.”

Each class is an hour long, and includes a five- to 10-minute warm-up. One goal of the warm-up is to be loose, ready and sweaty by the time the workout starts.

“When you see a boxer they are always sweating when they get to the ring. They are breathing heavy, but they aren’t tired,” Connolly says. “That’s one of our goals — get you sweating at the beginning and then take you to a more defined workout for about 45 minutes.”

Workouts vary by the day, and include activities such as wall balls, squats, kettlebell swings, box jumps, deadlifts, push-press and rowing.

Connolly says free weights often are used. Lots of jumping and coordination means a lot of cardiovascular activity, Connolly says.

“If you want to get in shape, you have to lift weights,” he says. GHFC CrossFit trainers do not require members to use free weights, but they do encourage them — usually 10-12 pounds in each hand to start.

“The trend is that you do those weights for a little bit and then see someone next to you working out with heavier weights and you see their physique and want to emulate that,” he says.

One often-heard criticism of CrossFit is that its high intensity and the competitiveness among its devotees can lead to injuries.

At GHFC, participants receive a free screening at ReQuest Physical Therapy before their first CrossFit session to minimize risk of injury. If you have a prior condition or injury, physical therapists work with the group trainers to determine the best workouts for you and work with you to overcome that injury.

Putting intensity before form is one of the main reasons people are injured during any form of exercise, Connolly says.

“For anyone to be successful ... you must know the mechanics and be able to perform them with consistency before increasing intensity ... or moving heavier loads,” he says.

“If ever you feel pushed, pressured, or made to feel uncomfortable by others during your workout for not moving faster and using a heavier weight, then you need to take a step back and reevaluate the environment you are in,” says Connolly.

“Any facility you go to for your fitness needs should keep you safe; you do not do this by pushing yourself with bad form. Workouts should be tailored to individual needs and ability level. “If you ever find yourself second-guessing your trainer or feel just downright unsafe ... then stop,” he says.

As for diet, Connolly says quality is more important than quantity. The trainers encourage diets full of protein and vegetables and to eat throughout the day. Water is critical to staying moving and healthy — especially when working out in the sun. Sleep and muscle recovery also are huge components of successful training.

“Small little changes add up to a big lifestyle change,” Connolly says.

So what’s the attraction to CrossFit besides getting in shape?

“Camaraderie. We are a team. You become good friends with everyone and even hang out with them outside the workouts,” Connolly says. “A lot of fitness is accomplished by like-minded people.”

Visit to read about the history of CrossFit as well as dozens of workouts.

Gyms offering CrossFit

CrossFit Gainesville

1126 NW Second Street, Gainesville (215-8609)

Gator CrossFit

6020 NW Fourth Place Gainesville (332-9348)

Gainesville Health & Fitness Center

4820 Newberry Road, Gainesville (377-4955)

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