This issue we interview David Draper, joint owner of Hove’s Reebok CrossFit Connect, and learn more about how he discovered CrossFit and why it is so popular
Hi Dave! How did you first get involved with CrossFit and why did it appeal to you?
I had qualified as a personal trainer in 2003 and had been working at a big chain gym for a good few years. I was learning the trade, learning how many different types of people and body types there are and also researching and trying various different training methods to see what gave the best results. I had always been a fan of the big power lifts (squats, deadlifts, presses etc) rather than the machines as I knew they gave far greater results but it was around 2008 that I rediscovered my love of gymnastics and bodyweight movements having attended gymnastics classes for a good few years when I was younger.
I was starting to implement bodyweight movements and the big foundational lifts with my clients when New Years Eve 2009 rolled around and I was off to visit friends in Bath for a few days. When I got there my friend had told me about a new gym he had been going too call ‘CrossFit Bath’ and reckoned that it was exactly the sort of thing I would love. Weights, gymnastics and tough workouts that a group of you all do together. He said the atmosphere was amazing and whilst he had only been going for three or four months was feeling the fittest and strongest he had ever been. I had heard mention of CrossFit but never really knew what it was at this point.
As soon as I walked into CrossFit Bath I knew that it was exactly the sort of place I would love. A small unit under the railway arches that was filled with toys. Barbells, ropes, lifting platforms, gymnastic rings, pull ups bars and chalk dust everywhere. It was so alien to the sterile gym environment I had been used too for so long. The coaches at the ‘box’ were friendly and welcoming and it was a great first experience of CrossFit.
When I got back to my own gym I looked up CrossFits mainsite – CrossFit.com – and decided I would have a go at one of the workouts that they post for free every day of the year. The first one I tried was ‘Fran’. Not knowing at the time that this is the most famous CrossFit workout there is I got myself a barbell and stood next to the pull up bar. My workout was going to be 21 Thrusters (a front squat / press combo with the barbell) then 21 pull ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull ups, 9 thrusters then 9 pull ups to finish. That was it. I grabbed a stopwatch, counted myself down and off I went.
Nine minutes later I was on my back staring at the ceiling wondering what had just happened. I was gasping for air and couldn’t believe that two fairly simple movements and nine minutes of work could make me feel like that. And I considered myself pretty strong and fit at the time being in the line of work that I was!
I went home, Googled ‘Fran’ and sat open mouthed as I watched someone complete the exact same workout as I had just done in 1 minute and 52 seconds. Seriously, what the hell!
It was from that moment I was hooked. I completely abandoned my regular training regime of isolating body parts; chest and triceps on a Monday, back and biceps on a Wednesday etc and learned as much as I could about the CrossFit methodology, movements and workouts. Four weeks later I went back and did ‘Fran’ again. This time I was somewhere in the high sevens. I had knocked over a minute off my time and so had a measurable and repeatable benchmark scale to my fitness. I had gotten stronger and I had gotten fitter. It was right there in my training diary.
Over the next year I did my CrossFit trainers course, my first Olympic weightlifting course and immersed myself in the CrossFit world. I was thoroughly convinced that the 3 elements of weightlifting, gymnastics and interval training programmed into measurable workouts and strength sessions really was a great way to illicit an amazing level of fitness as well as keeping the training extremely fun. You cover all the bases. You don’t just become strong but you become powerful and explosive too. Your heart and lungs get stronger and more capable of dealing with hard sprint sessions and longer endurance sessions alike, you become flexible, agile and accurate whilst learning handstands, pull ups, muscle ups and ring work. You become ready for most things life can throw your way. As CrossFit like to say – ‘G.P.P’. Generally Physically Prepared.
How do you think CrossFit has grown since you opened Connect in March 2011?
When we opened Connect there were only about 60 other boxes in the UK and it was still unknown to the mass fitness market. Today we are approaching 200 boxes around the country, 7000 worldwide and CrossFit is featured almost every month in the main fitness magazines. What started as an almost counter-culture, grass-roots movement in 2003 has become the biggest fitness trend in the world today. Yes it has lost some of its grittiness and hardcore values that attracted a lot of people in the first place but anything that works so well and is so much fun is not going to stay hidden forever.
It really can transform peoples lives. I know that sounds a bit clichéd but we have seen it ourselves over the last three years. From people that do have a training background to complete newcomers we have seen how their health and lifestyles can change dramatically.
We teach people how to move better and how to eat better, how to enjoy staying fit and healthy and how it doesn’t have to be a chore to go to the gym. In fact, we have to keep most people away at the risk of overtraining. CrossFit can become so addictive that we need to inform people that rest days are just as important as training days.
It’s the community aspect of a box that is another massively important factor. You bond over the workouts, you cheer people on as they break new records and set new personal bests and you socialise with people from a diverse range of backgrounds. You just don’t get this at a regular gym and it’s a very big reason that people stick with it.
With your second box now open just a few doors down from the original Connect box, how are you finding the influx of new members wanting to try CrossFit?
With the second unit now open it has allowed us to really expand our class timetable. We keep our classes small at 12 people to ensure that we can still coach every individual to a high level but now we have two units we can offer more things. We have over 45 classes a week now at Connect as well as Open Gym times for individual practice. We are open from 6.30am weekdays and close at 9pm and both mornings on the weekend too.
Before we got the new unit we had to cap our membership to ensure every member still got into the classes they wanted. Since opening up our membership again in September we have had to run three consecutive Intro Courses due to demand and have had over 60 enquiries to join. We are running two Intro Courses in October and both of these are full as well. Word really is getting out about CrossFit and that Connect is such a great place to train. It’s great to be helping so many people.
The important thing that must happen as CrossFit grows is the quality of coaching must grow with it. The time of a few friends playing around with some workouts in a garage has gone and we must now be responsible for coaching a lot of individuals with many different issues. Most CrossFit boxes have highly qualified coaches specializing in Olympic Weightlifting, powerlifting, running, endurance work and gymnastics. We have specialist classes on at Connect that focus entirely on these things giving our members a big choice of sessions. The six coaches at Connect are some of the best qualified trainers in Brighton & Hove and you receive close level coaching every session. This translates into great learning and great results.
CrossFit is the talk of the fitness world at the moment. Why do you think that is and do you see things continuing this way?
I think there are three reasons why CrossFit has exploded as much as it has:
1) It works! Quite simply, given time and dedication CrossFit will get you into the best shape of your life and across a broad range of fitness domains. Strength, power, speed, endurance and agility will all improve whilst changing your body shape and dropping your body fat. If you take things slowly, learn the movements, eat well and listen to your coaches you will become hooked and working out will never be a chore again.
2) The community. To be part of the CrossFit community is a great thing. I have never met a friendlier, more encouraging and more knowledgeable group of people in my life. We have competitions, socials and coaching certifications and the knowledge that is being spread on coaching techniques and business practices is second to none. From tutors to coaches to therapists to regular members the network of people now involved in CrossFit is incredible and the awareness in health and fitness that CrossFit has sparked is nothing short of amazing.
3) Reebok and marketing. Some people considered CrossFits relationship with Reebok to be ‘selling out’ and the end of the road for its original form. I believe all this has done is raise the profile of CrossFit that they themselves may have never done on their own. From multi-million dollar advertising to entire clothing ranges dedicated to CrossFit to the massive event that is now the annual Reebok CrossFit Games in LA Reebok have done a grand job in letting people know it is out there. The Games are now a truly worldwide event with the winners purse at $250,000, turning what once was a passionate hobby into a full-time sport. They haven’t changed what CrossFit is about or what you do but they have raised its profile big time.
At Connect we will continue to provide great coaching, a fun and friendly environment in which to train and we thrive on helping educate people on staying healthy by eating the right foods. The way the box has grown since we opened has been a dream come true and we have many exciting plans for the future.
So three years later and perhaps 7 more attempts at ‘Fran’ and my time is down to 2.57. Quite some change from my original nine minutes. I’m not sure it will ever be sub-2 minutes but you never know…
*Since the time of interviewing David, Reebok CrossFit Connect have successfully secured a new large facility just 2 minutes from where they already are. We’ll have more news on this very soon
ALL PHOTOS – RX’d Photography
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Over the next few months Reebok CrossFit Connect (based next to Hove Lagoon) are pleased to announce that they will be hosting Speciality Workshops for the benefit of members and non-members alike. These workshops will be held between 12.30-4.30pm on one Saturday at the beginning of each month.
The first two will be Olympic Lifting Workshops taking place on…
- Saturday 2nd February 2013
- Saturday 2nd March 2013
RCFC will also be hosting a Gymnastics Workshop going through progressions on how to improve your handstands, ring dips, pull ups and even press ups. This Workshop will be taking place on Saturday 13th April 2013.
Places are limited to 10 people per course so please get in touch if you would like to book your spot.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the CrossFit Speciality Workshops.
If you’re interested in giving CrossFit a go then we could not recommend one of their Intro Courses highly enough. Here you will learn more about gymnastics, Olympic lifting and the interval training that is used in their workouts. You’ll also learn more about the ethos and community behind CrossFit.
Each Intro Course takes place for 4 weeks on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm (8 classes in total). Here are the start dates of each course for the next few months. Booking is available for these immediately:
- 4th February
– 4th March
– 1st April
– 29th April
– 27th May
– 24th June
CLICK HERE to learn more about the CrossFit Intro Course.
For more information on either the up and coming Speciality Workshops or Intro Courses call 07791 474780 / 07850 139401, email email@example.com or visit www.crossfitconnect.co.uk
The sixth in the series of features written by former professional mixed martial artist Sol Gilbert, owner of ZT Fitness in Hove (taken from past issues of Fighting Fit Magazine). In this feature Sol looks at the evolution of MMA conditioning.
WORDS – Sol Gilbert
The whole science behind MMA conditioning has really evolved in the last few years.
The cross training that has come in from other sports and the fact that MMA has become its own discipline has really helped the athletes extract the best parts from strength and conditioning programmes. Michael Bisping used a S&C guy for the first time during camp as he prepared for Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120 and it showed. From what I saw, the functional stuff he was working with ropes and chains is something we do with our fighters at ZT Fight Skool. It’s all about basic equipment with a scientific approach. Consequently, Bisping’s conditioning was phenomenal in that fight. But, to be fair, no fighter in the UFC should be gassing any more. I think in the past, the problem arose because the fighter had come from one discipline like boxing and they weren’t used to the grappling aspect of MMA. Now, MMA is a whole sport and the strength and conditioning work reflects that.
Another change in fighter’s preparation has come in the way they cut weight. We used to see guys trying to sauna off the water weight but it can affect their performance, especially if they can’t rehydrate in time. For John Hathaway we used to cut his carb intake and then sauna off the last few pounds of weight in water. Now there are people out there with a greater understanding of nutrition. I know that John now cuts his salt intake ahead of fights and clears out his intestines to ensure his digestion operates properly and it is clearly working for him. It is another aspect where you can see how experts in a different field have brought knowledge into mixed martial arts conditioning. A lot of bodybuilders have to cut weight but retain lean muscle mass and their scientific understanding of nutrition crosses over really well for MMA athletes.
My right hand man Alex Backhouse and myself have both got really switched on to Olympic lifts lately. Alex has completed the JC Santana course as well as doing a mentorship out in IHP (Florida) and we have both completed our CrossFit certificates. Olympic lifts such as the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk translate really well into MMA. Both of these are the fastest body moves a person can perform and are great for building explosive strength. The Crossfit work, like thrusters and pull-ups, are really good for benchmark testing and are brilliant for building grit and determination in a fighter. We work a lot with pushing prowlers, chains and ropes as well. In fact, York Fitness has just kitted out the gym with their new pull-up rigs and we are adapting a lot of the stuff from strongman and caveman training into our S&C programmes at the moment. The workouts that Alex has developed and the stuff he got John doing really showed in his last fight. John had a really tough fight but at just 23 years old he went three rounds with Randy Couture’s wrestling coach. What does that say about John? I knew Pyle would be a tough fight: he is the same size as John, a great wrestler and really good off his back. He was basically good in all the areas that John exploits. But, John went the distance and this will be a massive learning curve for him. He’ll be back, all guns blazing and he’ll learn a lot from this experience. I mean, just imagine how good Hathaway will be in a few years time? It’s scary to even think about it.
To learn more about Sol Gilbert and ZT Fitness visit www.ztfamilyfitness.com and be sure to take advantage of your FREE day gym trial and class pass!
CLICK HERE to learn more about the FREE SGUT (Sol Gilbert Ultimate Training) app!
Reebok CrossFit Connect (located next to Hove Lagoon) are set to host their last Intro Course of 2011 kicking off on Monday 26th November at 7pm. The course lasts 4 weeks and is the perfect way for you to learn more about the basic fundamentals of CrossFit. We spoke to Head Coach and Olympic weightlifting champion Holly Gehlcken to tell us more.
WORDS – Holly Gehlcken
If you are hooked on the idea after the taster class we ask all of our athletes to complete the Intro Course.
The Intro Course is critical in order to prepare an athlete for CrossFit. We use gymnastics, Olympic lifting and interval training in our workouts and in order to be competent enough to go into the ‘WOD’ classes the Intro Course must be completed.
These are small group classes and are held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm for 4 weeks. During the 8 classes we teach you the nine foundational movements that CrossFit require for the majority of the Workouts of the Day (WODs) plus additional movements such as pull ups, burpees, wall balls and kettlebell swings. You will also perform scaled versions of the main CrossFit WODs to allow us to gauge your starting point and to slowly build the intensity up for you.
By getting these foundational movements learnt and practiced you will get more out of the regular WOD classes and the classes will run on a much smoother basis as everyone will know what is what. Don’t be put off by having to learn these nine foundational movements. Even these can be scaled depending on your ability. It just means if we know everyone has had the same level of instruction we don’t take anything for granted regarding your knowledge.
If you cant make the times for either the taster class or the Intro Course then dont worry, we have a few other options for you to choose between. Just give us a call on 07850 139 401 / 07791 474 780.
Be sure to visit our revamped website at www.crossfitconnect.co.uk for more details on all of the above as well as testimonials, galleries and more information about the Connect Coaches.
CLICK HERE to read Reebok CrossFit Connect’s latest feature from Brighton Active Issue 10 now!
What better way to kick off November by heading to Swansea for the weekend to enjoy Europe’s largest CrossFit competition – Divided We Fall 2012. It was a weekend of heavy lifting, lung busting workouts that saw some of the fittest men and women from across the UK compete against each other. Even watching the event was exhausting, but I can say with supreme pride that this competition could have indeed changed the way I look at the way I train forever.
WORDS – Ash Phelps
I’ve been looking forward to writing this Blog. Ever since arriving in Swansea (my first time visiting Wales) on the Friday afternoon I could sense something special in the air. Along with the rest of the Reebok CrossFit Connect crew (based next to Hove Lagoon) who I had traveled up with, everyone was clearly excited about the event despite despite a few injuries forcing some team changes at the last minute.
I should first of all make it clear that I myself was not competing in the competition. I was part of a happy crowd who came along for the pure spectacle of it all and to support the RCFC team. As well as being my first time visiting Wales, this was also my first time watching a CrossFit competition and I was very interested to see more of the current standard of the UK’s CrossFit scene.
It’s important to remember that CrossFit in still very much in its golden era within the UK (unlike in the USA where CrossFit is more established), but things are moving very quickly indeed and Divided We Fall 2012 is even more proof of this.
Taking place in the ultra modern LC2 Leisure Centre, Divided We Fall began on the Saturday and saw 107 CrossFit teams gather to compete against each other in a number of challenging WODs (Workout of the Day). At the end of the day the top 50 teams would then move onwards to the Sunday, with further cuts made throughout this day until there was just one team left standing.
A huge congratulations must go out to Reebok CrossFit Connect and all the other teams from all over the UK that competed in the event. The event organisers and judges deserve equal congrats as well for running a fantastic show.
Reebok CrossFit Connect will be releasing their own Blog very soon which will go into more detail about the exercises featured at the event, as well as the rules. I won’t spoil any of this, nor will I reveal how their teams fared on the day (they had two teams entered in the comp). What I will say though is that every team member did fantastically and it was a real pleasure to watch and support.
The standard of fitness that was on display at the event was something that really got me thinking… Up until DWF I believed that I was devoting enough of my time and energy into keeping fit and healthy. I’m not just talking about CrossFit here either. I’m talking about my nutrition, the way I plan and organise my training, the belief that I have in myself when put up against a challenging exercise, and the fire that I ignite in my belly to push myself that little bit further. I thought I was on the right track, cruising along the motorway even. But now I realise that I’m still very much in the slow lane and haven’t stepped up to what I believe are several levels still yet to conquer.
This in fact is just the kick up the backside that I believe I have needed and I’m pleased that it has occurred before 2012 is out so that I can get started on things straight away. After seeing some of the feats of strength and endurance at DWF from both the men and women involved unlike anything I had ever seen before in my life, I now fully understand what it is to give it your all and to devote yourself to a workout. Competition or not, there’s clearly plenty more in the tank that I haven’t yet tapped on.
I saw people attempt heavy lifts and get them with ease, even though they had just failed on the previous attempt and somehow managed to shake off any doubts from this.
I saw people gasp for more air than their lungs could handle as they pushed and pushed and pushed during the final few seconds of their WOD ticked away. But did they slow down? No.
One memorable moment in particular was seeing a woman pretty much perform an entire four person workout by herself. I quizzed her about this afterwards and she told me that the reason she did this was because her CrossFit Box had only been open for 3 months, and the other members in the team (two of which were men) had not had enough time to prepare and perfect their technique. A brave move by her to carry the weight of things (literally) on her shoulders, but somehow she made it look easy and I was left with a huge amount of respect for her.
Throughout both days of competition I heard a lot of cheers and a lot of screams, and saw a lot of high fives and plenty of encouragement. Teams were supporting other teams and at times the venue was deafening. With the energy so high I even contemplated for a split second jumping over the railings and performing a bunch of pull ups on the central rig, just so I could get the adrenaline out of my body (In the end I settled for a walk to Tesco).
DWF has made me more aware than ever that CrossFit really is a community and unlike anything you can find at your local gym. Competitions such as Divided We Fall bring something extra special to the table and I’m already looking forward to seeing things grow further in the build up to next year’s event – something I will be training hard for to book my place in.
I’ve taken away with me a bucket load of energy and inspiration from DWF and am excited to step up to the challenge of moving into the fast lane towards my own fitness goals and evolution. Let’s see what I can get up to before the year is out…
If you would like to learn more about what CrossFit is and how it can benefit you contact Reebok CrossFit Connect and book your FREE trial class by calling 07850 139 401 / 07791 474 780 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also be sure to visit their revamped website at www.crossfitconnect.co.uk for testimonials, galleries and more information about the Connect Coaches.