CrossFit: Trio hoping to fit weighty tasks set

By Kelly Exelby


The back aches and eyes water contemplating it, but the impending mind games loom largest for Mt Maunganui's Luke McGruer, Mahdi Te Heuheu and John Templeton as they skip the ditch and bid to become the fittest person on earth.

The trio, who established the Mount CrossFit gym at Owens Place last June, are already among the 60 fittest in Australasia, and will this weekend go up against their rivals, fighting it out for a top three spot to make it all the way to the Reebok CrossFit Games in California. McGruer, Templeton and Te Heuheu were among 50,000 worldwide competing in the Crossfit Open competition, qualifying for the CrossFit Regionals in Wollongong.

They'll have a couple of days to complete six workouts, with their CrossFit gym also sending a group of six - Kate Jenkins, Rachelle Brightwell, Whitney Teesdale, Zach Morton-Adair, Tim Patton and Geoff Roberts - to fight it out in the teams' section.

Butch Bulgarian brutes and body odour spring to mind when lifting weights crops up but Templeton, recently crowned Cleo Bachelor of the Year, said CrossFit wasn't just a workout for the obsessed or hardcore.

The first CrossFit gym opened in 1995 in California; today there are about 2000 worldwide, including 31 in New Zealand. Founders Greg and Lauren Glassman blended weightlifting, gymnastics, kettle bell training and calisthenics to create a new form of fitness training that's now widely used by police departments and armed forces.

"It's not just for the fitness-obsessed but it's a great way of getting really fit really quickly, or losing a lot of weight," Templeton said. "Anybody can do any workout because it's tailored for them. We've got one girl who comes in who can barely lift the [weights] bar so we've got a special bar for her."

All of the Sydney hopefuls have already been given their six workouts for the weekend, with Saturday shaping as the ballbuster and Sunday no picnic either.

There are several universal workouts named Cindy, Fran and Grace. They sound endearing but don't be fooled by their feminine tones.

McGruer, Te Heuheu and Templeton, who met as physical training instructors with the New Zealand Army, will be taking on each other, with McGruen finishing 12th of the 2500 hopefuls in qualifying and the other two not far behind.

The workouts are staggering in their brutality, although Templeton is quick to point out competitors this week are the elite. One of the workouts has the CrossFitters rowing 2km on an erg, doing 50 squats on one leg before lifting a 100kg weight from their waist to shoulder 30 times.

Another, at which Te Heuheu is particularly adept, has 15 ladder stations, each increasing in weight from 70kg to 140kg. To get started athletes must do 20 double-down skips before qualifying to lift the weight, snatch style, over their heads. Twenty more skips qualify the next weight, and so on. Only one person on the planet has ever reached 140kg; Te Heuheu has done 110kg.

"And that's probably the easiest workout of the six we'll do," McGruer said, "because you've got a minute on each step of the ladder and can use any downtime to rest. The first couple are fine and we go into it knowing exactly where we'll get to."

Templeton's favourite is workout four, a beast of burden that throws 60kg back squats, dozens of pull-ups, 60kg shoulder presses, 40kg front squats and overhead lifts using 50kg weights into a melting pot of torture.

"There's a time limit of 22 minutes to get through that one," Templeton said, "and after about 10 minutes you've already done 200 reps and it's just pain central."

Because CrossFit is so fresh to New Zealand none of the trio heads across the Tasman brimming with confidence at taming the Aussies, with only seven Kiwi males among the 60. But next year, wiser, stronger and fitter, and it could be a whole new matter.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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