We are exactly halfway through our 10th year of existence. It seems like such a long time ago that we borrowed way more than we should have in order to open the areas first ever gym.
In contrast it seems like yesterday since we nervously advertised our first CrossFit 'On-Ramp' program using a bunch of cheap barbells that would have done a better job as scaffolding than Olympic Weightlifting bars.
But advertise we did, the program filled and we never looked back.
Instead we looked forward. We expanded, moved locations, helped even more people and 'diversified'. We launched more programs, coached more sports teams, schools, small group programs, personal coaching and bootcamps. We had even expanded to a second location at one stage. And along the way we changed our trading name to 'Ampersand Fitness', all to reflect that we are a gym that can do everything for everyone.
Except we couldn't. CrossFit has always been the soul of our gym and that is where our passion & expertise lies. So when the pandemic hit, all bets were off. All things to all people isn't us.
What is us though, is our relentless focus on improving our community's health and happiness. We do that through functional movements, variance and at an intensity that is relative to their current fitness level.
It's also known as CrossFit.
Our exercise prescription is one workout a day, 3-5 times a week and watch everything about your life improve. The more you go, the better results you will get. And you get to have a bit of craic along the way.
We are a CrossFit gym because the CrossFit methodology works better than any other fitness program on the planet. And we believe our implementation of the program is unique, based on having coached over 3000 clients, a wealth of certifications and over 15000 hours of coaching experience.
Our affiliate name change to 'CrossFit Anam' actually took place 2 years ago in the midst of the pandemic.
We didn't make a fuss about it simply because we don't make a fuss about things.
'Anam' is the gaelic word for Soul whilst the Ailm symbol ( + sign) is from the ancient ogham alphabet and represents strength, endurance and resilience.
Together we feel this accurately reflects who we are as a gym and as a community.
We keep referring to this as a rebrand, but it isnt . It's a refocus.
We are CrossFit Anam. Changing lives, one workout at a time.
Alongside Fran, Murph is the arguably the most well-known of CrossFit workouts and one that every CrossFitter should complete at least once.
Although it looks brutal (and it is!) Murph is a rarity in that you get to choose your rep scheme. The run portions must be completed as a sandwich around the gymnastic reps so you may break up the Pull-ups, Push-Ups and Air Squats whatever way you would like. Isn’t that considerate?
The graphics below show 6 common Murph strategies to give you an idea of how to plan. Try not to choose the strategy entitled 'The Mess'...
In terms of stimulus, what we are after is:
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'I'm not fit enough....I could never do that...CrossFit is too hard for me...I need to get in shape before I start CrossFit.'
We regularly hear these statements in conversations about CrossFit. Not just from those who have never participated, but also from former CrossFitters who feel they aren't fit enough to return.
Needless to say, all are absolutely and unequivocally false.
There is and never will be a minimum standard of fitness before you can either start or return to CrossFit.
CrossFit IS how you get in shape.
The fittest & rippest ( is that even a word?) fire-breathers on earth who contest the sport of CrossFit probably don't help this perception, as like Oran Johnston, they love to get their shirts off at every opportunity.
But the CrossFit Games athletes aren't the soul of CrossFit. CrossFit is about everyday people finding a way to move their bodies, increase their fitness and ENJOY the experience.
Our version of CrossFit is more about quality than competition. The quality of your movement, the quality of your experience and the quality of your life.
Don’t get us wrong, we still include competitive elements that we use to bring out the best of you, but your ability to come back to class tomorrow and continue getting healthier is much more important than a one-time workout performance. And our balanced programming reflects this.
Regardless, no amount of being “in shape” will ever change the challenge of the workouts. The workouts are always tailored to where you are at, regardless of fitness level.
We don't make you fit the workout, we make the workout fit you.
Coaches might change the movements in a workout, or they might change its length. They might ask an athlete to lift more or less weight. They might even ask an athlete to move faster or slower.
This process is often referred to as 'scaling’.
Every single CrossFit workout can be 'scaled' so every single person can do a version of that workout. Our skilled CrossFit Coaches quickly make these adjustments for clients in every class.
This is how we have experienced CrossFitters and first-timers training side by side, both being challenged, both having a laugh and both getting healthier at the same time.
This is true whether the person is 5 or 65, lean or overweight, healthy, sick or injured.
Everyone gets the same medicine, but each individual dose is different.
So, do you have to be fit and healthy to start CrossFit?
No, anyone and everyone is able to do CrossFit. Let’s keep giving our coaches work to do.
When we first opened 8 years ago, our first incarnation of CrossFit was rough and ready. We invested in a budget rig, 12 of the cheapest barbells we could find and a few cow mats which we called 'flooring'.
It was simple, fun and effective and it aligned perfectly with CrossFit's 'garage gym' vibe.
Like everything though, things change over time and as our dedicated members continued to progress, so did we.
We eventually moved to a bigger location to cater for our growing CrossFit population and since then we have continued to invest heavily in upgrading both our equipment and floor space.
We now boast a 16000 ft² facility which includes:
- Reception area and 'Members lounge'
- CrossFit training area
- Sweat45 training area
- Small group training room
- Personal Training Studio
- Male and Female toilets, showers and changing areas
- Nutrition consultation room complete with InBody scanner
- Over 20 parking spaces
In addition we also have:
- 48 cardio machines including Bike Ergs, Concept 2 Rowers, Concept Ski Ergs and Assault Bikes (we can run CrossFit & Sweat45 classes simultaneously with a machine per person)
- 3 Rigs which consist of 25 individual squat racks & pull up stations
-60 Olympic barbells, male & female
- 100s of hex dumbbells, kettlebells, wall balls & slam balls
-Climbing ropes, GHDs, Pegboard and Rings
- Over 2500kg in plates
And the list goes on....
We are fortunate in that we don't need to ask our members to share equipment in any of our classes, which is a major benefit in the current climate. We are also fortunate to have a professional cleaner to ensure our facility is as clean as can be.
We know that it isn't world class facilities and equipment that make a good gym.
But it certainly helps.
‘I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts’
~ Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins is famous for many things but for me it’s as the former vocalist of the punk rock band Black Flag and author of the essay ’The Iron and the Soul’ from which the above quote is taken.
The essay is definitely worth a read, the music may not be everyone’s cup of tea though so be warned….
Rollins has cited many other notable quotes throughout his wide and varied career including:
"97% caffeine free is 97% not my kind of thing".
So hopefully you get the gist of Henry’s perspective on life.
Like Henry we believe that the benefits of exercise are much more than just the physical.
Your workout should be that hour of your day where you stick your phone on silent, forget about the outside world and enjoy exercising with like-minded people who genuinely want to see you succeed.
We also know that the more you attend, the fitter & healthier you will become, the more you will enjoy it, the more you time you will spend in class and the fitter & healthier you will become.
And so spins our virtuous circle.
So let's close out with yet another profound Henry Rollins quote:
''What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup."
It is now a month since we reopened so a huge thank you to all our members who have helped create such a safe and clean training environment.
THIS IS WHAT THEY DO:
When we opened the gym in 2013 we really had no idea who we wanted to help. We had a professional business plan that looked the part but we all knew it was really to help us borrow enough money to get the doors open. I honestly don’t think we have looked at it since. (Don’t tell Sinead!)
We didn’t include anything in there about who we wanted to serve. We naively thought that we could help everyone and that once we opened our doors, we could just stick a post on Facebook and let the good times roll.
It didn’t happen like that. Small businesses take a lot of effort from a lot of people to even keep their doors open, never mind be successful. More importantly businesses need customers they can help.
At the beginning we went full-CrossFit. Barbells crashing, chalk on the floor, ripped hands & post wod bodies in pools of sweat. We still have members who began with us in those early years.
They have been fiercely loyal to us and obviously incredibly forgiving because we certainly did our best to put them off.
You might recognise them in class because no matter how challenging the workout, they always manage the pace and dismiss the difficulty with a touch of nonchalance. After you have done Kalsu (twice!) not many workouts will phase them.
We’ve mellowed a lot since those early years, even if the wider fitness industry hasn't. We know there is more to health than your fitness level or performance in the gym. We don’t push, we pull.
For us coaching means helping. Now we are focused on helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives. That involves helping clients with not just their fitness but also their nutrition and lifestyle. We prescribe whatever we believe is most effective and it is always through Coaching, whether that is Nutrition, Individual PT or through group classes.
It is our mission to help people of ALL fitness levels change and improve their quality of life through our community-based fitness and nutrition programs.
After all, if you care about somebody, you have to care about their health.
Everyone has heard of a pros and cons list. It's one of the most basic decision making tools in existence. Pros are arguments in support of a decision, Cons are arguments against. There aren't many Pros in today’s locked down world though. Most shops, bars and coffee shops aren’t open, kids activities are on hold, visits to family or friends are off the table and even our favourite gym is closed!
Despite exercise being one of the few decisions still under our control, it is just too easy to choose not to do any.
Fortunately, our members are still going strong with our online coaching program, anyone can do it, regardless of equipment.
There’s a relaxed atmosphere with it though, what matters ( and what’s always mattered in our gym ) is that we show up, do our best and enjoy it.
Everyone has their own reasons for exercise, whether that be aesthetics, performance or to improve their health & wellbeing. On a personal level, I work out because I really enjoy it and it makes me feel better both physically and mentally. Plus I’m hoping it provides an example to my children that regardless of what life throws at you, exercise is important and should be enjoyed, not dreaded.
There is a reason why the government still encourages us to exercise despite telling us all the things we are not allowed to do. Exercise improves mood, boosts energy and produces better sleep. It can also help prevent or manage many health problems including high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety. The Pros list is a long one.
The Cons list is empty though, exercise comes with zero negative side effects. Not one. So if you do choose to work out, feel good about making that decision. It is the right one.
January is sign up season. Loads of ‘Special Offers’, ’Beginner Programs’ and ’Only 3 spaces left’ promotions that all disappear in 24 hours, you better act quickly!
If you are thinking of getting started with a fitness program it’s probably the most difficult time of year to make a decision. There are a plethora of options, each guaranteed to get you into the best shape of your life in only 7 minutes!
What makes it even more challenging is this subconscious belief that whatever path you choose, if you don't stick to it then your entire year’s fitness plans are doomed and so it’s roll on 2021.
Obviously that's not true as you can start anytime but it’s a belief that the fitness industry will gleefully take advantage of to help sales.
Ultimately the most important thing is that you start something. Start with anything and give it a couple of months. If it doesn’t fit, do something else, but don’t let that stop you from starting.
Most of us who have been training a while know what is really out there: the fitness industry’s version of pyramid schemes, magic detoxes and the next ultimate fat torching diet or snake oil. There’s also a lot of copycats doing their own version of established, professional programs under a different banner.
We could write about the dangers, negatives and downfalls of all of the above but that isn’t going to help our clients improve their health and fitness.
What will help our clients is this:
Professional, qualified coaches who love to coach.
A learning curve (which never ends) where health & fitness becomes part of your life.
A simple but effective eating plan.
A program to suit every fitness goal whether in a class, 1-1 or small group setting.
A community of friendly people who like a laugh and have learnt how to enjoy exercise.
It took us a long time to build this culture and if you know someone here, I'll bet that they love it.
Just ask them.
"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without."
Even when things are going well, it’s human nature to focus on the 'problem areas'. Although I’m talking about your fitness in the gym it’s probably also applicable to the rest of our everyday life.
A good example of this was a few weeks ago when one of our members got her first Toes To Bar. The next time I met her, I naturally congratulated her on her achievement, expecting a warm smile but instead I got ’Thanks very much but I can’t seem to link them’.
Unfortunately that’s the madness of the CrossFit mind. We are always seeking the next new skill, the next kilo and that one extra rep.
The positive side of this is that it keeps us showing up, working hard and gradually improving our overall fitness.
The downside is that we rarely take the time to reflect and appreciate how much progress we have made and enjoy the journey towards each breakthrough skill.
Everyone who has ever CrossFitted may feel like they occasionally hit a plateau. However when we explore further we realise there is no plateau.
Although it may be true that one physical skill or movement may have stalled, we are always able to find progress in another movement, a gymnastic skill, reduced body fat or an improved time in a benchmark workout.
So progress is still being made, workout by workout, day by day and inch by inch.
As Al Pacino famously said in his Inches by Inches speech in ‘Any Given Sunday’:
'You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is CrossFit.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
That's CrossFit guys. That's all it is.’