Crossfit Madness (JB)


julianabjornsdottir_dlLess than a year ago, Annie Mist returned to Iceland with a world championship title to her name. It was only her second time competing and yet she beat the reigning champion, Kristen Clever, through hard work and determination to succeed.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Icelandic Crossfit Games where four to five hundred contestants competed in front of a large crowd, cheering for their individual favorites.

My personal favorite was my sister, who registered to compete in the group’s division. Her team, the Valkyres, finished in good time, competing next to Annie Mist’s group.

For my sister, competing next to someone so accomplished was an honor in its own right. Nonetheless, she did very well and we were proud of her. She was inspired to compete out of sheer enjoyment for the sport and perhaps curiosity to see where she stands. She trained hard and was well prepared for the competition. The other four to five hundred contestants came in all sizes and shapes, some new to the sport, others not as new.

What they all had in common was their passion for a sport that up until a year ago had mostly gone unnoticed.

For a long time I was bewildered what all the fuzz was about. Last fall, my sister told me she had signed up for a four-week long Crossfit basic training course. Upon completion, she could attend the open WOD (workout of the day) classes held five to six times a week in the gym to which we both subscribe.

Since then, she hasn’t stopped going. She encouraged me to give it a go as she was convinced I would love it as much.

After months and months of struggling to find the willpower to go to gym, I decided I might as well try crossfit. After all, during the basic training course participants only attend practice three times a week, an hour at the time.

I figured that in worst case scenario I would simply not find the sheer enjoyment my sister seemed to find in crossfit, but could nonetheless use the technique taught in basic training.

After two weeks of attending crossfit classes, I got it. It seems my little sister knows me better than I do myself.

I dreaded the first session. I was worried I‘d be the unfit one in a class of 27 participants, that I wouldn’t be able to do half the workout asked of us and would probably embarrass myself in a class of super-fit people.

But I wasn’t. And we come in all sizes and shapes in my class. What we have in common is the need to find an exercise that is not only good but also fun to do.

I can’t explain it. It’s not just the mad rush of adrenaline that often is a companion a good workout. In Crossfit, I compete with only one person and that person is I. I strive to rise to the fitness level I want for myself and along the way, re-discover my athletic self.

For now my goal is to be in the best physical shape I can be without drastic changes to my eating habits or excess gym attendance. I am after all, a relatively disciplined sweet tooth who loves nothing more than indulge on Coca Cola with mouthwatering steaks and Madras curry on weekends and when the occasion rises. And I certainly don’t have the time to go to gym more than four times a week.

For now, my focus is simply to learn the correct technique so that I may join my sister (and brother-in-law too) in the open-to-all WOD classes.

I am a firm believer in practicing moderation in all areas of life, and it seems to me crossfit is the kind of exercise where deprivation of good food and daily workout sessions in the gym are not a requirement to succeed.

I know for sure my dedication to Crossfit will never equal that of Annie Mist and that I won’t be participating in the Icelandic Crossfit Games in a year’s time as my sister did this year, but I have at least found an exercise that I enjoy.

And I am not the only one. Based on the huge numbers of contestants who signed up for the Icelandic Crossfit Games, I am pretty certain many more have taken up Crossfit for the same reason.

It brings diversity to the mundane exercise programs of previous attempts to achieve the desired fitness level, and more importantly, teaches participants to apply themselves correctly in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. It’s also great basic training for most sports.

If the popularity of crossfit continues to grow, it wouldn’t surprise me if Annie Mist will only be the first of many Icelanders to achieve the desirable world championship title.

She made us proud. So proud in fact, that people like myself, who cares very little for 99 percent of all eligible sports was upset when she was not voted Athlete of the Year 2011. Instead it went to one of very few Icelandic soccer players who are competitive on an international level.

Nonetheless, he has never been on the receiving end of a world champion title such as Annie Mist. The National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (NOASAOI) argued she was not a valid member of the organization and therefore not eligible for the reward, because Crossfit is not acknowledged as a sport by the organization.

I bet if the largely mono-gendered members of NOASAOI gave it a go, they’d see that it’s real sport, even without the presence of a rounded ball.

For my sister and me, Crossfit is a great way to stay in shape and a pretty great way to stay warm in the cold winter climate. And who knows, I might even sign up for a 10 km run in the summer, maybe even a half-marathon...

And this time around, I might actually be fit enough to do it.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.