By Brandon HENSLEY
One night at the CrossFit Survival studio in La Crescenta, a man walked in to meet with coaches Shannon Franklin and Erik Boyd. He opened the doors and saw Boyd performing gymnastic moves on rings that hung from the ceiling, quickly dropping down and going into a “burpee” – a pushup when the person tucks their legs in and jumps up – then repeating the whole thing while being timed.
The man’s eyes lit up and, as soon as he walked in, he was out the door. Apparently Boyd’s workout was much too intimidating.
Could Boyd or Franklin have run after him? Maybe, but they were in the middle of workout and didn’t realize that was the man who had come a tad early to meet with the coaches.
“He was half an hour early for his appointment, so no one knew who he was until after,” Franklin said.
Indeed there are stories, if not exactly like that man’s, similar to his; a would-be CrossFitter overwhelmed by the fitness phenomenon that has taken over the country the last decade.
“You still do have people that walk in and say, ‘Wow this is kind of scary,’” Boyd said.
Franklin and Boyd, who run CrossFit Survival located on the corner of Boston Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, want people’s fears to be assuaged. Participating in CrossFit takes a lot out of the body, but Franklin also wants the reluctance to join gone as well.
“We really try to be friendly,” she said. “We have an introductory workout where we talk to people. We’re really encouraging.”
And after the encouraging part, it’s time to sweat.
Every CrossFit place will have a different atmosphere, a different way to do things, said Franklin, but the core of what it is remains as rock solid as some the bodies it helps sculpt: constantly varied functional movement performed at a high intensity.
That means lot of running, pushups, pull-ups, rope climbing, squatting often with various weights done at specific intervals of time. The exercises are designed to get the heart rate up and burn calories while building strength and endurance.
For those who have recently gone online looking for a new way to work out, CrossFit has probably come up in the search. The American Council on Exercise reported last year, “CrossFit boasts more than 7,000 CrossFit gyms (except they call them ‘boxes’) worldwide, more than 35,000 accredited trainers, more than 10 million Crossfitters (nearly 60% of whom are women) and even recently inked a 10-year, multi-million dollar deal with Reebok to sponsor the annual CrossFit Games, which crowns the man and woman deemed the ‘Fittest on Earth.’”
CrossFit Survival takes people of all ages and puts them into different classes depending on their level of experience. Franklin said the workout is like none other, but it’s worthwhile, especially since the classes have a communal feel.
“There really is this great camaraderie forged here through suffering … You’re annihilated and there’s something really empowering about it,” she said. “It’s the hardest part of your day and when you get past that you feel like you can do anything.”
Except if you get sick. A side effect of overdoing CrossFit is the now well-known condition of Rhabdomyolysis, when muscle fibers break down. Symptoms include abnormal swelling and soreness, as well as urine that looks like Coca-Cola, because of how the kidneys receive the fibers.
Franklin said in her five years of running her place, which used to be in Sunland before opening in La Crescenta 13 months ago, she’s seen two cases of the condition, usually shortened to “Rhabdo.”
Rhabdo can occur when someone pushes themselves too much too soon, so stressing the tempo to workout is key, said Boyd.
“It mostly occurs to athletes coming back from a hiatus, and they’re ready to jump right back into how they were doing it before,” he said. “Athletes who haven’t been taking care of their health in the meantime, as far as eating and drinking [alcohol] and things like that, and they come in they go faster than they should … going way past failure.”
Failure meaning when someone cannot do any more repetitions of an exercise for that set.
Rhabdo can be serious, but Franklin and Boyd said it’s very rare. Boyd is a former football player and said athletes of any kind can get it, and probably do get it; they just don’t realize the signs at the time.
Both coaches go over any potential risks involved with CrossFit with beginners. Those who are well enough to take on the challenge will most likely push themselves like they never have before. CrossFit isn’t simply going to a gym, putting on earbuds and tuning out the world for an hour. Franklin said the CrossFit culture is worth looking into for anyone looking to get in shape.
“Mostly because it’s so freakin’ fun,” she said. “People come out here to hang out with friends, and it just so happens that what we do is train.”