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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 31/12/2013

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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) With his spotter spurring him on, Zuhair al Zadjali picks himself off the floor and launches up at the overhead bar for a final 'bodyblaster'.

In between short, laboured breaths, he wills his tired legs up to his chest. ''And that's ten! Yalla!'' the spotter yells.

Both sprint across to an unattended barbell and dig in deep to bust out a quick set of 20 power snatches. A former amateur powerlifter, Zadjali is now in his element. It's his turn to coax ''just one more'' lift from his partner.


Crossfitters work out anywhere and with anything. At least once a month, they gather outdoors - hauling tractor tyres on beaches

Around them, ten other pairs are making their way through the designated 'workout of the day' (WOD). The clangour of metal on concrete accompanied by the grunt of effort elicits a smile from Abdullah al Kindy. In recognition of his nuptials the next day, the honour of designing the day's WOD had been his. It's ''Abdullah's Bachelor Party'' (workout), the whiteboard lets know.

Catching his breath between 'burpee' sets, Kindy's cousin Asim al Kiyumi seems to mutter, ''Some bachelor party!'' But time is a-wasting. It's a dash back to the bar for another round (one of seven) of lifts. The red timer overhead winds down, bringing an end to the ordered chaos that began near half an hour ago. They call this sort of workout (four or more different exercises) a ''chipper''. Hard to see why, amid the dripping brows and panting tongues.

''It's somewhere between an Usain Bolt-style sprint and a marathon,'' said Saeed al Marhoobi, providing apt analogy for the time-based, high-intensity conditioning programme that's fast catching on in Oman. It's called CrossFit Tempo and, for a little over a year now, Marhoobi and his fellow trainers at RevGX (short for Revolution Group Exercise) have been instructing a swelling classroom in its method.

A combination of the general fitness disciplines - cardiovascular exercise, weight lifting and gymnastics, the CrossFit programme has found takers from across the board.

Starting out with six members in a small space in Mawaleh last December, RevGX's 'Crossfitters' now number near 150. Step into their penthouse CrossFit box' (the ''first and only one in Oman'') in Azaiba and you see why this is no run-of-the-mill gym. Literally. There's not a whirring treadmill to be seen or heard. Cheery fellowship and the squeaks of hustling sneakers dominate the soundscape, drowning out even the pulsing metronome beat.


Crossfitters work out anywhere and with anything. Kindy lifts. His WOD is on the white board

Equally conspicuous in their absence are the multi-gym machines and the bench press set-up. ''This is a no-machine zone,'' trainer Rashid al Barwani said. ''When you come here, you are the machine.'' Catchy spiel, to be sure, but it's a core tenet of the CrossFit dogma. One taken to heart in RevGX.

In a 2,000sq m space of free weights and pull-up rope frames, the only concession is the sit-up machine in a corner.

Neither the owners nor the members would have it any other way. ''Traditional gyms allow you to stay in a comfort zone. Every day, you go and exercise focusing on a specific body part - chest one day, the back the next, shoulders the day after. Just isolating one muscle a day - that's being in a comfort zone,'' said Issam al Ismaily, who started RevGX with co-owners Marhoobi, Barwani and Mohamed al Sharji to ''build both local athletes and a culture of athleticism''.

Barwani added, ''It's an alternative to the gym. The majority of our members have tried out other gyms and been working out for ten to 12 years. They have reached a certain level, from where you cannot improve anymore on just a 2D machine.''

''There's no routine here. You can come here over 365 days and never have the same workout. It's a new challenge everyday.'' Which is why, he said, people, even though they hold memberships at other gyms, come here since ''a half hour CrossFit workout is equivalent to a three-hour gym session.''

But besides veteran gymbodies looking to climb out of the dreaded plateau - and there are several from a wide range of fitness backgrounds: from bodybuilding to beach football - the CrossFit lifestyle' holds appeal and benefits for total newbies.
''People of all ages, all sizes, all skill levels can be a part of it. It does not cater to any one group nor is it a race between members,'' Marhoobi said. ''There's no ego allowed here.''

While CrossFit's emphasis on short-rest, time-bound exertion has drawn flak elsewhere for supposedly not stressing safety and even been attributed to sporadic instances of serious injury, Marhoobi said the ''idea is not to stress you or cause you harm''. The workouts do go for 30 exacting minutes. But the intensity is scaled to individual capability

''There's a lot of different stuff we do to enhance the workout while taking skill levels into account: Scaling down the weights, lowering repetitions, and even limiting some movements.''
In addition, he said, there are eight foundation classes for all comers, which ''give you the basics on doing the workouts without hurting yourselves. How to lift the bar, how to become efficient, how to engage the core''.

''There's a bubble we push you out of. When you come here, the workout is chosen for you. It doesn't just push you physically. It's also mental - adapting to the challenge of a changing workout. The challenge of the unknown.''

For Zadjali, that meant moving out of his lifting' comfort zone and emphasising cardio and flexibility. Competing in the heavyweight class as a member of the national powerlifting team, he was ''always overweight''. ''Although I could lift heavy weights, I couldn't run fast or for a long time. Then I saw videos of crossfitters doing weird things with snatches' and cleans' that I'd never seen in competition. The weights they used and the repetitions, it all seemed impossible.''

Kiyumi thought the same when ''Abdullah dragged me'' into the box. ''I told Issam that it was impossible for me. But in the end, I finished the workout. I signed up at the end of the class.'' As did Imad al Khaifi, though he couldn't keep his food down after those early sessions. Today, he feels ''sick if I don't come everyday''. ''I don't feel right. Sometimes I skip college classes to come here.''

''And if someone doesn't come, we call and ask why,'' said Kiyumi, adding that the small group sizes (a maximum of 20 members) allowed for both personalised attention from the coaches and an almost familial closeness between the group.

Hence the ode to Kindy's lost bachelorhood as also birthdays and other significant life events. And hence also the growing local appreciation for CrossFit workouts and RevGX that, with recently begun women's classes, figures to get louder.

''We had ladies who couldn't lift an unweighted bar or do a pull-up when they started. But you should see them now,'' said Marhoobi.

''Everyone has to start somewhere. And everyone has to finish. Finishing first is exactly the same as finishing last. T


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