Fort Bragg, N.C. - The Paratroopers' faces are scrunched up in agony, their jaws clenched, eyes closed, and temples running with sweat. Moans and groans of exertion are starting to escape from their lips. They look up at their fitness instructor for any sign that the torment will be ending soon, but she just smiles and keeps the exercises coming.
The person reducing these hardened Paratroopers into whimpering jelly isn't some snarling, mountain of a Drill Sergeant in a round brown hat, she's a petite, 5'2'' civilian with blue steaks in her hair and a lip piercing. Thomi Gill is an expert in the exercise program known as CrossFit, and recently, she and several other instructors showed Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division how CrossFit can take their fitness routines to the next level.
About 60 Paratroopers from the 82nd's 2nd Brigade Combat Team took part in a two-day training event Sep. 17 - 18 at the CrossFit gym in Southern Pines, N.C. to learn the philosophy and the techniques of the CrossFit program and get certified as CrossFit instructors.
CrossFit is a program developed by a former gymnast in Santa Cruz, Calif. in the 1990s that focuses on building up core strength and conditioning through a series of high-intensity, functional movements such as squats, shoulder presses, and deadlifts. CrossFit workouts typically call for athletes to work hard and fast, often with no rest.
In recent years, CrossFit's popularity has grown, and it's techniques have been incorporated into physical fitness programs used by the Marines and Army Special Forces.
Lt. Col. Matt Shatzkin, commander of the 2nd BCT's 407th Brigade Support Battalion, is a CrossFit enthusiast. The Kansas City, Kans. native helped organize the training event in Southern Pines, and pushed his troopers to attend.
"For the things that we need to do in the 82nd Airborne - jump carrying 50 - 70 percent of your body weight, quickly assemble in combat, as well as wearing 20-plus pounds of body armor on a convoy mission or other type of combat mission - we believe CrossFit is the program that's most effective to get us there," Shatzkin said. "It delivers the results."
Several of the Paratroopers who attended the training were already familiar with the CrossFit program. Battle Creek, Mich. native Capt. Davitt Broderick, the executive officer of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, described himself as a huge fan of the program.
"I have a psychopath passion for CrossFit," he joked.
Broderick said he has already started teaching some of the techniques to his troopers during morning PT.
Capt. Adam Rodriguez, commander of Headquarters Company, 407th BSB, said he saw a lot of benefits in using the CrossFit method versus more traditional exercise routines.
"It's more of a full body work out. If you do push-ups, all you're doing is improving just one area of your body. Any crossfit exercise I've ever done is a full body work out - it's cardio, muscular endurance, and strength all rolled into one," Rodriguez said.
With the CrossFit certification under their belts, most of the Paratroopers who attended the training said they would bring the program back to their units and start passing it on.
Chuck Carswell, a CrossFit instructor from a gym in East Decatur, Ga., said the key to implementing the program with novices is to start with the basics and build up.
"I would say start with the fundamentals, then work for consistent competency - the ability to know what your doing and when you're wrong, know how to fix it, then work for intensity after that," Carswell said.