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CrossFit devotees swear by bare-bones workouts

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/6/2013 (1532 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After playing football at the elite level for most of his life, Brad Sarna was surprised at the gap it left when it was over.

The University of Manitoba Bisons football team's starting quarterback when he graduated, Sarna began a career as a financial planner and searched for a replacement for that football rush.

Nicole Fillion competes in a recent CrossFit event in Winnipeg. Simplicity is at the heart of CrossFit  -- no machines, no fancy equipment, no complicated workouts.


Nicole Fillion competes in a recent CrossFit event in Winnipeg. Simplicity is at the heart of CrossFit -- no machines, no fancy equipment, no complicated workouts.

Brad Sarna


Brad Sarna

When he discovered CrossFit in 2008, he took to it like pigskin on a football.

"It filled a big void for me as a competitive athlete. I had trained my whole football career and a few years out, the relative inactivity was catching up to me," said Sarna, 35, who became a CrossFit coach. In January, he and partners Brendan Sonnichsen and Kyle Wilzer opened CrossFit Sublime across from Kildonan Park. "It changed my life and the lives of a lot of people."

CrossFit is not just a fast-growing fitness furor, it is a brand.

The CrossFit name is owned by Greg Glassman, who developed the training system and opened the first CrossFit gym, or box as the facilities are called, in California in 1999. There are about 4,000 locations worldwide that are official affliates. Winnipeg now has six.

CrossFit can best be described as a workout where a variety of exercises is done at a high intensity during a short period of time. The workouts can be done individually or in a class setting. Coaches must be certified CrossFit trainers.

What makes CrossFit addictive and attractive is its philosophy that anyone can do it.

No machines, no complicated exercises and no fancy equipment. Sometimes CrossFitters use whatever is nearby, like doing box jumps on a park bench.

"Everything is body-weight- or free-weight-based. We use a lot of barbells, dumbbells, kettle balls, medicine balls. Moving our bodies through space is one of the most important things," said Sarna. "We run, we jump, we lift things. CrossFit is very much training for life. Be in shape for whatever your life is, saving someone from a burning building or carrying a toddler and a heavy bag of groceries."

Everyone joining a CrossFit box must first undergo a physical assessment to ensure safe and beneficial workouts.

"I needed a drastic change and CrossFit just filled that void," said Miguel Gauthier, 34, who lost 130 pounds since discovering CrossFit and training with CrossFit Winnipeg's Pascal Breton. "There's a community in there, everyone is so positive, the energy is so amazing. After you've done your workout, you feel so badass and at peace after."

The 6-3 Gauthier tipped the scale at 380 pounds before CrossFit.

"Four years ago, my weight was very high, I had Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol and my doctor wanted to put me on pills." said Gauthier. "Now, Type 2 diabetes is gone and my blood sugar is perfect, thanks to CrossFit."

With its international appeal, people can find a facility when they travel or do the "workout of the day" (WOD) posted daily at

What started as a way of working out has morphed into a fierce international competition called the CrossFit Games, which ESPN televises.

The first level is the CrossFit Open where people perform the same workout while supervised by an accredited judge and submit results. The Open grew from 75,000 participants last year to 140,000 this year across the globe. The more elite advance to regionals and the international finals. Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Read more by Ashley Prest.


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