Behind The Scenes

Inside CrossFit training craze

Editor’s note: The final episodes of the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games will be televised on ESPN2 in primetime from 10-11 p.m. ET tonight and 10-11 p.m. ET tomorrow night. The CrossFit Games originally were presented via simulcast on ESPN3 in July.

For the past month, ESPN2 has televised the Reebok CrossFit Games — a multi-event athletic competition for men and women who compete in a series of rigorous workout challenges.

Sounds straightforward, but to truly appreciate The CrossFit Games, you have to grasp the concept of CrossFit.

On a recent visit to ESPN’s Bristol campus, CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman defined CrossFit as “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement.”

Get it? ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck gets it. So do countless ESPN employees and “CrossFitters” from around the world.

“It makes me feel functionally strong. That’s what it is — functional movements for human beings,” said Hasselbeck.

CrossFit exercises include a combination of Olympic lifts, sprints, powerlifting, swimming, endurance challenges, and more — all natural movements that can aid everyday people do everyday things.

“CrossFit is an approach to life. I feel like I’m going to eat well and workout this way because that’s who I am, not because I’m trying to look a certain way,” Hasselbeck said.

The former NFL quarterback has been doing CrossFit for three years now and learned about it in the same way many people have — from friends in the military.

“I had finished playing in the NFL and I wanted to work out and compete. A couple of friends in the army told me about CrossFit,” Hasselbeck said.

“While they were deployed, they started doing it, in part because it’s very convenient for soldiers to read workouts online and then do them. They don’t necessarily need a gym.”

Jessica Stewart, who works for ESPN Regional Television in Charlotte, N.C., is among several employees who are devoted to CrossFit training.

“We would each do the workout of the day, and then post our times in email chats. It was fun. It was competition, like fantasy football – a lot trash talking.

Hasselbeck wishes he knew about it during his playing days.

“If I felt this strong I would have continued playing. I wish I knew about it then,” said Hasselbeck.

“When I started, I immediately said something about it to my brother Matt (currently quarterbacking the Tennessee Titans). He was on the fence about it, but I finally convinced him and he started it prior to this season. He went into the season stronger than he has been in the past 10 years.

This begs the question: Has he ever considered competing in the CrossFit Games?

“I’ve thought about it a bunch. The competitors are so fit in every aspect. I could do certain workouts, yes. But other workouts I couldn’t do, like handstand push-ups.

“It’s incredible to see some of the things these athletes do. It speaks to mental toughness, in addition to the physical stuff.”

CrossFit is far more than sweating it out in the gym, according to Hasselbeck.

In fact, it can be a life saver.

“My Dad [former NFL tight end Don Hasselbeck] told me, ‘CrossFit saved my life.’ When he finished his NFL career, he was 40 pounds overweight and had gone through heart operations. He wasn’t healthy. He looks like a different person now. He moves like a different person now. I think CrossFit saved his life.”

If you’re thinking you need to be a current or former NFL player to do CrossFit, don’t worry.

The workout is designed for all ages, shapes and sizes. And, everyone has a different reason for doing it.

Jessica Stewart, administrative manager for ESPN Regional Television in our Charlotte, N.C. office, gave CrossFit her thumbs up.

“I have been doing CrossFit now for over a year now. I do it to show my kids that they have a strong mom. When I go in there and do my workouts, it shows them I’m committed.”

ESPN statistics analyst Daniel Riccio does CrossFit Football – a variation of CrossFit more focused on weightlifting.

“No workout is ever the same and I really enjoy that the programming is done for you and for free. The typical daily workout of the day only lasts 10-15 minutes at the most. It can include everything from kettle bell swings to pull ups to push-ups to hand stands done non-stop with little or no rest.”

Here’s the signature CrossFit workout known as Fran: Three rounds of Pull-Ups and Thrusters.

First round: 21 reps
Second round: 15 reps
Third Round: 9 reps

Sounds easy, right?

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