CrossFit was the most difficult fitness class I've ever attended -- no joke. The program incorporates gymnastics techniques, strength training and conditioning, to provide a complete workout that shapes and strengthens the entire body; and its equally effective for men and women.

The idea is that people taking CrossFit classes should head to "the box," as it's known among regulars, five to six times a week for the workout of the day, at which point there's no need for other forms of exercise because the program is so comprehensive.

The day I took a class at CrossFit Hell's Kitchen the workout was relatively moderate. It lasted only 45 minutes, and after a brief warm up of squats and overhead squats with a 10-pound bar (though almost everyone else was using heavy-looking bumper plates in addition) we did three sets of 15 burpees (drop into a pushup from standing position; stand up into a jumping jack; repeat), a 400-meter run (outside the box to the end of the block and back), and 15 overhead squats with, in my case, the 10-pound bar.

It may not sound that hard, but it was -- I could barely move for three days after the class. So. Many. Squats. But I liked that the class pushed me further than I would push myself in an independent workout.

Part of the class left me red in the face though, and not from over-exertion. During the last set of reps. I was dead last to head out the door for the 400-meter jog. As I was on my way to the corner, two classmates who had already finished their last set came out to jog alongside me, encouraging me to power through.

When we got back inside I had no choice but to do my final round of overhead squats with the entire class gathered around me screaming things like, "You can do this," "Come on. Almost there!" and "Don't give up!" to my complete chagrin.

My face was beet red at this point and I could feel myself making unseemly faces every time I lifted myself out of a squat. It was mortifying at best, but the cheerleading actually works. I didn't give up, no matter how badly I wanted to.


First Timer tips from Anthony Preischel, owner and head coach at CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen:

1. Ask questions. CrossFit classes incorporate many techniques and exercises uncommon in boot camps and regular gym settings, meaning there is a lot to learn.
2. Do not give up. The workouts are hard, and the energy level in class is intense. It doesn’t matter if you need to go lighter, or if you finish last, because the class will be there with you all the way to cheer you on to your finish.
3. Many of the lifts in class are complex movements that take months or years to master. Get the form down and add weight only when you can.
4. Guys should lift light and women should lift heavy. In my experience, men have a tendency to lift heavier than they should before they master the technique and women don’t lift enough for fear of bulking up.