Is CrossFit the Real Deal? Ask Cam Hall

Not only is CrossFit growing immensely in popularity, but every time I turn around, someone is trying it out and suggesting I do the same. As Part I of my Cross Fit exploration, I am interviewing Cam Hall, fitness trainer and certified CrossFit Instructor.

A talented all-around athlete and former football standout, Cam Hall played for Boise State University (’06 Strong Safety) and in the Canadian Football League (Winnipeg Blue Bombers, linebacker). Cam is now a fitness trainer at Scentsy, a Boise-based company with over 800 local employees, where he leads 40-60 employees/day in CrossFit workouts.

Many thanks to Cam for taking time out of his day to share his thoughts and expertise with CrossFit.

How would you describe CrossFit to someone who might not know what it is?

Like its name, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that integrates all elements of fitness — endurance, strength/power, coordination and agility. Unlike other types of exercise, CrossFit is safe while also delivering results. CrossFit supersedes Zumba, Pilates, Yoga or other types of workouts because the results are dramatically more pronounced.

Explain how a typical CrossFit workout works?

A CrossFit workout is random but programmed. When I first did CrossFit myself, I called it “random crap to kill you.” After gaining my certification to develop programs for others, I better understand the logic and method behind the programming. In fact, I often dream about new programs I can create for folks at Scentsy. Programs are designed to push individuals near their threshold without going over it. Otherwise, they might throw up or pass out! CrossFit is like interval training, combining aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. By carrying out lots of reps of a lower weight – while the body is starved for oxygen – individuals naturally get stronger.

How long does a CrossFit workout take?

The duration of a CrossFit workout varies. As a person becomes better conditioned, he/she finishes a programmed workout faster. For example, if a specific workout initially takes someone 30 minutes to complete, over time, he/she might be able to finish that same workout in 20-25 minutes. One of my favorite things about CrossFit is that all the elements of a program are modifiable. Different people can do the same workout but vary the intensity based on limitations, injuries or fitness level.

Are CrossFit workouts offered in group settings only?

No, a person can carry out a CrossFit program alone or with others. When working out alongside others, however, an individual’s competitive instinct tends to surface. Not only does an individual typically work harder as a result, but he/she has more fun, too.

How many days / week do you recommend someone carry out a CrossFit workout?

A general guideline is 3 days one/1 day off or 5 days on/2 days off. Believe me, if you have done CrossFit for 5 days in a row during the week, you more than deserve your weekend off to do what you want to do.

Is there an ideal person (gender, body type, conditioning level) for CrossFit?

Here at Scentsy, initially more men signed up for CrossFit. This was due primarily to the fact that more men were coming to the gym. But over time, this has evolved. Women who were once intimidated the terms “dead lift” and pull-ups are the very ones excelling at these types of exercises. Body type does not matter either. If someone is overweight, for example, I modify the program to fit that person’s ability. Right now, the oldest person I train at Scentsy is in his fifties. But again, all programs are modifiable and no age is too old. Also, another thing that is taking off right now is CrossFit Kids, a safe and effective way to train young children in cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.

How would a person integrate CrossFit workouts into their training if they are preparing for a marathon, triathlon, bike race or other athletic event?

I don’t recommend that someone abandon workouts they like, whether it’s tennis, running, triathlons, whatever. A great way to start it to dabble with it – add it to your routine 1-2 times/week. From there, you might increase or decrease it. I have a lot of runners who start replacing their usual workouts with CrossFit and in many cases, their performance in races actually improves, even though they are actually running fewer miles.

How do you handle people with chronic health issues (e.g., back problems)?

CrossFit is about working smarter, not harder. My job as an instructor is to explain and show individuals how to do exercises correctly and avoid injury.

How effective do you think CrossFit is for individuals wishing to lose weight and/or get more toned?

While CrossFit increases cardiovascular endurance, it also increases someone’s strength.  I can’t think of a better way for people to lose weight and get firm and toned than by doing CrossFit.

What does a CrossFit gym typically look like?

Even though I offer CrossFit programs as part of a corporate wellness program and gym facility, our CrossFit area has pretty simple equipment. This is typical of all CrossFit facilities – an open floor, weights and pull-up racks.

How did you get certified to teach CrossFit?

I have what’s called a level one certification, meaning that I am qualified to lead CrossFit programs and open up by own CrossFit gym. If I move to level two, I’ll be qualified to teach seminars, too. Though a person isn’t required to do Cross Fit programs before gaining his/her certification, exposure to CrossFit workouts and movements only helps me instruct others better. Right now, so many people are interested in becoming certified that many of the courses are sold out.

Melinda Hinson