BENNINGTON -- They're out of breath, their legs are sore already but they're still smiling -- they've just done CrossFit.
Six teams made up of local families, mostly newcomers to the sport, recently participated in an eight-week Family Fitness Challenge at Bennington CrossFit.
The free program is held several times each year and is designed to teach a healthier lifestyle by introducing physical fitness and basic nutrition. It is offered in partnership with the Southwestern Vermont Supervisory Union's MOSAIC after-school program.
CrossFit is a group training program that has taken off in popularity over the past several years; it incorporates constantly varied, high intensity bodyweight movements with Olympic-style weightlifting.
Push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, box-jumps and jumping rope are common at a CrossFit gym, commonly known as a ‘box' for its simple approach to fitness.
"I love it all but then the next day I hate it, but then you always want to come back," said Santana Snyder, 15, after a recent workout. "It's like a love-hate thing."
Snyder, a sophomore, participated in the BCF challenge with her mother, Loretta.
"It's always nice to have a partner to work out with," said the second half of the mother-daughter duo. "It can get competitive but we don't get too competitive with each other."
The Snyders participated once before, and liked it so much they went back for a second round of the two-month program.
While CrossFit classes are typically one-hour sessions held repeatedly throughout the day, the participants of the challenge met three evenings each week, led by head coach Kitsia Sausville.
"We don't want to push anyone to do anything they're not comfortable with," said Sausville, who has been coaching CrossFit for the last three years.
"This program can be scaled to meet anyone's needs -- and seeing people come so far, that's what's so great about it."
Starting with a warm-up, a workout of the day (WOD) is typically timed -- either set up as a prescribed WOD that is completed in the fastest time possible, or for as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) within a set time.
CrossFit is designed to promote the communal aspect of group fitness, with those who finish first often cheering on those still going.
Alison Kipp, along with her husband Eric and their children Ty, 19, and Carli, 12, took on the challenge as a family.
"We do everything together already," said Alison. "But this was a good way to get more physically active on a regular basis."
The 12 participants were encouraged to log their workouts and keep a food diary. They learned about the Paleolithic diet, sometimes known as ‘the caveman diet,' or to CrossFitters simply as paleo.
Based on the foods presumed to have been eaten by hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic era, the diet focuses on red meat, fish and vegetables, and excludes most grains and dairy products.
"I feel much better when I eat paleo and drink my water -- and breathe when I'm working out," laughed Alison, noting that at first the kettlebell swings were challenging for her daughter, but she overcame her fear.
"It's all about learning to go at your own speed," she said.
Jennifer Guetti was inspired to participate by her son Bradley, 13, and said she also saw results from cooking at least one paleo-friendly meal each day.
"He loves it here," she said of her son, who is a regular member of BCF. "It's really cool to see."
Although sometimes the pair work out together, this time Guetti took on the challenge with 10-year-old Cole Fraize, the son of a friend.
Comparing his first CrossFit workout on day one of the program, to the last day when the group repeated the same WOD, Fraize saw one of the highest improvement margins in the group: 60 percent.
"You don't need to try to compete, you just need to do your best," he said.
Bennington Crossfit is located at 190 North St. For more information find them on Facebook, call 802-681-7350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A special discounted rate for new members will be offered through Nov. 29.
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