What is Crossfit really like?

After trying traditional gyms for over ten years, I finally realised that I was a square peg that was simply not going to fit into the round hole of treadmills, bad music and circuits of weight machines in weird angles.

So, with the guilt of paying for a gym membership I never used behind me, I started looking for other ways to get moving. I’ve tried Adventure Bootcamp (never again) and S.W.E.A.T 100 (fantastic, but expensive), so I started searching for new options. The criteria were deceptively simple: it had to be something where someone would push me – as I can’t be left to rely on my own will-power – and something fairly close to home. After a bit of searching, I stumbled across Cape Crossfit, which seemed to tick all the boxes.


What is very clear is that people either love or hate Crossfit – it seems to be the Marmite of fitness at the moment. Regardless of where you stand, there likely points in this piece that you’ll disagree with. And that’s ok.

When I chatted to friends and colleagues about visiting my local box, the reactions were pretty interesting. Most were along the lines of “oh, it sounds so intense, I could never do that” and “I’ve heard it’s a total cult“, with a few cautionary words of “you’ll get injured” and “what about rhabdo?” thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, this was all from people who’d never actually been to a class before. So, it was with this vote of confidence that I headed to the Cape Town box to meet with Head Coach Chris, to find out more.

AMRAP as many reps (or round) as possible
WOD workout of the day
Scaling adapting each workout to your level of fitness and capabilities
Box the name of the Crossfit locations – they aren’t studios or gyms, they’re boxes
Rhabdo short for rhabdomyolysis (read more about it here)

What is Crossfit?

Crossfit is class-based functional training, combining gymnastics, weightlifting and metabolic conditioning. Each hour-long class is led by a coach, with no more than 12 people per class at the Newlands box. A typical class will start with a warm-up, movement and strength exercises, followed by the WOD. You can find out more on their philosophy here

All about scaling

Perhaps one of the lesser-known facts about Crossfit – which, has led to a common mis-perception that Crossfit is only for superfit athletes – is that all workouts are scalable. If you aren’t able to do a straight floor push up, you’ll do raised push ups to build those muscles, until you’re able to (see point below). If you can only do ten burpees, then you’ll do that, until you’re fit enough to do more. Crossfit takes safety pretty seriously, focusing on building the correct form and movement. Before you’re allowed to lift weights, you practice with a PVC pipe for three sessions until the coach is convinced you won’t hurt yourself.

The first class

The first class takes you through the principles of Crossfit and a benchmark test – a set collection of exercises, done for time. This is repeated every three months or so, to help you track your progress. 350m row (scaled from a 500m row), 40 squats, 15 sit ups (scaled from 30 sit ups), 20 raised pushups (scaled from standard floor pushups) and 10 pull ups with rings (scaled from standard bar pull ups) in 7 min 4 sec.

Will I go back?

Absolutely. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to actually enjoying a workout – which is no small feat for me. While I can tell you about my experience, like most things, it’s best if you find out for yourself. Don’t rely on the opinions of others. Cape Crossfit has free intro sessions where you can hear about their beliefs, see what a typical workout consists of and try it for yourself.

Note: I am attending classes as a guest of Cape Cross Fit. All images and views are my own.

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What is Crossfit really like?