This afternoon, Yonge and Dundas Square turned into a real-life Reebok commercial as the Sport of Fitness landed in Toronto. What, you ask? CrossFit, we say! What is CrossFit, you ask again? It’s a fitness phenomena that, from the outside, looks like American Gladiators set in Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty” video, but with more ACDC. After talking to some dedicated athletes, though, we learned that from the inside, it looks like an inspiring and challenging community.

Chalked up and glistening, CrossFit athletes take to the mat for fifteen minute WODs (Workouts of the Day) that challenge your body in a multitude of ways. Weights, bars, pushups, sprints, jumping, jumping on tires, jumping over people, pushing weird machines: it’s like KinderGym (remember that? It was the weird rhythmic gymnastics hybrid where you got to go on the trampoline sometimes) but for the seriously tough. To celebrate the sport, Reebok filled Yonge and Dundas Square with a 250-person FlashWOD, giving an overview of all the crazy ways CrossFit challenges your body. It looks like some serious fun. Afterwards, some top CrossFit athletes demonstrated an elite WOD for us, and needless to say, we were a little intimidated. One of them is the Fittest Man In The World, for WOD’s sake. (His name is Rich, he’s from Tennessee, and he started training in his Dad’s barn. No big deal.) But no fear, say the CrossFit ladies! Angie Pye is a CrossFit trainer from Victoria, BC, and she placed 10th in the 2011 CrossFit games. She was quick to remind women not to be intimidated by the weightlifting portion of the WODs (easy for her to say! See photo of her lifting barbell twice the size of my head.)—CrossFit scales to your skill, so you can start from any level and work your way to intimidating fitness glory.

After the WOD demonstration, we sat down with Alicia Connors, who trains with Angie and placed 2nd in the West Coast Canada Regionals. “I got into CrossFit because I played sports all during high school, and a lot of people say you miss that team atmosphere. CrossFit has brought that into my life,” she says. CrossFit inspires a community feel. “Our gym, our community, is awesome,” Alicia explains. “Everybody supports everybody, and you feed off one another.”

Watching Alicia hoist weights—and herself—through the air, it’s hard to imagine her feeling intimidated by the idea of CrossFit, but she says she was at the beginning. “There were definitely workouts where I thought ‘I can’t do this,’ but it keeps you coming back for more. You have that hunger and that drive for it, and you always want to keep improving.” Both Alicia and Angie insist that you don’t need to be fit to try CrossFit—CrossFit is where you come to whip yourself into shape, even if you’re starting from scratch. “Don’t second guess yourself,” says Alicia. “It’s life-changing, and I think every woman I’ve talked to has said that. You get such positive feedback from everybody.”

~ Haley Cullingham