I've never done CrossFit, and I'll tell you why. Firstly, it intimidates the heck out of me, and as much as I like having my ass-kicked in a workout, I don't like to be pushed to the brink of vomiting or passing out. Secondly, the workouts always seem very tailored to men's preferences. That's probably me stereotyping, but I personally just don't get a lift out of lifting really heavy weights -- I'd much rather slap on my ballet shoes and do fouette turns for an hour.

So when I arrived at Sweat Fitness in Queen Village for our PHL Bloggers exclusive SweatX workout and one of the trainers jokingly told me I'd be pushing a massive tire up a ramp with my friends, my insides screamed: "Shit, why did no one tell me this was Sweat's version of a CrossFit workout?"

Of course, I had already trekked to Queen Village, and seeing as there were only four of us bloggers there, I didn't feel like I could turn around and say thanks, but no thanks. So I stuck it out. And you know what, it was actually pretty awesome.

SweatX is a new workout type that's recently debuted at the Queen Village location of Sweat Fitness, although I hear there are plans to roll it out to other locations soon. The workout involves splitting up an already small group into even smaller groups and having those groups work 10-minute circuits (with 2 minute breaks in between) under the supervision of an instructor. I thought this was pretty unique, as usually the instructor to student ratio is something like 1:25, but here we had three ripped men coaching our small group of six. (My understanding from my research is that the groups can get as "large" as 10 students, so even then you'd have much more individualized attention than in a traditional group exercise program.)

We started with a simple warm up -- a few passes back and forth with high knees, butt kicks, shuffles and sprints, spent a few minutes stretching and then immediately broke up into groups for our circuits. The motto was AMRAP, which was a new term for me, and apparently means "as many repetitions as possible." So rather than shooting for a specific goal, you were literally invited to trust in, and listen to, your own body, pushing to your personal limit.

My first circuit was pretty darn easy: 10 wall balls with a 6 pound ball (it involves a deep squat and throwing the ball against a high target on the wall), followed by 10 mat sit ups. Maybe it's just because I have strong legs from dancing or because some of my other fitness classes torture me with lots of squats routinely, but I felt like I could have done those wall balls all day. With my spinal issues, the sit-ups were somewhat harder, but I still completed the first circuit with energy to burn.

Circuit two got a little tougher, but was still really fun and challenging. It involved five passes running up and down this fairly steep, long ramp, followed by 10 kettlebell swings. I surprised myself here when I realized, once again, how much power I actually possess in my legs. I've always thought of myself as a bad runner, but I really enjoyed running up (and shuffling down) the ramp. Kettlebells aren't my favorite, simply because I'm terrified of either dropping the thing on my head or it flying out of my hands and killing someone, but I managed to do my reps with the 20-pounder without injuring myself or others, so I count that as a success.

About mid-way through this circuit, I started to feel a bit winded. After the second running pass on the ramp, I found myself reaching for my water bottle more frequently, catching my breath for a few seconds before breaking into the swings and repeating the circuit. Even though I finished feeling a little tired, I had reserves of energy and was prepared to hit the final rotation hard.

Elizabeth accurately portraying how I felt during burpees.
Then things kind of fell apart, because the third circuit involved my nemesis: burpees. I don't know what it is about this particular exercise, but it wreaks all kinds of havoc on my body. Something about the change in blood pressure from going from standing to horizontal and back again repeatedly just messes with my head, and I find myself getting those funny black and white fuzzies in front of my eyes within a few reps. Here we were supposed to do box jumps for a minute, followed by five burpees, and as expected, by the second set of burpees I was already a mess.

It's times like these when the individual attention actually becomes a burden, because now I had our instructor Shawn watching me fall apart, and although he kept encouraging me to continue, it didn't feel great to "fail" in front of an instructor. I got through the circuit by taking way more breaks than they probably liked, but I wasn't about to pass out on account of trying to prove myself. Maybe I should have asked for another exercise, who knows.

Of course I was the first to dig in to the food.
And then, just like magic, the workout was over, and it was time to FEAST! Although this isn't a standard part of every SweatX class, we were fortunate enough to be treated to a delicious selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and salami after, plus cocktails, compliments of Stateside Vodka (a locally produced liquor!). I quickly scarfed down some cheese and salami to get in my protein, and the strawberries tasted so sweet, they were like candy. Technically, there was a stretch session that happened after that third circuit, but when you put food in front of four starving women, somehow they only see what they want to see, and we accidentally missed it. Whoops. (Don't worry I stretched myself out when I realized my own mistake.)

After re-fueling, I left the gym feeling pretty great, and this morning, although my shoulders and legs are a wee bit sore, it's nothing too extreme.

Would I go back and do SweatX again? Maybe, as I can definitely see how the high intensity workout can aid in your athletic performance. And even if you're not aiming to be a better athlete, this workout seems like it would give your body and fitness level a jump start if you feel like your regular routine's leading to a plateau. Plus, with the small group format and awesome instructor to student ratio, it's kind of like getting a personal trainer for just $125-$149 a month (prices vary based on whether you're a Sweat member or not) -- that fee gives you access to all 8 Sweat locations around the city and unlimited SweatX classes.

Overall, I'm glad I tried it and thank our instructors Shawn, DeLonne and Chris for pushing us!

*I received access to a SweatX class for free, as part of a collaboration with the PHL Bloggers group. 


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