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Health & Fitness

Testing Limits with CrossFit

FirstPower Fitness Owner and cross fit level two certified coach Bryant Swenson
FirstPower Fitness Owner and cross fit level two certified coach Bryant Swenson at his gym in Galleria. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG 

eFitness means many things to many people. Fitness is Eliud Kipchoge being able to run 42 kilometers in under two hours. Fitness is also Kenya’s strongest professor (of epidemiology), 58-year-old Elizabeth Bukusi, mother of four, grandmother of two, and ardent weightlifter, participating in the recent Kenya’s Strongest Man competition.

The more you specialise in one form of fitness, the more you sacrifice certain other aspects of all round robustness. However, in CrossFit, there is no specialisation. The aim is to make one competent in all the areas. These include speed, endurance, strength, power and agility.

CrossFit, an international affiliation started in America, “is a hard thing to define”, admits Bryant Swenson, CrossFit level 2 certified trainer and owner of First Power Fitness at the Galleria Mall.

Large bay doors lead to a utilitarian warehouse-style 1,000 square feet gym. The naturally lit space with a high ceiling, industrial scale overhead fan, creates the perfect outdoorsy feel to an otherwise intimidating space.

Yes, CrossFit does look like an advanced military fitness training, obviously great for people with a career in security, is fast becoming a go-to fitness activity for the health conscious citizenry. It involves lots of weights, pull ups, push-ups, rowing, running and squats, to mention but a few, certainly never a dull day at the gym.

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FirstPower Fitness Owner and cross fit level two certified coach Bryant Swenson

FirstPower Fitness Owner and cross fit level two certified coach Bryant Swenson during a session at his gym in Galleria. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

For example, one set could be, 5 pull ups, 10 push-ups, 15 body squats repeated as many times as possible in 20 minutes. It’s more than gymnastics and other mono structural workouts such as running and rowing or jumping rope. There’s weight lifting involved with deadlifts, shoulder press, kettle bell movements too done at high intervals.

Swenson admits “when people walk in, and see this, they feel intimidated. But people need to understand that we all had to start somewhere. We start in the beginning to build fitness. Some say cross fit is too intense. The intensity of the workout is however defined by you. Our goal is to get you to the fitness level where you feel it as much as the expert does, while customizing every movement.”

Gymnastics rings with multiple uses, rowers, skiers, barbells, weights, medicine balls, kettle bells, dumb bells are spaced in no special order at the gym that boasts a membership of 150 regular clients, with several members in their sixties. The colours; red, white, black and grey mute the intensity mirrored in Bryant, serial fitness entrepreneur, who’s first gym business was in Utah, in the States, where it expanded thrice before moving to his current space in Galleria Mall in 2019.

The branded reception with a smiling Lauren Swenson, welcomes the visitor to the communal space with a fresh smoothie, snack corner dubbed Doré on the side.

First Power Fitness is one of two CrossFit certified gyms in the country. The other being CrossFit Kwetu in Gigiri. First Power has six certified coaches. Of this Bryant says “coaching is really important”. This is the reason he flew out his coaches to the nearest CrossFit certification center, in Dubai, and worked with them for nine months, before opening the meticulously sanitized fitness space to the public.

FirstPower Fitness Owner and cross fit level two certified coach Bryant Swenson

FirstPower Fitness Owner and cross fit level two certified coach Bryant Swenson during a session at his gym in Galleria. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

CrossFit creator Greg Glassman took the best of gymnastics, weightlifting, and cardio, and created a form of exercise that will have you feeling like you’ll die first time you try it but in the words of Bryant “chase performance and aesthetics will follow.”

“Every workout is cardio. You can get your heart rate up by lifting weights. We have a competitive element to our workouts, with a timer to increase the power out of the body per session.”

It is important to note that “every work out is different. Muscle confusion is the key element here. Creating multi-muscle movements, constantly varying the movements at high intensity” so your body can burn as much fat as it can, whilst building new muscle in the process. This means eating meats, seeds, fruits, vegetables while reducing sugars, to complement the workout regimen.

Every Friday, for the next five weeks, First Power is participating in the cross fit open, through its ‘Friday Night Lights’. The open, is a global phenomenon where for 2.5 hours, people can watch participants do more competitive workouts of the day that are printed from the cross fit website, and the best in the country listed in order of points on the app, with the best man and women going to compete at next year’s cross fit games.

Bryant concludes by saying, “we train for life. If an emergency happens, I want to be able to help others and myself. I’m not in a rush to get business, I’m all about doing it right.”

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