NEWS | Sept. 7, 2011

CrossFit pushes Airmen to achieve perfection

By Staff Sgt. Erin Smith 624th Regional Support Group Public Affairs

Everyone goes for a different reason.

For some, CrossFit helps them score 100 on their Physical Fitness test. For others, it molds them into combat-ready Airmen. For Tech. Sgt. Tommy Hendrix, who has been attending the class for a week, it's about the after effects of the rigorous workout.

"I go for the feeling I get after I'm done," said Hendrix, a C-17 aircraft maintenance instructor at the 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 5. "The soreness doesn't ever go away and a new muscle hurts every day."

He said in the past week, he feels like he has gotten stronger and he's even lost eight pounds.

CrossFit classes are offered at Joint Base Charleston's Fitness and Sports Center and provide a broad, functional approach to exercise. During classes, athletes perform high-intensity bursts of exercises which simulate activities in daily life. According to the CrossFit web site, the workout's specialty is not specializing, but instead, providing an adaptable workout that can be performed by every fitness level in every possible setting.

"I call it high intensity Olympic-style lifting," said Staff Sgt. Ken Angel, 628th Contracting Squadron. "It pushes you harder than you will ever go."

Angel has been attending CrossFit for about a year and a half. He had been lifting weights for years but his strength and fitness levels started to plateau. CrossFit gave him the boost he needed to shave a minute and a half off his run time.

"I run the mile and a half in just under ten minutes," he said. "And the only time I run is when I do CrossFit. I max out. Push-ups and sit-ups are a piece of cake."

Seeing people improve like this is the main reason Master Sgt. Steven Hart enjoys teaching the 435 students who have signed up for the class so far.

He said it's exciting for him when someone decimates their physical training test and he knows CrossFit helped them do that. The smaller changes are exciting too, like when someone who is initially defeated by an exercise is able to excel at it a few days later.

"I became an instructor because I wanted to give this out to more people than just me," he said. "It helped me so much."

Hart used to run marathons and triathlons regularly but couldn't max out the waist measurement or run time under the new Air Force physical fitness standards.

"I started CrossFit and I went from 87 to 100 on the PT test in less than six months," he said. "I realize with the culture of fitness changing the Air Force, more people were like me or were even worse off than me and needed something different."

Adding variation and intensity to his workout through CrossFit not only helped fight off boredom but gave him the increased intensity and endurance he needed.

"I like CrossFit because it is constantly varied, it's very intense and it's in a group setting," Hart said. "I used to play football in high school, I used to run marathons and I like golf, so it's all those things rolled into one."

The gains are not only physical.

In the course of a week, Hart notices his students becoming more aware of their bodies. In a month, he said he sees a completely different person. Someone who was once timid is now at the front of the classroom, helping his fellow athletes.

"It builds confidence because it pushes you beyond what you knew you were capable of doing," Angel said. "So, mentally and spiritually, these workouts push you to a new level."

During a recent class, the instructor challenged and taunted his students, Hendrix included, by saying, "for those who complain we don't do enough abs, we're helping you out today."

"Today, it hurts to sneeze," Hendrix said.

While sneezing may be painful today, students who attend CrossFit regularly can look forward to fitness rewards later.

"You don't ever quit," Hart said. "The hard work is in here every day. The PT test, that mile-and-a-half run is just a victory lap. That's easy."

CrossFit classes are held at the base fitness center, Monday through Friday, from 6 to 7 a.m., and evenings at 5 p.m., and Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.