Death By Burpees. Should I continue? Go on, bear with me.
As I reached halfway of the aforementioned exercise (yes, its real name), the question certainly crossed my mind. But push on I did, not quite to “death”, but to that leg-shaking, sick-to-the-pit physical state only the toughest workouts can inflict. Welcome to CrossFit.
If all that sounds rather intimidating, that's because it is. And the team at Inner Fight know that, which is why on their terrace level, they’ve launched Base Fitness, an introduction to the world’s most popular regime.
So what exactly is CrossFit? Official blurb – and there’s plenty of that – calls it “constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity”. Circuits, basically. Elements of gymnastics, weightlifting and more common high-intensity exercises can be seen in every class. At base level, it’s all about core and cardio. That means squats in tandem with rowing, and lunges alongside AMRAP lifts.
Sorry, AMRAP? Yes, As Many Reps As Possible. The programme has certainly courted its share of controversy, not least for its injury rates, but has still managed to become an international phenomenon.
As a four-week introduction to the course continues at our Al Quoz gym, things are tailored to make you ready to “move downstairs”. So where your WOD (that’s, Workout Of the Day) was squat holds at the start, it develops into wall balls (throwing a medicine ball above your head as you exit a deep squat), and a dumbbell press (lifting a weight above your head) becomes overhead thrusters (hoisting a weight from the floor to full arm extension upwards). Every time, technique is championed over targets.
By the time you’re ready to progress to classes in the main arena, it’s box jumps, clean and jerks, and rope climbs. “Scalability” is another buzzword. The clear lines of progress are both literal and metaphorical at Inner Fight.
Regardless of where you are, there is always a core – certainly the operative word – theme running through each class. And burpees. Cruel, hateful burpees. Even our trainers grimaced a little when demonstrating the deep squat/thruster/high plank/push up/vertical jump combo. Makes you queasy just reading it, right? The “death by” element was introduced in week three – 12 minutes with the corresponding amount of burpees done per minute. So, first minute, one burpee. Second minute, two. Third minute, three and so on. By the time the tenth minute comes around, you’re going straight through to the 11th without so much as a second pause. It’s then that you understand where it gets the name from.
CrossFit is also data-driven. Each participant is encouraged to use the various high-tech measurement machines available, while the more advanced are score-checked throughout class on whiteboards for all to see. Without going into specifics, I can say I’m more likely to publish my week four numbers than those from weak one. Just standing in the mouth of this 5,000sq ft converted split-level warehouse on the edge of Al Quoz is a sensory experience; inspiring more than intimidating. That, not so much blood, but definitely sweat and tears smell, the crash, bang, wallop of giant weight stacks, whooping and hollering of support from classmates, a hurricane-like gush of wind from rowing machines, and the sight of people of all ages, shapes and sizes clambering up, swinging from and throwing stuff at the imposing rigs lining one side, it’s intense and genuinely awesome. At the back, the brand slogan, “Show No Weakness”.
To understand the expertise on offer at Inner Fight, you need only look at those charged with getting you results. And we don’t just mean the pictures of their physiques on numerous social media channels.
At the top, owner and founder Marcus Smith, who in 2015 completed Marathon des Sables – that’s six marathons in seven days across the Sahara desert. There’s also Ben Davies, a former international football player, and Phil Hesketh, a British trainer hailed as the 29th fittest man on the planet. Beyond that, “Strong Man” New Zealander Matt Jones has competed in CrossFit internationally, as has Belgian nutrition expert Carmen Bosmans.
The intimidation is a tricky thing to get around; it can work both ways. To some, training on the upper level, looking down at the shirtless experts smashing their way through 100 of whatever you’ve mustered ten of can perhaps be detrimental. To the right kind of mind, though, it’s a target. And Inner Fight wants, or at least believes, it can create the right kind of minds. As a brand, it is certainly welcoming – Marcus chairs podcasts, hosts talks with inspiring figures from the UAE and beyond, and is more often than not, a smiling, jovial presence at the door. But he also makes you do burpees. From Dhs150 per class, Dhs1,300 per month. Daily 5.30am-8pm. 4th Street, Al Quoz (04 321 289904 321 2899).