Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for Duty: October 2013

Sherry Dean   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

Crossfit Inc. has been around for more than 10 years now, but it continues to gain popularity, with Crossfit gyms cropping up everywhere.

Crossfit Inc. has been around for more than 10 years now, but it continues to gain popularity, with Crossfit gyms cropping up everywhere. Crossfit defines itself as “A regimen of constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity in a communal environment (which) leads to health and fitness.” The Crossfit community is tightly bonded and hugely supportive, which is one of the things I like the most about it. Each workout trains a different aspect of strength and conditioning to attain a fitness level, which readies you for all types of functional activity.

I cannot claim that I have expertise in the area of Crossfit. I have played with it over the past couple of years and have recently changed my workout to follow the workout of the day (WOD). I love setting goals, achieving results and discovering the practical application for fire fighting. So let me try to introduce you to a workout and explain some of the things to which you need to pay particular attention if you are going to try Crossfit.

Crossfit’s website,, publishes some great information, including videos of proper form, a blog, how to get started and, of course, the WOD. Without a background in Olympic weightlifting or gymnastics, you may find starting this program daunting. If you are starting this on your own rather than joining an affiliate, you need to take the utmost care with form and technique to avoid injury. Substituting exercises with similar ones with which you are already familiar is an excellent option for beginners.

The WOD involves as many reps or rounds as possible in a specified time frame, a specific number of repetitions per exercise, or a specific workout timed. As with a number of the other workout styles we have discussed, the principle of Crossfit incorporates intensity and 100 per cent commitment to achieving your best results. Maintaining good form is tricky as you tire during such intense workouts. Never risk injury; modify your exercise
rather than stop.


Crossfit workouts are primarily named after women, but there are plenty named after men. Let me introduce you to two WODs,
Barbara and Fran, to give two examples that don’t require much equipment. Remember to modify the workout if necessary, but don’t wimp out if you still have fuel left, even if it hurts a little (or a lot). Give 100 per cent to achieve the most you can. You’ll feel great when it’s all done. Before you start either of these WODs, do a three- to five-minute warm-up to ensure you are ready for the workload.

Workout No. 1: Barbara

  • Complete five rounds of the following workout. Time yourself so you have a benchmark to compare and monitor your progress. If you can’t do five rounds, do as many as you can and work up. 20 pull-ups/skip-ups – Make sure you clear your chin above the bar. Using bands, a chair or jump-ups are perfectly acceptable modifications. Don’t worry if you can’t do pull-ups yet. You will definitely get there soon with these workouts.
  • 30 push-ups – Crossfit push-ups are chest to the ground, but modify until you can do them. If you start on your toes and then go to your knees, it is better than starting on your knees!
  • 40 sit-ups – Place the bottom of your feet together and lean your knees out to the side. Perform full sit-ups (no crunches) with a towel under your lower back.
  • 50 air squats – Start with your heels shoulder width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward. Squat so that your thighs are parallel to the ground while your arms are straight out and slightly elevated. This keeps your head up and your chest open. Squatting to parallel each time is the key.

Workout No. 2: Fran
This workout requires more technical form for thrusters. Remember to modify if you haven’t done this before. Complete the full workout (with as little rest as possible) while timing yourself. Use your results to compare progress for future Frans.

21 thrusters – Use 29.5 kilograms (65 pounds) for women, and 43 kilograms (95 pounds) for men. Don’t worry if you can’t lift this weight to begin with. These are just the official Crossfit weights. Use a weight you can manage while maintaining good form but that is still challenging. Lift the bar to position it on shoulders. Squat and press the bar above your head. Return the bar to your shoulders and repeat.

  • 21 pull-ups/skip-ups
  • 15 thrusters
  • 15 pull-ups/skip-ups
  • 9 thrusters
  • 9 pull-ups/skip-ups

If you find this workout too difficult, try nine rounds of five reps of thrusters and pull-ups. It works out to the same number of repetitions, but requires a little less endurance.

I hope you find these workouts both challenging and a good introduction to Crossfit. Crossfit is just a peek into a more in-depth approach to overall fitness. It is not for everyone, but no matter your current fitness level, Crossfit’s philosophy is to modify the number of repetitions or weight rather than change the workout. I think it is a great way to train, but now it’s up to you to try it out. Good luck!

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service. She is an NFPA level 1 instructor with hazmat technician and special rescue certifications. Sherry has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training including the Scott FireFit Challenge, competitive bodybuilding, team sports and personal training. Contact her at

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