Survival of the primal


October 16, 2012

Walking through gates of the WA athletic stadium I was met with a blur of bulging biceps, neon lycra, gym equipment and health food galore.

There are cans of tuna, tubs of protein and glucose powder, carrot sticks, sweet potatoes, and hundreds of drink bottles – all signs I am in the presence of gym junkies.

Three hundred of WA’s fittest people have turned out to test their limits in the annual Primal Pairs competition.

I would liken the atmosphere to a school sports carnival, with some competitors donning their finest fairy and smurf costumes.

But there is a definite feeling of competition in the air.

Primal Pairs is based on a form of exercise called CrossFit and was launched in 2011 by Southern CrossFit gym.

Participants compete in pairs over five rounds, each known as a ‘WOD’, or Workout of the Day to the CrossFit faithful.

Watching hundreds of people sweating and grimacing in pain after each WOD makes me question why anyone would choose to participate in such a punishing competition.

So I asked the CrossFitters why they chose to compete and I received the the last answer I would ever expect – “it’s fun!”

One competitor, Dawn Gregson, says she does it because she gets to work out, get fit and have fun at the same time.

“It’s crazy, it’s different, it’s community, and yeah you get addicted,” Ms Gregson says.

Southern CrossFit head coach Hayden Thorneycroft says the competition was created as a “less serious” sister-competition to their bigger, longer-running competition, The Primal Throwdown.

“We started the Primal Pairs as a more laid back competition to get the greater CrossFit community involved that aren’t necessarily all of the top competitors,” Thorneycroft says.

“It’s meant to be a little more fun and light, yet still allowing for some solid competition for those that like to compete.”


Many ‘CrossFitters’ have difficulty explaining exactly what CrossFit is and why it is different from other forms of exercise.

Director of CrossFit gym, Range of Motion, and accredited exercise physiologist Dan Williams says CrossFit is a lifestyle not an exercise program.

“CrossFit is a global exercise philosophy that has now been widely and unequivocally accepted as the most powerful and effective method of improving health and fitness through exercise,” Mr Williams says.

He says CrossFit helps form the “ultimate athlete” by using a carefully programmed combination of gymnastics, sport, olympic lifting, power lifting, strongman, swimming and athletics.

“CrossFit results in a supremely well rounded individual who excels equally well in tasks of strength, endurance, speed, power, stamina, flexibility, mobility and any other component of fitness,” Mr Williams says.

He says the reason people persevere with, and even enjoy, CrossFit is because the workouts always vary and there is a big sense of community.

“By spending time in the trenches with our fellow CrossFitters, we share a common bond that creates a unity not seen in other forms of exercise,” Mr Wiliams says.

He says competition is a necessary part of CrossFit and events like Primal Pairs help people rediscover their competitive side.

“Beyond school, most people are never exposed to competition,” he says.

“Their competitive drive and juices dry up.”


On the day, prizes were awarded for the men’s, women’s and mixed pairs categories and also for best dressed pair.

Winners of the men’s category were Rhys Downing and Shasha Alizadeh. Leah Henderson and Michelle Montgomery took out the women’s, and Claire Fernandez and Calen Wright won the mixed pairs.

Mr Williams says the key to winning any competition is pushing past the pain.

“It never hurts any less, but you get used to the discomfort – you get comfortable being uncomfortable,” he says.

“Not everyone can be an Olympic level athlete, but everyone can be elite compared to their current self.

“In the end it’s only yourself you’re trying to beat.”

Photos: Elle Cook

Categories: Health, Sport

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