NORFOLK, VA – On a damp football field at dawn, sailors from Personnel Support Detachment – Norfolk perform a high-intensity workout program known as “CrossFit.” Three weeks ago, these sailors were breezing through standard physical training exercises, such as pushups, sit-ups, and a few easy laps around a track. Now they still do all of that, but they’ve turned up the intensity by reducing, or eliminating, rest times. They’ve also added in exercises with funny sounding names, such as “burpees,” “thrusters,” and “farmer’s walks.”
The person behind the change? Petty Officer 2nd Class Jared Fischer, the Assistant Command Fitness Leader for his division and the person responsible for leading PT sessions.
“Well, a couple weeks ago on a Friday night while everyone else was out with their friends,” Fischer says, “I was on the internet and stumbled on the CrossFit website. I drank the Kool-Aid right away. By Monday morning, I was having the division doing a WOD [Workout of the Day] right off the [CrossFit] main page. We did 800 meters of walking lunges, and none of us could walk the next day. It was awesome.”
One of Fischer’s “victims,” as he calls his students, is Petty Officer 3rd Class Tina Martinez, a yeoman and mother of three. “Fischer’s certainly motivated,” Martinez says. “He seems to know what he’s talking about, I guess.”
Martinez is twenty pounds heavier than she’d like to be, but still within Navy weight standards for her height. She put on several pounds while pregnant with her youngest child. “Sitting at a desk all day doing paperwork didn’t help with the weight,” she says.
But with a regimen of brisk walking and sensible eating, she has lost 15 pounds and is able to fit into her pre-pregnancy pants. She has also passed her most recent PT test.
For Fischer, that isn’t good enough. “That PT test is bullshit,” he says. “It’s just this politically correct garbage that doesn’t measure real fitness.”
“What about [Martinez’s] ‘Fran’ time?” Fischer says, referring to a popular CrossFit workout. “What about her max deadlift? And I bet she can’t even do one proper overhead squat. For the Navy to say that this woman is ‘fit’ is absolutely irresponsible and an insult to people like me who take fitness seriously.”
At PT today, Fischer instructs Martinez to complete a “thruster”—a combination deep squat and overhead press—with 45-pound dumbbells.
“Isn’t that a little heavy?” Martinez asks.
Fischer shakes his head and winks at this reporter. “You just have to get your core into it and dial up the intensity.”
Fischer helps Martinez load the dumbbells to shoulder height. Martinez squats slowly, stands just as slowly, and attempts to press the dumbbells overhead. But before the dumbbells can get higher than her ears, she drops them to the ground with a thud and grabs the back of her neck.
“Walk it off,” Fischer says. “On the next set, get more core into it.”
There will be no next set, however. In tears, Martinez screams out in pain. Paramedics come and take her to the hospital. The diagnosis: a cervical herniated disc. Martinez is now awaiting neck surgery and will likely be medically discharged from the Navy.
Martinez’s injury doesn’t deter Fischer’s enthusiasm. “That’s exactly why it’s so important to scale your workouts. That’s what Martinez did wrong. Again, would a ‘fit’ person not be able to do this basic workout?”
Then Fischer excuses himself from the interview and leaves. He is off to rake leaves, extra duty he was assigned as punishment for having worn Vibram Five Fingers with his dress white uniform.