This article was taken from the March 2011 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content bysubscribing online.
If you're finding your workouts boring, try Crossfit. "Fitness is now fluffy towels and steam rooms. The idea of working hard has been lost," says Steven Shrago, head of Crossfit London. "There are no two ways about it -- if you want to get stronger, you have to lift heavy weights. And it's hard."
What is it? "Crossfit tries to equip you with the means to give anything a go," says Shrago. "We draw ideas from powerlifting -- deadlifting, squatting, pressing; Olympicweighlifting -- the snatch, the clean and jerk; and gymnastics, be it squatting, pull-ups, push-ups, ring work, or general balance work. And cardio: running, rowing, skipping, jumping..."
How to do it Crossfit blends these disciplines in a series of short, intensive workouts, some (e.g. deadlifting) as short as a second. "It's functional movements, performed at high intensity, constantly varied to keep the body guessing," Shrago says. Join a Crossfit gym (see tinyurl.com/crossfituk), and perhaps invest in a pull-up bar and some gymnastic rings for home.
Change your diet Crossfit enthusiasts often subscribe to the "Zone" diet, which works with specific volumes of food set in ratios of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs), or to the "Paleo" diet, in which you eat only food that was available before tractors. "As soon as you look at food in the way it was designed for our bodies, you start to see huge results," says Shrago.
Reap the benefits "Just doing some basic functional movements increases your range of motion," says Shrago. "We've got people who have packed on loads of muscle. We've got a woman who used to ride horses -- her knees took a terrible beating. She had to take painkillers for years to keep the swelling down. Now she says she hasn't had to take them."
Don't be intimidated "We've tried to demystify weightlifting, and make it fun," Shrago says. Beginners to Crossfit should gradually familiarise themselves with the core movements, starting out with very light weights or none at all. Age is no bar: 60-year-olds have the same regime as anyone else, but with weights and reps and movements more suited for their abilities.