Body by Boston: Build Strength

By Casey Lyons | Boston Magazine |

WANT TO HOIST WEIGHTS like Arnold in Pumping Iron? Easy, champ. You’ll get those muscles toned. But take it slow. By and large, gym folk agree that pushing too hard at the outset creates a negative fitness association (working out = major ouch = to hell with workout) and can worsen underlying injuries. Instead, get an assessment from a qualified trainer to help identify potential problem areas, then start a workout program that balances your stronger and weaker points.


The Power Center

What no-frills gyms lack in equipment and amenities, they make up for with intensity.

The term CrossFit describes a proprietary workout system that uses body-weight exercises (think pull-ups and pushups) along with cruder instruments like kettlebells, medicine balls, and barbells for strength training. And it just may be the perfect workout for this city of achievers.

The proof is in the results. As Neal Thompson, founder of CrossFit Boston, says, “It’s type A.” Simply put: Strivers here are hard-wired to want the kind of demonstrable progress that these no-frills workouts provide.

[sidebar]On the surface, that’s what I was looking for when I decided to try it out. What I really wanted was to march my entire hunched-over-a-computer existence into hostile territory, and CrossFit is as hostile as it gets.

How so, you ask? Well, researching CrossFit invariably leads you to warnings about rhabdomyolysis, a type of exercise-induced kidney failure. Most fitness pros agree the exercise regimen itself is safe—that the problems have stemmed from isolated incidents with bad trainers—but make no mistake: CrossFit is kill-you serious.

On my first night, I went through an hourlong workout led by Thompson. I walked up walls into a handstand position and chucked medicine balls into the sky until my arms were so tired that my pushups looked like plank poses. It was three days before I could raise my arms above my head.

Then I went again. Not because it felt good, but because it hurt, and I knew it was working. A lot of people have stories like this. Weakness may escape the body through the dry heave, but it’s your own intensity that keeps you coming back.

Next page: How to pick a local trainer.

Illustration by Resident Alien

QUIZ: How to Pick a Local Trainer

Will you get better results from a mantra-reciting sensei or a boot-camp style coach? Herewith, our fitness match-making questionnaire.

What do you think about the picture to the right?
A.  Something I like way too much.
B.  Something I like in moderation.
C.  About 22 percent of my daily lean protein intake.
D.  A token of my lack of self-control.
Which phrase motivates you best?
A. “You should do it, but it’s OK if you can’t yet.”
B.  “You can do it!”
C.  “You can do it and here’s why.”
D.  “You’d better do it!”

My trainer is  
A.  My ticket to health.
B.  My fitness partner.
C.  My tutor.
D.  My master.
Favorite gym soundtrack?
A.  Softly encouraging words.
B.  Something with a beat!
C.  NPR.
D.  Sweat hitting the floor.
Mercy is  
A.  What I need right now.
B.  Something I earn.
C.  Intermittently necessary for proper muscle recovery.
D.  For the weak.

If I’m not at the gym, I’m most likely  
A.  Rehabbing.
B.  Doing something else.
C.  Reading the Economist.
D.  Weak, lazy scum.
Thinking about the gym makes me feel  
A.  Hopeful.
B.  Sometimes motivated, sometimes unmotivated.
C.  Scientifically detached.
D.  Like Rambo.
What is soreness?
A.  Something I’m hoping to avoid.
B.  Proof of my hard work.
C.  A buildup of lactic acids in muscle fibers.
D.  A way of life.
Which of these best defines your pain threshold?
A.  Stubbing my toe.
B.  Getting punched in the face.
C.  The minimum intensity of a stimulus that is perceived as painful.
D.  Nothing can break me.
I exercise to  
A.  Recover health and range of motion.
B.  Look good naked.
C.  Improve my ratio of lean muscle mass to fat.
D.  Fit into my wedding dress.

Find the answers on the next page!

If you answered…

Mostly A’s
Choose: The Healer
Charles Inniss
Private trainer at Beacon Hill Athletic Club, 1089 Washington St., West Newton,
Best for: Transitioning from physical therapy to fitness; just getting started.
Style: Laid-back and low-key.

Mostly B’s
Choose: The Wingwoman
Dara Zall Kelly
Peapod Fitness, 1285 Beacon St., Brookline,
Best for: Lifestyle and long-term health and fitness.
Style: Using positive reinforcement.

Mostly C’s
Choose: The Professor
John Sarsfield
Equinox Back Bay, 131 Dartmouth St., Boston,
Best for: Tech, business, or engineering professionals; the detail-oriented.
Style: Integrating technology such as heart-rate monitors for accountability.

Mostly D’s
Choose: The Drill Sergeant
CJ Murphy
Total Performance Sports, 68 Vine St., Everett,
Best for: Elite exercisers; brides-to-be.
Style: “I don’t make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.
I make you feel like you can do better every time.”


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