Students pick up intensity with Crossfit

By Evan Burgos

2Pac, AC/DC, Lil’ Wayne and NWA blare throughout the small multi-purpose exercise room at… 2Pac, AC/DC, Lil’ Wayne and NWA blare throughout the small multi-purpose exercise room at Trees Hall. But no matter how rowdy the musical beats, nothing reverberates nearly as deafening as the intensity of the workout that consumes the room.

With red-flush faces, each participant moves throughout the stations — from sumo-dead-lift high pull to box jumps to push press to a rowing machine to a medicine ball. It’s three rounds and 17 minutes total, a minute a piece at each station. After round one, they shed their shirts. After round two, they breathe deeper. And when it’s all over, they collapse.

‘I’m tired,’ said sophomore Ryan Johnston as he lay sprawled across the ground. ‘But rewarded.’

Welcome to Crossfit, a high intensity strength and conditioning program that mixes a wide range of fitness techniques to create some of the most taxing and driven workout regimens known today. Military special operations use it. Champion martial artists use it. Countless elite athletes worldwide use it. And at Pitt, Zach Miller and his Panther Crossfit club use it.

Every Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m., Miller, a junior, gathers his semester-old club at Trees Hall for the workout of the day.

Some days the workout is based on a mix of low weight, high repetition workouts that get the heart moving with aerobic exercises.

Other days, it’s more Olympic weightlifting moves that use high-weight totals to help develop the metabolism and localize strength building.

It all started when Miller was a sophomore. He had been lifting weights and going to the gym since his junior year in high school, but he craved something more. It was when he saw the movie ‘300’ that he became truly inspired. The chiseled physiques on display in the film were achieved using Crossfit-founded workouts. Miller looked into it, and by spring semester last year, he was strictly following the Crossfit routine, doing the workout posted on its Web site every day.

Miller was already fit, but he saw immediate gains from his newfound workout schedule. Pretty soon, his friends started to follow, beginning with Max Schultz, a friend of Miller’s since their freshman year.

‘I started [Crossfit] to get rid of a little gut,’ said Shultz. ‘Now when it’s a day to run a 10k [6.2 miles], it’s nothing. Crossfit gives you a ready state to compete in anything.’

Soon the following swelled to 10 others. Now it’s about 15 depending on the weekend, and Miller and Schultz are competing in Crossfit events around the country.

In September of this past year, Miller was second in the nation in a competition of 2,000 people.

After final exams this April, both plan on heading to Virginia Beach to compete in the mid-Atlantic qualifiers for a chance to go to the national Crossfit Games in California this July. Winner gets the title of ‘fittest man or woman on Earth.’

For Miller, Crossfit has become a lifestyle that transcends simply staying in shape.

The discipline he’s developed from his workouts has carried over into other facets of his life, from proper dieting to school work.

‘The development is broad. You become more diligent,’ he said. ‘It’s with schoolwork or a leadership role. I’m focused, and no extra external stimulus is going to stop me.’

Despite the vigor of the workouts, Crossfit maintains that it is for anybody who wants to do it, grounding itself in the scalability of its workouts.

‘Housewives do this. Grandmothers and soldiers do this,’ said Miller.

But on this particular Saturday, as Miller and his club go from station to station doing a workout dubbed ‘Fight Gone Bad’ — a workout designed to simulate the physical demands of a mixed martial arts fight while exceeding metabolic demands — he isn’t thinking about that.

Miller is far too focused on the task at hand and challenges immediately in front of him.’

Amid the ballistic acoustic of physical percussion that permeates the room — the grunts, yells for help and weights clanging — Miller’s face remains acute and fierce.’

This is his life, and it is happening one workout at a time.