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Doc takes fitness into his own hands

Tracy Highland

Doc takes fitness into his own hands

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When he tells you his age, you are not inclined to believe him. At 47, obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Garth McIntyre, could pass for several years younger. In his own words, he is fitter, stronger and has a better looking physique than he did at 35. He’s quick to tell you his secret. Four years ago he discovered a new exercise regime, CrossFit, and it has taken him on a fitness journey that has changed his life.

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning programme which uses compound and multi-joint movements which work the whole body. It incorporates moves taken from Olympic lifting and gymnastics. Garth was introduced to it by his friend Dr Philip Gaskin, after becoming frustrated with his declining fitness level at the gym.

“I was always into exercise in some form or fashion,” said Garth, who played football through his days at Harrison College and the University of the West Indies, Mona. “I had established a routine of going to the gym maybe two times a week. My body weight wasn’t changing, but my body composition was,” he added. He said he was seeing more fat and less muscle and had lost the motivation to do the same old routines he had grown accustomed to.

According to him, CrossFit has revitalised his whole exercise routine. He has gone from barely being able to complete one run a week to competing in several triathlons, all within a relatively short period of time. He has competed in three international triathlons in St Kitts and was champion two years running in his age group in the Barbados Federation Of Island Triathletes Triathlon.  

He’s even gone on to become a Certified Level 1 CrossFit coach and to open his own CrossFit gym, Cross Fit Island Fit in Wildey, St Michael, with partners Cary Holder, Andre Holder and the friend who started it all, Philip.

So what was it about CrossFit that made the difference for him? He points out two features of his CrossFit gym to help explain: the lack of mirrors and the large digital clock with glowing red numbers on the wall overlooking the floor.

“CrossFit is more about performance than how you look. We work on fitness and try to achieve betterment for ourselves through a fitness perspective, whether it’s getting stronger or getting faster. That’s why there are no mirrors. We don’t really care how we look,” he said laughing. The ironic thing is that, according to him, you see changes in your physique quite quickly.

He explained the clock is also an important element. “Everything is timed and the time makes everything more intense,” he said. He has been able to advance in endurance, with comparatively less endurance activity. A typical CrossFit work out is about one hour, but the period of intense physical activity is only about 15 to 20 minutes. The rest is warm up and cool down.

“I’m glad for the intensity,” said Garth. “It’s not just go and do two sets of bench presses, walk around the gym, talk to your friends, take a phone call and then do two more,” he explained.

“We don’t bring cellphones to the floor. We don’t take water cooler trips. We focus and we work hard for the time allotted,” he added.

What about the rumour that CrossFit is extreme and for fitness buffs and professional athletes only?  

“We have pregnant mothers and retirees doing CrossFit,” he says. As a matter of fact, he coaches the Pregnant Mums class. “You can start CrossFit at any fitness level,” he explains. Everyone starts off with a PVC pipe as they learn the basic movements involved. Weight is added as you improve.

Garth is quick to add that his six-year-old son Luke and three-year-old daughter Laila do the movements with broomsticks at home. Fitness is very much a family affair. He encourages his wife Brigitte, who does CrossFit moves with him at home, and his children to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

“They copy my movements,” he says. “They have plastic weight sets,” he added with a broad grin. Garth believes it is very important to get children involved in exercise from early. “I think it’s a good example to set. You have to find the right balance, not forcing them, not making it too structured and not making victory the only thing,” he adds Luke is already competing in triathlons.

Balancing exercise, work and family is not always easy though. Garth has a very full schedule. He not only runs a successful private practice, he is a consultant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and a lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of the West Indies.

He admits that he has had to become an early riser to fit exercise into his routine. He begins most of his workouts between 4 and 4:30 a.m. He does CrossFit three or four times a week and tries to fit in running, riding and swimming.

One of his time management tricks is to use his children’s after-school activity time to also exercise himself. “My son swims twice a week, once at the beach, one at the Aquatic Centre. I try to swim when he swims,” he explains.

Garth advises anyone who wants to try CrossFit not to be intimidated by it. You can work at a pace you can handle, he says, and you will get fitter and look better faster. One of the most satisfying things for him is acquiring new skills and being able to do things that he didn’t think his body could do.

“CrossFit is described as an anti-ageing formula and I feel that way. I am thrilled that I can still be doing new things with my body at this stage,” he said, ending the interview to rush off to a patient in labour.