Don’t get cross, get fit, says former Marine Neil

Neil Davidson of 'Crossfit', based in Selkirk, puts Southern reporter Sally Gillespie through a testing workout in his back garden.
Neil Davidson of 'Crossfit', based in Selkirk, puts Southern reporter Sally Gillespie through a testing workout in his back garden.

THERE were biblical amounts of rain falling when I went down the road to do a crossfit session with Neil Davidson in his back garden in Selkirk.

So we settled for my trying to jump on a big tyre (nearly but not quite), hit a punch bag (more, please), swing a kettlebell (I love those things) and do something called wall balls (hold a medicine ball at chest height, squat and jump up to try to hit the top of a tall post with the ball in your hands). All good.

Then we went inside to talk about it.

Ex-Marine Neil Davidson is hugely enthusiastic about crossfit, and says he’s the fittest he’s ever been.

He told us: “Crossfit has just blown my mind.”

And he’s about to set up the region’s only crossfit gym.

He’s been doing the high intensity workouts, which originated in the US in 2002, for six months. And he completed the level one instructor course in London last month.

The 45-year-old dad had already started encouraging others to better fitness.

“You see a lot of things now in Men’s Health magazine about boot camps and that sort of thing and I thought ‘I can do that’.

“I have been into fitness all my life. I was a Royal Marine where fitness is your life and after I came out I kept it up.”

So he did a distance learning diploma in health, fitness and nutrition, and in October started running outdoor circuits on Mondays and Thursdays at the town’s Riverside. And the men and women going are seeing results.

He said: “You notice the females are changing shape and the men losing a few inches.”

The trained bodyguard then had the idea of setting up self defence classes and looked into SPEAR, an unarmed defence technique, and noticed the man who set up SPEAR was in the crossfit fraternity.

“I just really got into it,” said Neil. “I have never had fitness like it in my life. It’s very varied, it’s quite high intensity and it’s all functional movements that you do in everyday life.”

Crossfit is a strength and conditioning brand that combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastic moves, powerlifting, kettlebells, plyometrics, rowing and medicine ball training.

Neil has bought Olympic rings, climbing ropes, Olympic weights and other equipment. The tyre is huge (but I would say that having failed to jump onto it), the rower machine I squawked ‘oh noooo not the rower’ at was top quality – and he hopes to open his gym in Forest Mill, Selkirk, later this month.

“Crossfit gives you a more all-round fitness – strength, speed, stamina, agility, co-ordination, cardio. Everybody will benefit from it. They say it’s hard enough for a Marine, easy enough for the Queen. You have got to scale it to what’s required.”

The organisation has daily workouts which can be sent to your mobile and the system of training is three days working out, one day off. And Neil says it could be used alongside sports-specific training.

“The workouts are different each day and you do them over a certain length of time or so many reps: it’s full-bore. It’s improved my fitness level, strength and confidence.”

He’s aiming for a friendly atmosphere in his gym.

He’ll post the daily workout and other exercises up on the board and he has some great motivational posters.

“The atmosphere will be about having a laugh after and beforehand, but being serious about your workout, “ he said.

And as a bit of an exercise dilettante, might I just add he also has that elusive quality of really being able to motivate people, so important for those of us who are not natural athletes. Neil is also planning to offer his own cross circuits, a combination of crossfit and circuit exercises.

And instead of a membership fee which sees people lose out when on holiday or injured, he’s charging £3.50 for a ticket for a session, but the more tickets you buy in one go the cheaper it will be.

Neil is married to Audrey – who does his circuits – and the pair have a daughter, Marnie, aged nine. And Neil hopes to train as a crossfit trainer for childern: “They love it,” he said.

From Selkirk, Neil worked in the mills before joining the Marines when he was 22. He left 12 years later after tours in first and second Gulf Wars, Northern Ireland, the US and he was on a ship during the Bosnian Conflict

The hardest part physically as a marine, he said, was weight carrying in extreme environments, and some of the toughest work was mountain training and arctic warfare.

Neil’s website – www.rdasgym.co.uk – will be up and running soon. For more information, call him on 07903 239768. See you at the gym.