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Exercise that is on the cutting edge

FARMINGTON — It’s nearly the start of a new year and time to make a renewed commitment to getting and staying in shape. That can me cutting back on the Big Macs a little, taking a walk around the block a couple times a week, or jumping into a fitness program headfirst and vowing that you’re going to work your tail off and be in better health this time next year.

For anyone serious about making a big change physically in 2013 there’s a few options available. One choice growing in popularity in the Parkland is so cutting edge that it’s used by police academies, military special operations units and elite athletes worldwide. Likewise, it’s practiced by kids, teenagers, and adults ranging from young to senior citizens. What is it? CrossFit!

According to, “CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide. The program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. The specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.

“The CrossFit program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.

“The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. Our terrorist hunters, skiers, mountain bike riders and housewives have found their best fitness from the same regimen.”

One guy who knows what CrossFit can do for a person is Kenny Warden. He owns and operates Parkland CrossFit, the area’s first dedicated gym which follows the CrossFit plan extensively. He knows what it’s like to be overweight and out of shape. He was there at one time, but then decided it was time to make a change … and lost 115 pounds.

Now Warden uses the CrossFit program to help others reach their fitness “goals”. The emphasis is on goals, because that’s what CrossFit is all about. The program takes basic moves and uses intensity and endurance to tailor each person’s fitness regimen to ultimately achieve his or her unique goals.

For one person the goal might be to lose weight. Another might want to improve a jump shot to help his basketball game. Or perhaps the goal is to run a half or full marathon. Or the ultimate goal might be to have the endurance to play games in the yard with the grandkids, or backpack a trail, or improve over all health.

For Aaron “Tatar” Brewer his first major goal was to do a pull-up. Always a big guy, Brewer says he can’t remember ever being able to do a pull-up as a kid. After several years of working out at gyms without “getting good results” and “getting bored with the normal gym routine”, it was suggested by his friend, Warden, that he give CrossFit a try.

“It came close to killing me (at first),” Brewer said. “I remember seeing a workout and saying ‘there’s no way I can do that.’” But he gave it a try starting about two years ago. Part of the CrossFit program involves teaching the muscles and joints to successfully do each small part of an over all movement, and then combining the moves to eventually do the complete action with success.

“One day I started doing pull-ups,” Brewer says. “There was nobody more surprised than me when my chin went up over that bar for the first time.”

A common thread among CrossFit athletes is a sense of community found within the program and gyms which use the training program. In any given class you might be working out alongside a high school athlete, a middle-age office worker needing to lose weight, a soccer mom, or a senior citizen who runs marathons for fun on the weekends. Everyone does the same workout moves, but at an intensity that works best for their condition and current abilities. As health and conditioning improves, so does the personal intensity put into the workouts.

“That’s my job,” explains Warden. “The coach knows where each person is and modifies the (movements) for that individual. It’s about core strength and conditioning.”

A typical workout lasts about 50 minutes and involves an initial warm-up of several sets of movements such as lunges, planks, pushups and rowing on a machine. Next the group works together on a specific skill, for example doing a handstand. Finally, a timer is set and the group works individually but collectively at a series of three or four exercises — but with some serious intensity.

One basis of CrossFit training is that it conditions the body to better perform in “real world” situations. Swimmers may be able to traverse an Olympic-size pool with great speed, but may not be able to lift very much weight over their head. Weightlifters can lift a lot of weight, but might not be able to sprint a short distance if their life depended on it.

CrossFit works to improve core strength and conditioning, regardless of the individual’s starting point or eventual goal. One way to accomplish that is by surprising the body with new tasks all the time. To that end no one knows what tomorrow’s workout will be until they arrive at the gym that day. Warden creates each day’s fitness plan and posts it on a white board on the wall. Among “CrossFitters” it’s known as the WOD … or “Work Out of the Day”.

Before a person jumps into CrossFit training classes with other experienced athletes they first attend a four week, 12 session introductory class. This gives them time to learn basic moves and see it the intensity of CrossFit is for them. Warden also offers free evaluations for potential new CrossFitters, and invites people to come in for a free trial to see if such a program is for them.

For those who find CrossFit a perfect fit for their fitness needs and have a competitive side, the founders of the program have established an annual competition which pits the best athletes from around the world against each other. According to, “Who is the fittest? How do you know? Since 2007, the CrossFit Games have evolved to answer these questions. Each year the event is a more comprehensive test of fitness, and the athletes raise the level of competition to unprecedented heights. The average Games athlete in 2012 will be dramatically more capable than the world’s best in 2007.”

Just like the workouts at the nearest CrossFit gym, according to, “several unique characteristics define the CrossFit Games. The Games change every year, and the details are not announced until right before each event. Athletes train year-round for a competition that is almost completely a mystery. When they reach the (Games) they put their training and mental fortitude to the test and take on a rigorous, broad-ranging test of overall physical capacity. After three days, the Fittest on Earth will have clearly distinguished themselves.”

Furthermore, CrossFit athletes often join other fitness-minded people in Ironman competitions, marathons and triathlons.

For more about CrossFit in the Parkland, contact Warden at Parkland CrossFit at (573) 518-4393, visit, or stop by 49 East First Street in Farmington.

Doug Smith is a reporter for the Daily Journal. You can reach him at 573-756-8927, or at

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