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Collingwood CrossFit athlete takes on the world with a smile (3 photos)

CrossFit helps firefighter be 'ready for anything,' he says

You gotta be humble to work-out against the world. Collingwood firefighter Chris Heath is taking part in the CrossFit Open competition that pits his performance not just with other members of CrossFit Indestri in Collingwood, but with 400,000 athletes around the world.

Heath easily fits in repeatedly lifting the “light” weight of 115 pounds overhead, double skipping and then jumping to catch an overhead bar and pulling his body weight up over it. Then repeating all three tasks.

“It’s a fun way to gage your fitness level worldwide,” said Heath, who completed his third of five workouts Saturday while the music boomed and onlookers cheered on the competitors.

The Open competition features one workout a week for five weeks. The workout is only posted hours before the event so athletes can’t specifically prepare for it. Athletes are judged while performing the workout and the results are posted to

“Today’s workout was a light weight 115-pound, but very high repetition workout that really tests your endurance and also gymnastic skills. Next week it might test our strength with heavy lifts or strength and endurance. Who knows? It teaches your to be ready for anything.”

Lifting heavy weights is hard on the cardiovascular system and Heath said he has learned to put his mind in another place so as to disregard the pain. He’s also learned how to consciously slow down his heart rate. Success is about doing this while only taking small breaks between the tasks.

Heath’s top finish in this competition has been in the top of 80 for eastern Canada.

He was attracted to CrossFit six years ago because it’s designed as a workout for military, police and firefighters. Now it’s available to people of all ages and fitness abilities in non-competitive and competitive formats.

“I started CrossFit because I felt it was something different and it looked fun. I also thought the competition side of it looked cool. I always played competitive sports growing up so this was something I thought would be fun to try. Once I started, I was hooked,” Heath said.

Since starting CrossFit, Heath has competed in Olympic weightlifting, Firefit Challenge, and the UG Series games. Heath said staying in top shape is essential for his work as a firefighter, citing heart failure as the No. 1 killer of firefighters.

“We need to be ready for anything and we constantly work with awkward objects and movements, and CrossFit really helps with that.”

“CrossFit helps build a strong and healthy heart,” he added.

Heath has also worked as a coach for CrossFit and knows what’s it’s like to start from scratch. Two years ago he broke his sternum and bruised his heart playing football.

“I couldn’t do anything for three or four months. I had to start at the bottom,” he said. But he attributes his recovery to Crossfit both with pre-accident fitness and post accident rehabilitation.

“Most people get hurt outside of here,” he said after his heat.

Heath also enjoys watching others push themselves and achieve greater fitness.

“It’s great working out with other people and watching each other reach and exceed their goals. It’s a great atmosphere for all ages and skill levels.”

Jennifer Nichols, co-owner of CrossFit Indestri, said Heath is a strong athlete at the facility, but added the gym doesn’t focus on ranking its athletes.

“We want everybody to come out feeling happy and accomplished from every workout,” she said.