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CrossFit workout regiment hits Golden Crescent gyms

By Jessica Rodrigo
Jan. 7, 2013 at 11:03 a.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.

Sylvia Acosta, back, performs burpees during a CrossFit session at Fit Strong United. To do a burpee one stands, then drops to a squat position, changes to a plank position and then squats again before returning to a standing position.

What is CrossFit?

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.

Source: CrossFit.com

When Sylvia Acosta turned 50, she made a decision to get in shape and get healthy. So after trying a number of exercise regiments, including Zumba and aerobics, she became a member of the CrossFit community.

CrossFit is a training program that started in the late 1990s and has spread to gyms across the United States.

In the Golden Crescent, there are a small handful of gyms that are following the workout fad. One of the those gyms is Fit Strong United, more commonly known as FSU.

Owner and trainer Isaac Almeida is a certified CrossFit trainer and has been sharing his knowledge of the program for a year and a half.

He started his training career in 2006 when he served as the trainer for himself and his wife when they wanted to lose weight. They lost 60 pounds each during the transformation, and Almeida keeps a photo of his former self in his office as proof of what working out can do.

He turned to CrossFit when he was looking for a way to keep the weight off. It wasn't just the high-intensity strength training that appealed to him but also the camaraderie that came with it.

"People come in and they feel like they're not going to get judged," he said. "We're all here to get fit and healthy."

CrossFit has grown to include more than 4,000 affiliated gyms across the United States, according to CrossFit.com. Almeida's program at FSU has about 130 members varying in age from kids to seniors.

Almeida advised against people practicing the regiment at home to avoid potential problems, whether by creating new injuries or re-injuring old ones. His best advice is to get certified.

The certification, which can be completed during a weekend, he said, will teach athletes all the proper techniques and stances that prevent injuries. Almeida continues to learn more about new exercises and also teaches his group at FSU about nutrition.

"I have found new muscles that I didn't know I had before," Acosta said with excitement. "So far, so good."

In the beginning, Acosta participated in the workout directed by Almeida just twice a week until she felt she was improving. As she got better at the exercises - usually a combination of running, jumping and lifting weights - she started attending the workouts three times a week. She said the program has helped her continuously lose weight at a steady pace.

When she arrives at FSU at 5:30 p.m., she's ready for whatever Almeida has prepared for the group of about 15 to 20 other people.

Her favorite part about the program is pushing herself to work harder. Although Almeida is the trainer, she said, he doesn't push her beyond what she knows she can do. The program is challenging, but for her, feeling better and stronger is the best payoff.

"At 50, there needed to be a change for the future," Acosta said. "There's no such thing as too old."

Since she started the program, she lost 50 pounds and has suffered minimal injuries. The injuries, she said, were minor and happened from falling during a running exercise or not jumping high enough onto equipment.

Aside from the workout, she likes that there isn't that much equipment involved. The workouts might include weights and jump ropes, but oftentimes, she said, they use their bodies for resistance.

Trainers, including Almeida, will argue that improper techniques and form are often the culprit of any injuries suffered by athletes.

"You can pick something up off the ground that weighs less than a pound and get hurt," he said. "What we try to do is teach people how to do it properly."

CrossFit is a combination of running, lifting and squatting actions performed throughout the day, he said.

At the end of the CrossFit regime at FSU, Acosta may be short of breath and her hair may be soaked with sweat, but she's more than pleased with the workout. Not one to back down from the challenge of getting into shape, she offered some words of encouragement to anyone who was skeptical about CrossFit.

"I would say, 'Try it.'"

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