Bethel students exercise with CrossFit

March 4, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Students combine special workouts with strict dieting for a healthier lifestyle

Sports | Jacob Ruff for The Clarion

Bethel students exercise with CrossFit

Trevor Remick exercises his upper body by performing dips on the rings in a CrossFit gym. CrossFit is a fast and furious workout program that takes cues from Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and other sports. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Paul Kitagaki Jr./MCT

Although CrossFit had a humble beginning, its time as the best-kept secret in the world of fitness has definitely ended.

CrossFit began in 2000 as a small company with a following of workout junkies, but since catching fire on the Internet, it has morphed into a nationwide empire. In fact, the number of CrossFit affiliate gyms worldwide has grown from just 13 in 2005 to well over 4,000 today.

But CrossFit is far from a here-today-gone-tomorrow workout fad. Its unique, all-inclusive regimen has been known to turn skeptics into believers and believers into all-out fanatics. One can often hear these enthusiasts jabbering excitedly in CrossFit code, looking forward to getting to their box — a CrossFit gym — to complete the WOD — workout of the day. 

What is it about this exercise phenomenon that gets people so fired up? The simple answer is that it works. Take it from Josh Freitas, a Bethel freshman who said that after leaving his normal weightlifting routine for CrossFit, he could never go back.

On a typical day in a CrossFit box, athletes engage in elements of weightlifting, aerobic activity and gymnastics, often all at the same time. One workout is never the same as the next, and according to Freitas, that’s the beauty of it. 

“You’re confusing your muscles constantly,” Freitas said. “If you only ever run or you just lift, you’re only proficient at one thing. With CrossFit, your whole body becomes more efficient for all types of activity.”

Sophomore Ali Eickhoff, another CrossFit devotee, echoed these sentiments and added that the variability of the exercise is a motivator to get in the gym daily. 

“With other workouts, I was going in dreading it, knowing it's a hard running day or it's a long lifting day,” she said. “Now, I get really excited to work out.” 

So powerful is CrossFit’s influence that it revolutionizes the entirety of its users’ lives, not just their fitness habits. 

“There’s something about getting through a CrossFit workout that gives you more confidence in other aspects of your life,” Freitas said. 

Eickhoff has derived similar benefits from CrossFit that carry into her daily life, claiming that she has noticed an increased level of motivation and self-esteem since starting the program. 

“The way it affects the rest of your life sounds crazy until you experience it personally,” Eickhoff said. “It’s life changing, it really is.”

Another new health and fitness trend that has been lauded for its transformative power is the Paleo diet, which often goes hand-in-hand with CrossFit. 

“Basically, eating Paleo means eating what a caveman would eat,” explained Freitas. “If you can’t pick it from a tree, pick it out of the ground, fish it or hunt it, don’t eat it.” 

That leaves meat and fish, vegetables and some fruits, nuts, seeds and a little starch. Paleo prohibits sweets and wheat to cleanse the body of unneeded sugar and carbohydrates.

Both Eickhoff and Freitas are Paleo eaters and report feeling more lively in and out of the box since starting to eat like cave dwellers. 

“I feel like I have a lot more energy throughout the day,” said Freitas, who keeps veggies and peanut butter in his room to keep hunger at bay. 

Eickhoff said that she, too, is more energetic on Paleo and promised it’s not as bad as everyone thinks. 

“The longer you’re away from the unhealthy foods, the better the good stuff tastes,” she said. “It takes time to adjust, but it’s worth it.” 

Although they rave of its benefits, both concede that sticking to Paleo is especially difficult while at Bethel. 

“Finding meats without sauce or dressing and avoiding carbs isn’t easy in the DC,” Freitas said. 

Eickhoff would like to see more healthy options available. Going Paleo has opened her eyes to “understand how little clean food our dining services offer.” 

Without a doubt, the Paleo diet and CrossFit take some added effort, and they might even seem crazy to outside observers. But considering the reported results, perhaps it’s so crazy that it’s worth it. 

Anyone interested in learning more about CrossFit and Paleo can visit crossfit.com for instructional articles, how-to videos, and a user-friendly message board. There are also close to a dozen certified CrossFit boxes in the Twin Cities, including CrossFit St. Paul, which is only a 15-minute drive from Bethel’s campus. 

“They’re happy to have anybody in there, especially people new to CrossFit,” said Freitas. 

Although it sounds daunting, Eickhoff encourages everyone to give it a shot, saying, “If I can do it, and the 70-year-olds in my gym can do it, anybody can do it.”

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