People frequenting Ramstein’s Northside Gym might occasionally notice a group of individuals walking on their hands, throwing around medicine balls and performing other seemingly odd workouts at all hours of the day.
Those people are part of a growing group of Ramstein athletes who subscribe to a workout program called CrossFit.
The program is a strength and conditioning program developed by Greg Glassman in the 1980s and is specifically aimed at law enforcement and military personnel. Since then, CrossFit has grown in popularity and is practiced all over the world.
“CrossFit is, in my opinion, the best program out there for total fitness,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Bowen, a foreign terminal instrument procedures specialist at U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters on Ramstein.
He described the CrossFit as a constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity, explaining that functional movements are something people do all the time like squatting, lifting things off the ground and lifting things over the head.
The program is not sport-specific and promotes broad and general overall physical fitness with a focus on cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy.
“If I’m downrange and bullets are flying over my head, and I have to pick up and drag my buddy a few hundred yards to safety with 50 pounds of gear on my back, I want to be able to do that,” Sergeant Bowen said. “I don’t want to look back and think I could not overcome that physical challenge. CrossFit is unique in the aspect that it was developed for that specific purpose.”
The sergeant said the training is very intense and some might feel intimidated when they first try the program, but he maintains that individuals do not have to be a super athlete to participate.
The workouts are scalable according to the individual’s level of experience, strength and stamina. He also pointed out that the Ramstein CrossFit group includes Airmen, Soldiers, teachers, spouses and even grandmothers.
“A lot of people want to come in and hit the workout just as is was prescribed with the intensity of people who have been doing it for a while,” Sergeant Bowen said. “That’s not the way it should be done. We leave our egos at the door, because if you don’t, it’ll soon be crushed by some of these workouts.”
He emphasized that the initial focus is to learn the mechanics of the various movements. Once athletes can perform the movements with good form they then move on to consistency.
“We want those functional movements developed through time, patience and training,” he said.
Once the form and consistency have been mastered, the focus changes to intensity.
“Now that you have the movements down and that you can do them correctly and consistently, let me see 50 of those as fast as you can do it,” he said. “You are not going to get there over night; however, if you stick to our workout regimen for four to six weeks, you are going to see results.”
To help athletes learn the movements, the Ramstein CrossFit group has more than 10 certified trainers who are available to teach anyone from beginners to more advanced athletes. CrossFit athletes train three days on and one day off, and each day has a different workout routine known as a workout of the day. The program’s weightlifting component includes complex, compound movements with heavy loads. CrossFit also uses kettle bells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars and many calisthenics exercises.
The Ramstein “crossfitters” are very motivated about the CrossFit program and are excited about the results.
“I’ve been doing CrossFit since February,” said Heather Wilkinson, a Ramstein High School teacher. “I was very skeptical when I first started, but I am now addicted. I couldn’t run at all when I first started, and now I run 5Ks and my time has gotten below 30 minutes. I can do push-ups and pull-ups, which I could never do before.”
Some athletes say the program has helped them with their PT scores. Angela Wagner, who recently separated from the Army, said she only started CrossFit in December but has managed to score maximum points in all categories of her last Army PT test – something she had not accomplished since college.
Senior Airman Daniel Dutcavich, a mental health technician with the 86th Medical Operations Squadron, said PT tests are no problem anymore and he scores “easy” hundreds every time now.
“I met Sergeant Bowen at a Total Fit training seminar and he told me about this (CrossFit), so I tried it out one time and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Airman Dutcavich said. “You stop thinking about working out so much and you just come out here and try to beat your own time and to beat your friends. So it just becomes a competitive sport more than actually working out. You look forward to doing it.”
Anyone interested in participating should start by checking out the Web site www.crossfitramstein.com. The Web site is full of useful information about CrossFit and also lists class and meeting times in the message board section of the page.
On Aug. 29, CrossFit Ramstein will be hosting a CrossFit competition from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ramstein Northside Fitness Center, which will be a great opportunity for others to come out and see what CrossFit is all about.