New US Military Workout Scheme comes to St Ives I thought I was fit, so going to a session of an American workout scheme called CrossFit in St Ives was a rather humbling experience. It is tailored for people of all ages and fitness, and is used extensive

New US Military Workout Scheme comes to St Ives

I thought I was fit, so going to a session of an American workout scheme called CrossFit in St Ives was a rather humbling experience.

It is tailored for people of all ages and fitness, and is used extensively by the US military but has only recently crossed the Atlantic.

CrossFit South is a training session that involves exercises that can be done anywhere, such as press ups, sit ups and squats. "It's based on gymnastics and Olympic weight lifting, a circuit that's different each time," said instructor Lissette Bonin-Casey, 41, from St Ives. "It can be used to keep anyone fit, from an 80-year-old to a child, for sports or just general fitness. The idea is that we tailor it so that if you're injured you can still come and get a good workout.

"All the movements are based on things you can do and the exercises are different each time. You can't train for it because it changes every week and your body can't get used to it so it's constantly improving your fitness."

The CrossFit session I attended started with a quick warm up session of dodge ball before we moved on to press ups, sit ups, squats and stretches. We then did timed sessions whereby each person had to do as many sit ups as they were able to whilst using proper technique in 30 seconds. Everyone then announced their score before another 30 second round in which you had to score as high as the first, and this continued for six or seven rounds. The same thing was then repeated with squats before a few more exercises were practiced.

The class then did a circuit (pictured) that included five exercises - steps downs with a jump in between changing, geckos (a press up whereby when you are down you must raise one knee to touch your elbow, then repeat with the opposite knee on the next one), squats with a heavy ball that you have to throw when going up, deadlifts with a bar that you must push above your head and squats where you must pick a weight up off the floor and raise it to your shoulders. The class did one circuit including all the exercises with a minute of each, and a second circuit with 20 seconds of each.

The USA has about five to ten affiliates that practice CrossFit classes in every state, and there are currently over 25 in the UK, with two new ones opening this year alone. It became popular in the USA shortly after Greg Glassman fromSanta Cruz, California, launched a website in February 2001 with daily CrossFit workouts. He soon picked up interest from police, firefighters and the military, who all now use it as a training schedule.

Bonin-Casey's husband Pat, 36, who serves in the Marines, described it as "a constantly varied programme with functional movements executed at a high intensity."

The Bonin-Caseys started teaching CrossFit sessions last April at the Ivo outdoor centre. They spent a fortnight in America getting qualified in San Francisco and Oakland, California. "It's been fun since we started doing it and the group has regulars that have become hooked and come week in week out and have supported us really well," said Lissette Bonin-Casey, who works as a teacher part time. "It's getting more popular and I think it will this year. As it's all coached this makes a massive difference to circuit training.

"There's more focus on your fitness and technique and safety is paramount. Anyone can come from total beginners to proper athletes."

The class who came to the session I did certainly seemed to get a good workout. Many of them have been coming since the Bonin-Caseys started it and have kept coming since then.

Mark Thompson, 43, is a swimming development officer from St Ives. "I find it hard work as I regard myself as pretty fit but this improved my fitness twofold. I love it and I don't do any other training now," he said. "I needed something new to train with and this has been brilliant as we don't know what we will get and learn new techniques and exercises every week."

"I guess you could call it enjoyment, I have definitely seen my fitness improve because of it," said environment agency worker Karen Paterson, 36, from Houghton.

"It's good fun and quite enjoyable and I've definitely seen my fitness improve vastly," said software engineer Jamie Kirk, 35, from Abbots Ripton. "I was circuit training but you get used to that whereas this is different each week."

Darran Gray, 33, from St Neots, is a teacher who made it his New Year's resolution to come. "It's hard work and it was nice that she adapts it because I have a bad back and it was changed for me so I will definitely be coming back. I could feel it and I'm sure that if I continue doing it then I'll get fitter."

The CrossFit class was certainly hard work, and I could still feel the after effects in the morning. It was fun to be doing the exercises with other people and the trainers made sure you do the exercises properly and get the correct, safe technique. It certainly seems a good way to get fit and the way the classes work make it suitable for anyone.

CrossFit South classes run from 6pm to 7pm on Mondays during term time at the St Ives Parish Church Hall on Ramsey Road. Classes cost £5 with no joining fee and the next one will be on January 26.