Growing trend: fitness regimes

With most New Year’s Resolutions fast becoming a distant memory, Vision explores the success of ‘Crossfit’, a new craze that is gathering a global following

As the good intentions of January give way to the harsh realities of February, fitness plans bite the dust and bad habits return. But one fitness craze is offering a way out of the drudgery of the solo treadmill session - and enjoying quite spectacular take-up rates. By making competition and camaraderie a key component of the regime, from New York to Dubai, via the UK, India and Japan, CrossFit is making fitness a sport. Maybe, even, fun.

And if the sound of competing against your fellow gym members sounds like a sure fire route to embarrassment and humiliation, coach and CrossFit gym owner Samantha Briggs says that couldn’t be further from the truth. “Because the community side of it makes people feel welcome, people enjoy going training instead of dreading the gym,” she says, from her facility in Manchester. “You make real friends, and get to meet others at local competitions. Honestly, everyone is really supportive of each other.”

CrossFit was actually founded in the United States in 2000, but it’s the impressive way in which it has harnessed social media - workouts are posted daily on its website - and encouraged competition since 2007 which has been key to its current success. Briggs also thinks it has caught on because of the variety - a typical session includes running, powerlifting, gymnastics and rowing. Performance is measured continuously to monitor progress and set future goals - and provide the figures for Crossfit’s famous competitions.

“There are all sorts of levels of competitions, from local throwdowns where one gym will pitch themselves against another, to the world games, where the prize is US$250,000,” says Briggs. “The CrossFit games crowns the fittest man and woman on earth each year, but it also gives a sense of aspiration to people.”

Briggs herself beat an Italian and an American to the London Throwdown title last month - proof that this is a fitness regime with a world view. In the Emirates, the CrossFit-based Dubai Fitness Competition is supported by His Highness Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. Participants decide on the intensity of the work out and one of the most heartening byproducts of CrossFit’s success is how much of a hit it has been with women.

“It really helps women's self confidence as they achieve things they never thought they'd be able to do,” she says. “You notice an attitude change; they stop thinking about losing weight and concentrate on putting weight on their lifts. Not surprisingly, they end up looking great anyway, and being fitter than they've been in years.”

And, probably, more competitive. In a good way, of course.