CrossFit training. | Simon Kenion Shears

You’ve heard of cross-training- the intense exercise methodology turned gruelling sport. It’s for young athletes with bulging shoulders and abdominal muscles resembling cheese graters… isn’t it?

Cross-training institutions- like the world leader CrossFit Inc.- have long touted that its exercise methodology isn’t just for athletes, but for everyone. Apparently, that includes cancer patients.

Nat Díez is the Brand Manager for CrossFit Spain. She’s also an excellent coach and runs her own gym- FreeMove CrossFit- in Son Castelló. I had the privilege of meeting her early last month whilst in Barcelona completing my CrossFit Trainer Level II Certificate Course. Nat was one of the instructors or ‘flowmasters’ teaching the seminar. She was everything I could have hoped for in a coach. With perfect posture and in flawless English, she explained the necessary attributes of a coach clearly and with purpose. As I exhibited my coaching skills, her attentive eye never missed poor form in my mock students; no flexed spine went un-straightened, no collapsed knees went un-widened. Her character was firm and fair, just like her physique.

At the end of the course, I heard about Nat’s role with CrossFit Health and a prehabilitation scheme at the Hospital Comarcal in Inca. Its oncology unit is the first to have a CrossFit affiliated gym (also known as a ‘box’), named CrossFit Front Garden, within the hospital walls. It’s all part of its prehabilitation centre. That’s right; not re-hab,- where people are sent to mend, but pre-hab, where patients are sent to prepare their bodies for the struggle ahead. Does it work? Well, a study published by the American Surgical Association found that ‘prehabilitation is associated with significantly improved 5-year disease-free survival in stage III colorectal cancer.’
I’ll let Nat tell you more about it.

CrossFit training

Hi Nat, so, what is your role in the CrossFit community?
I have different roles in the CrossFit Community in Spain. On the one hand I am seminar staff, which means I am a trainer who teaches other trainers how to train other people. We bring the tools and the know-how to be an effective coach, which means giving results to our clients, increasing their work capacity [in that way we] prepare them to succeed in life.
‘On the other hand, I am the Country Manager of the CrossFit Inc. brand in Spain. I assist affiliates (CrossFit gym owners) in whatever they may need (info about seminars, updates from the company, legal support, social media support, YouTube channel, Instagram and Twitter profiles...)’

What are the objectives of CrossFit Health?
CrossFit Health is an investigation into the ills of modern medicine and the lessons learned from the legal dismantling of fake science, crooked journalism, and perjuring scientists. Together, these institutions have given us a forensic [and unconstructive] view [of health]. We call the combination of runaway medical costs and disease rates [that are a product of this approach], ‘The Mess.’ [In an effort to change the status quo,] part of the CrossFit affiliation fee goes toward studies regarding health, nutrition, science and medicine.’

What is CrossFit Health’s relationship with the work you’re doing here in Majorca?
My relationship with the work I do at the Hospita Comarcal is not necessarily CrossFit Health related but CrossFit itself. At the Hospital we are developing a study, collecting data.
We prep people for success in their future surgery. Right now we are focused on oncologic patients.

We prescribe CrossFit at least twice per week to increase their health and fitness, making them stronger physically and psychologically to face the surgery and cancer treatment- including radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

CrossFit training

How long have you been working with CrossFit Front Garden and how did you get involved?
It’s been almost a year and a half working at the hospital right now. Carlo Brugiotti -the chief of surgery at the Hospital- has been an athlete at FreeMove CrossFit for several years. One day we started talking about CrossFit Health, his job, my job. We realized that we have a real opportunity to help people in one of the hardest moments in their life.

Are there any plans to expand the CrossFit prehabilitation program here in Spain?
At the moment we want to develop a solid system here [at Hospital Comarcal]. It’s not easy to develop this kind of project since every hospital is different, and the resources are pretty limited.

Why did you want to get involved?
I think that almost everybody knows someone who suffers from chronic disease. In Spain, 80% of deaths are related to chronic disease and 70% of the Public Sanitary Expense goes to the treatment of chronic disease.

Personally, after 8 years of coaching CrossFit and traveling around the world teaching our methodology, there was a part inside of me asking for a higher level of coaching.The false belief that CrossFit is just for some, and that you need to be fit to do CrossFit is one of the biggest lies out there. No matter the level of your fitness, everybody should do CrossFit.

What we do is prepare people for life; for the known and the unknown. When you realize that the needs of our elite athletes and our grandmas are the same; that the movements change in grade but not in kind; when you see how a 70-year-old man can enjoy an independent living and quality of life, that’s when you see the beauty of this methodology.

How are patients selected for prehabilitation? i.e. what criteria should a patient meet before being signed onto the programme?
At the moment, in the Hospital Comarcal de Inca, if you are diagnosed with cancer, specifically tumor related, you will be in this program. The more patients we have, the more chances to be successful in the surgery. With time, and a bigger infrastructure and resources, we would like to offer this service to bariatric surgery, all kind of cancers, and also to the medical staff.

Does the coaching/programming differ with prehabilitation compared to what you’d normally find in a local CrossFit box? If so, how?
Yes and no. The first contact with the patient is a 1:1 session where we take the patient through eleven different small tests to have a broad idea of their General Physical Stage. From there we just do regular CrossFit (always scaling [the movements and workouts]) respecting their physical and psychological tolerances.

Depending on when the surgery is programmed, we make sure we have enough time to retest them and see how much they have been improving. A big difference is that prior to CrossFit, doctors do several test regarding health markers and a post-test to compare progress.

What, if anything, is satisfying to you about the work?
Definitely this job has different things that make it awesome. The core of my work is to help people to become a better athlete, a better father, mother, person, affiliate, business owner, coach or better human being. The only thing that I do is bring the tools to the table and make them do what they don’t know they can do yet.

Regarding CrossFit Front Garden, sharing moments where people are pretty sensitive and concerned makes this job difficult and emotional, but when you see how much they improve and the success of the surgery, it is definitely worth it!

Through Nat and her associates, Hospital Comarcal and CrossFit Front Garden work in collaboration with CrossFit, CrossFit Spain, CrossFit Health and Yes With Cancer. If you’d like to know more about the prehabilitation programme, contact the Hospital Comarcal on +34 971 88 85 00.