Athletes embracing "extreme" exercise trends

FRESNO, Calif.

We visited CrossFit FTF in Clovis and watched the workout. They started with wall balls, which is throwing a 20-pound ball 10 feet up and catching it into a squat, 50 times in a row. That was interspersed with kettlebell lifts, and more squats, this time with free weights. For an even bigger challenge, one member threw on a weighted vest and climbed a rope. Then he lifted himself onto gymnastics rings. CrossFit is a wildly popular fitness regimen emphasizing strength and conditioning with a variety of exercises at high intensity. Gym co-owner and coach Brian Hyland explained, ""It's as hardcore as you wanna make it. A lot of what people see on TV and what gets out there about CrossFit tends to be more the extreme side of things." He's talking about the CrossFit games... seen on ESPN and on YouTube... where athletes compete, pushing themselves to go harder, faster, stronger. Critics say that kind of mentality puts people at risk of injury. But Hyland says proper training and form can prevent that. Even long-time fitness buffs -- like P.E. teacher Stephanie Weathers -- get hooked, ""When I first came here I thought I was in pretty good shape but once I started, I realized I had a long way to go. It's definitely the most challenging workout I've ever done."

Retired champion boxer Jennifer Alcorn goes by another title now. She's "Fitness Commander Alcorn" of Team Jab Boot Camp, modeled after realistic military style boot camps. One of her "recruits," Ket Ware, admits: "I worked out hard where I passed out. But now I'm running half marathons, I'm doing 10Ks, 5ks, which I never thought I'd ever do before." She and her husband Nick were so inspired, they took on the grueling Spartan races, a series of obstacle course challenges *not* for the faint of heart ... or body, for that matter. Nick described it, ""Climbing ten foot walls, crawling 100 yards under barbed wire, running through Spartans that are pummeling you with their padded sticks, jumping over fire. All kinds of things. It really pushes you past the point where you think you can go. And you just feel a great sense of accomplishment afterwards." By completing three races in a year, the Wards earned the coveted Spartan trifecta medal. They're already talking about the next race.

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