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Former commandos bring CrossFit craze to Stratford

PUBLISHED: 13:35 13 January 2016

Crossfit 1971 owners Dan Aldridge, left, and Martin Flanagan

Crossfit 1971 owners Dan Aldridge, left, and Martin Flanagan

Archant

In a warehouse on the outer limits of the Olympic park a revolution in fitness has been quietly taking place.

A gym member readies herself for a weighted squatA gym member readies herself for a weighted squat

That revolution has a name. CrossFit. A now international approach to physical training that began as a humble stateside blog in 2003 and has steadily grown in popularity over the last decade in the UK.

Ex-servicemen Martin Flanagan and Dan Aldridge have been the vanguard for its adoption in Stratford, opening their CrossFit 1971 gym (or “box” as regulars call it) on the Carpenter’s Estate in February of last year.

The pair met in the Royal Engineering Corps, both completing commando training and two tours of Afghanistan.

The gym, based in Carpernter's Estate, Stratford, costs more than £100 a month to joinThe gym, based in Carpernter's Estate, Stratford, costs more than £100 a month to join

Dan, 29, spent eight years as a commando before leaving the military in 2001 while Martin, 28, who also served in the Physical Training Corps, only left the barracks earlier this year after 11-and-a-half years service.

But what exactly is CrossFit and what sets it apart from your common or garden gymnasium?

“You aren’t going to walk on a treadmill here,” says Dan, who shares the role of head coach with Martin. “You are going to get an actual work out.

Both owners have served in the British Army, completing commando training and two tours of AfghanistanBoth owners have served in the British Army, completing commando training and two tours of Afghanistan

“For me it’s about training to instill a mental attitude – to make someone not give up before they should.

“When people initially join it’s because they want to look better naked. That’s what we find. And when they start learning new things and finding that they can do things like pull ups they just want to be able to do more.”

Membership to a CrossFit gym isn’t cheap and at Stratford it costs between £115 and £165 a month per member. For that price you’re getting a pair of former commandos whipping at your behind to make sure you get the most out of your workout.

Regular CrossFit gym member Stella Iordanidi performing a power liftRegular CrossFit gym member Stella Iordanidi performing a power lift

Small wonder then that for some people it all sounds a bit alarming. 
Enormous tractor tires stored in one corner of the high-roofed hall don’t exactly help to rebuff the popular notion that CrossFit is an extremely physically demanding programme and perhaps not for everyone.

“People are scared of CrossFit,” acknowledges Martin. “They think it’s going to kill them. But it literally is for everyone. It’s about doing stuff that is going make you fit in everyday life. It isn’t just about lifting very heavy weights.”

Adds Dan: “People are scared of doing actual exercise. CrossFit is about getting into good health and making it easier to carry your bags of shopping to your flat.”

Graffiti on the walls of the warehouse gym was completed by artist DemograffixGraffiti on the walls of the warehouse gym was completed by artist Demograffix

Over in the US, articles have been written comparing CrossFit with a religion – such is the sense of community built up among the people who train by its methods.

Here in Newham, there seems to be no less of a camaraderie among those looking to push themselves to get fit.

Apple Store worker Stella Iordanidi, 30, based at Westfield Stratford City, is a regular at the gym. “It’s great because you come here at the end of the working day and know that you will be meeting your friends and that your fitness is going to improve,” she tells me.

A crossfit workout typically includes weight-lifting as well as cardioA crossfit workout typically includes weight-lifting as well as cardio

Socials are as much a part of being a member as is breaking a sweat. It would seem that those who suffer together, stay together.

Charity project manager Alex Lacy, 28, from Claude Road, Upton Park, adds: “I’ve been going [to CrossFit 1971] for a month-and-a-half and not only am I exercising harder than ever before but I also know the names of nearly everyone there.

“How many gyms can you say that about?”

Tractor tires are used as an exercise tool in Crossfit gymsTractor tires are used as an exercise tool in Crossfit gyms

Visit CrossFit 1971.com call 07788 274 991 or email enquiries@crossfit1971.com for more.

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