Any of you who have been good enough to follow me and my writing over the years will know that I’m a strong advocate of outdoor pursuits. I’m all about getting away from recycled air and strip lights and banks of TVs… but on this occasion I’m going to do a bit of an about-turn.

And there is good reason for this  so all you fellow outdoor-enthusiasts don’t worry, I haven’t gone to the dark side!

I was made aware of one man’s tremendous efforts to get competitive gym based crosstraining into the mainstream consciousness and to see it accepted as something of a sport in its own right. And he was at it a good time before Crossfit came into view.


Challenge Yourself!

The notion of working through a set course of apparatus and exercise disciplines against the clock has been around in some form or other for a good few years. And during my years in competitive fitness the crosstraining aspect was a key element and something I quite enjoyed. And if any of us seriously planned to challenge for any given title we had to prepare very hard for this particular aspect. Looking good in a bikini meant nothing if that body didn’t also function well!

The training towards these events was tough. Normally there were 10 disciplines that covered a comprehensive mixture of body strength and cardio blasts. They would design it so that the engaged muscle group would be pretty much finished by the time it had to move on to the next apparatus and body part. The adjudicating was vigilant and any sloppy repetition of a step up or chin up was marked down. And those who simply saw it as an exercise in charging around the ten stations at great speed were likely to come unstuck. It was important to be strategic, breaking down sections and making every muscle fibre exertion, energy expenditure and second worthwhile.

I quickly learned that if you wanted to be queen crosstrainer, just being good at a variety of other sports could never be enough to see you through – you had to train as a crosstrainer.

joey bull crossfitAnd this is where it perhaps becomes hard to convince some people. Everything we do in the gym is essentially seen as preparation and conditioning for other pursuits as well as our day-to-day functional fitness. But the fact is some very well conditioned people are not necessarily great at ball sports, or track and field or swimming and suchlike. But a ‘Gym Sport’ gives them a great platform to excel and show the benefits of their dedicated training. Olympic decathletes are rarely the very best at any given discipline but it is their their all-round capability and versatility that is truly outstanding.


The crosstrainer might not be a stunning sprinter, middle distance runner, rugby or hockey player, but their all round capacity for physical performance, not to mention  dedication and determination are worthy of  a sporting ‘arena’ and certainly deserving of acknowledgement and celebration.

And it has the capacity to be completely inclusive – men and  women split into age groups, Junior, Masters and Veteran categories, novices… Something for everyone. No ‘skill’ is required as such and all anybody really needs is the desire to have a go.

We all know bodybuilding is a large worldwide industry that – although opinion is divided – is seen as a sport by many. And it has its own celebrity names, publications and products. So with that in mind it’s hard to argue against competitive gym based multi-discipline events being being accorded the same status. It is certainly a more rounded and practical pursuit in terms of it general benefits and their application to daily life and other possible sporting interests.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I have been made aware of the efforts of Sean Blythe who has thrown his heart, soul and time into establishing ‘World Gym Challenge‘ and he is evangelical about championing its cause. The idea is that you get involved through the website and are able to post your personal performances results as well as competing against others if you wish. You can also create national and international inter-gym competitions and rivalry too!

As with most challenges the real aim is to better yourself and be the best you can, and if that’s enough to keep you in front then great. By taking what might be regular aspects of your gym training routine and turning them into something that is a challenge in its own right you create a new motivation. It also becomes a great way of measuring where you are in terms of your performance conditioning. And there’s nothing like the stark reality of facts and figures to give you a lift or to drive you onwards to improvement. It will reinforce your strengths and emphasize your weaknesses. It is always good to know where you are strong, but better to know where you are weaker.

And you can always get a taste for this at home if you’ve got a few basic items of equipment. If you happen to have a treadmill, bike, rower, crosstrainer or ski machine set yourself a distance (nothing mad, maybe 800m-1000m), then tackle a set number of press ups, followed by squats, followed by dumbbell shoulder presses, then sit ups, then bench presses to conclude. Make sure every target is normally attainable in its own right. There’s no point aiming for going for 40 press ups if 42 is your best ever, or attempting to bench three quarters of your best lift 30 times. The numbers and weights must be possible for you but, when performed one after another, should leave you with very little in the tank!

And make sure that stop watch is running, you don’t want to start again half way through! You’ll derive great pleasure from seeing how your times improve and how your body adapts and rises to these great challenges.

I know I’ve always advocated getting out and about for our activities – whether gentle or vigorous, and I still adhere to that philosophy. But I’m also all in favour of anything that is about people being more active, fitter, setting themselves goals and striving to improve, and I can think of few better ways than gym sports like the World Gym Challenge.

Sean Blythe has a determined vision and absolute belief in encouraging others through his World Gym Challenge and I hope some of you have a look at his website and maybe test yourself against all comers from around the globe!

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