I finally had the opportunity to try a CrossFit training at a box when visiting my parents in Lyon. (There are now about 3 CrossFit boxes in Amsterdam, but they’re all located pretty far away from where I live). Having now a CrossFit box 15 min away from my parents’ house, I jumped on the occasion to try out a free introductory session, even though I know I wouldn’t be able to commit to a monthly membership.
CrossFit in Lyon
CrossFit was introduced in France in 2012, so it’s still a pretty ‘new’ thing over there. The box has been open since september 2012 and now counts around 130 members. It is run by two young French guys, Mathieu and Nicolas, who both have a background in Sports Science. They both speak fluent English and enjoy practising it, which makes the box a great gym for expats. The gym is located in a quiet street of the Monchat neighboorhood, nearby the Grange-Blanche Metro station.
The box looks a bit like an old garage, but it is big enough to accommodate the trainings (which are limited to 10 participants per session). The only thing I missed however was a couple of gym lockers to leave my stuff in the changing room.
Mathieu told me there are only 25 women out of the 130 members. However, he added that female members tend to train more regularly, whereas a part of the male members don’t show up as consistently. There’s consequently an average of about 1-2 female participants per training session.
My preconceptions about CrossFit
I must admit I had some preconcived ideas about CrossFit. First, many workout videos I had seen on Youtube were using horrible ‘heavy metal’ rock music that I did not like at all. Whatever the kind of training, if I really hate the music, I can’t enjoy the training, even if the exercises are great!
It turns out that CrossFit coaches are free to choose the music they want. So fortunately no ‘heavy metal’ or misogynist ‘gangster rap’ during the introductory session :-)
Second preconception: CrossFit is something for wealthy people / hipsters, it’s expensive for what it is, with an average membership price of 70 euro per month.
This is indeed kind of true if you compare CrossFit gyms with regular gyms (from 15 to 50 euro per month in Europe). And given the fact that most CrossFit gyms don’t offer flexible hours (meaning showing up whenever you want without booking any class in advance) or ‘open gym’ (meaning working out on your own), they do seem expensive.
But the truth of the matter is, you can’t really compare a CrossFit gym with a regular gym, because they just don’t offer the same services. It would be like comparing a cooking club with a self-service restaurant; they don’t have the same purpose anyway. The self-service restaurant is all about offering convenience and a broad choices of products, while the cooking club is all about building a community and making people accountable.
If I had a CrossFit gym in my neighboorhood in Amsterdam I would probably subscribe, but I still wouldn’t cancel my ‘regular gym’ membership.
I actually see a CrossFit membership as an alternative to personal training rather than an alternative to a gym membership: like personal training, you have to book your sessions in advance, you’re accountable for your training and you get support and guidance. When you consider a CrossFit membership as an alternative to personal training, the price is actually pretty reasonable.
The introductory session
The free introductory session at CrossFit Lyon began with a short course over the CrossFit principles. After a quick warm-up, Nicolas, the coach, explained the series of exercises we had to perform:
– 6 wall balls
– 6 jumping pull-ups (jumping from a box and using your legs to pull yourself up)
– 6 small sprints
As many repetitions as possible for 6 minutes.
Nicolas said it was best to start at a moderate pace and accelerate towards the end to get better results and progress. I must admit I always tend to do the exact opposite (start quick and finish slow) when I do HIIT or bootcamps…
The 6 minutes were intense, but I was a little torn between trying to perform the movements with nice form (meaning slowly), and trying to hurry up to end up with more repetitions than the two other participants. Nicolas said CrossFit wasn’t necessarily about being competitive, but I definitely had a little voice in my head saying “I want to beat these two other guys or at least not end up as the last one”.
I was surprised there was no cooling-down or any kind of stretching at the end. Nicolas explained that the sessions were already full of mobility and flexibility work because all the exercises were performed in a full range of motion.
Conclusion: my opinion
I was pretty happy with the session, it pretty much matched my expectations (meaning I expected to be completely out of breath after 6 minutes …). I enjoyed Nicolas’ coaching style : upbeat and though, but without being pushy, arrogant or ”know-it-all”. And he remembers the names of each gym member, which I really appreciate. (Many trainers here in Amsterdam still don’t know me after several years going to their gym… I would change gym if it wasn’t the closest gym to my apartment!).
Since I don’t live in Lyon, I unfortunately can’t commit to a CrossFit subscription at that box, knowing that I couldn’t go there regularly enough to justify the price. It’s a pitty the single training sessions are expensive (15 euro per session, the introductory session was free). But I understand that the purpose of a CrossFit gym is to create a community of regular members, thus selling monthly memberships in priority.
My opinion on CrossFit Lyon in a nutshell:
• Undeniably very effective workouts (if practiced regularly of course).
• Progress are monitored and you’re held accountable.
• Makes you feel a bit competitive, even if you’re not inclined to compete.
• “Group dynamics”-effect pushes you to do more.
• You have to sign up in advance for each and every session on the Internet, you can’t just ‘show up’ unexpected.
• You can’t train alone and “do your own thing” in a quiet corner.
• No stretching. Even if they can squat very low, I’m not convinced that Crossfitters have excellent flexibility!
Website of CrossFit Lyon (in French): www.crossfit-lyon.com