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Johana Hernandez, Spring 2014

The trend of fitness: New gym-goers give extreme exercise a try

Going to the gym or starting an intense workout program sounds like a good opportunity to get more fit and to be a part of a San Diego trend. But it can be challenging in the long run, especially for the first time without the proper knowledge and the right motivation. Local trainers say what you don’t know when it comes to fitness can hurt.


CrossFit member stretches out with his trainer before he starts working out. Photo by: Johana Hernandez

People who are not ready to start a heavy exercise routine will start working out to an extreme without proper dieting to avoid gaining fat, said Katherine Turner, a professor of abnormal psychology at San Diego State University.

“They need to educate themselves first when they start working out,” Turner said. “It’s not about the more you work out, the better the results. It’s not about just looking skinny. It’s a combination of proper dieting and proper training to be healthy.”

Injury costs tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 range from $650 million to $100 billion dollars from instances of damaged shoulders, lower back and knees.

Who is responsible for staying safe?

San Diego chiropractor, Keith Jeffers, who calls himself “the Running Doctor,” said the fitness trend of extreme exercise can be dangerous if you’re trying it out for the first time, particularly for women.

“I don’t think you should have a 40-year-old woman doing lunges and squats,” Jeffers said. “They are more likely to get hurt than others younger than 40.” According to him, proper training is a combination of both the program and the participant.

“People need to know their ability but also educate themselves about the program they are doing,” Jeffers said. “Is the program certified? Are the trainers well-educated? These are concerns everyone should consider.”


CrossFit gym list rules to motivate its members and follow the exercise routines in a proper way. Photo by: Johana Hernandez

Certified Trainer, Ricardo Guzman, from the American College of Sports Medicine, said the trainers of Crossfit and other programs such as Insanity and P90X are used to training experienced athletes, therefore, they can be a little too tough for the average gym member.

“That is why first timers should be aware of what they are getting themselves into when they work with these intense trainers,” said Guzman. “The trainers can go hard sometimes and forget people have different levels of strength so the trainers also have to be aware.”

Not only are the programs hardcore, but they are also easy to access. Just go on YouTube and type an Insanity or P90X workout you’re looking for and you’ll instantly have the workouts on your screen. This does add convenience for the person to workout in their home, but because of the easy access, this leads to more potential injuries since there is no supervision, Guzman said. On top of no supervision, these programs are aggressive and beginners need expertise.


Exercise to get fit or to fit in?

Jeffers said he sees a number of patients who get injured from overdoing programs such as CrossFit, a popular fitness program that combines the mixture of gymnastics and body building. Most of the time, these patients are women who are new to working out.

People are in such a hurry that they will find an easy way to get to their goal, which includes overworking out or finding a video on YouTube, Guzman says.

According to BodyBuilding representative, Brandon Huls, CrossFit has grown to more than 2,000 gyms nationwide. The program’s popularity though, has spurred controversy.

“I think because there are so many CrossFit gyms, it gives individuals who are new to exercise an easy access to the program,” Huls said. “This can lead to potential injuries. It’s impossible for an unskilled person to participate in a system like CrossFit without injuring themselves.”

Huls said that most of these injured participants could be the ones going into the program for the first time because of the trend.

“I remember this new guy joining the program like if it was going to be a simple task,” Huls said. “He was doing one pull-up and jumped up, carrying the bar with him to the next level above him and unfortunately he did not make it and the bar almost fell on him.”

Mission Gorge CrossFit gym owner and trainer, Ian McHugh, agrees that the popularity of the program can lead to attracting some of the wrong participants.

“If you are here for the trend of it, you’re here for the wrong reason,” McHugh said. “Most likely you will get injured.”

For Maximiliano Garcia, a CrossFit member from the Los Angeles area, the results come from the way the program handles its members in the end.

“I feel there are a lot of people joining because it’s a new thing,” Garcia said. “There are a lot of them who don’t know much but it really depends on the coach and how they teach their students.”

Guzman also recognizes the trend aspect, that has been fueled through social media. He said he does support people getting out there and doing something, although he knows there are some who have hidden intentions.

“I know people can’t wait to get to the gym just to take that selfie,” Guzman said. “They want to take a picture and make sure to post it on Instagram. It’s a social media thing.”

                                A CrossFit member explains her reasons for joining the fitness trend and what the CrossFit gym has to offer.

The CrossFit Community

Despite the risks of the program, CrossFit is popular among professional athletes, but because they are more experienced, they know how to avoid injury, Huls said.

Although these fitness programs are favorites among professional athletes, they are open to the public and therefore, they can be modified for the all types of participants. CrossFit is an example of a modified program despite it’s reputation as an extreme workout.

By collecting scores and keeping track of the members’ performance, the workouts are modified based on each member’s ability. When you walk into the Mission Gorge CrossFit gym, you see many motivational posters and banners that stand out in order to catch the members’ attention and make each of them feel comfortable. One of the banners screams “leave your pride at home.”

Due to the community aspect of the program, people are driven to join and start a new lifestyle, McHugh said.

Garcia got into CrossFit once he noticed how much his brother was enjoying it.

“He said it was fun and he had never felt so fit,” Garcia said. “So I joined but also because I wanted to be a part of the community.” Garcia has also worked hard enough to not get injured by following his trainer’s instructions. “The trainers don’t allow us to lift heavy if we have bad form so we can prevent an injury,” Garcia said.

McHugh said the program is intense but it is modified as well when it comes to its members.

“By knowing each individual, the trainers work them out based on their ability,” McHugh said. “Even if you are new, we start from the bottom with you.”

Do it for you but don’t do it alone

In order to get satisfying, lasting results, it’s best to avoid the trend because you will get skinny then gain weight, Guzman said. “Do it with a friend. It’s motivating and you’ll get something worked out, and release stress.”


CrossFit members’ scores are written down after their workout class to see the progress for their next class. Photo by: Johana Hernandez

Stress-relief reduces gaining fat because of cortisol which is a stress hormone, Guzman said.

When coming into this new lifestyle, Jeffers had some advice for new gym goers. “First understand why you want to do it,” Jeffers said. “Don’t just join because others are doing it, too.”

Huls said one shouldn’t decide to join a workout program or the gym just because of its reputation and “word of mouth.” It’s a lifestyle, not just a phase.





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