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Firefighters, soccer moms take it to the next level

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Firefighters, soccer moms take it to the next level

Manteca firefighters’ workout includes a medicine ball, explosive jumps and lift.

HIME ROMERO/209 Health & Wellness


POSTED July 24, 2012 6:31 p.m.

Derek Leong thought he was pretty fit and healthy.

And so would anyone else who saw him do his workouts

He was, after all, a firefighter who hit the gym four to five times a week pumping iron and wasn’t overweight.

But that was before the 32-year-old discovered CrossFit.

Today, he weighs less, has more stamina, has less body fat, has enhanced muscle strength and bounces back quicker after scrambling with heavy water charged hoses while working in intense heat.

“I was just kind of going through my workouts before,” said Leong, who has worked as a City of Manteca firefighter for 3½ years.

CrossFit is more than just a workout. Leong describes it as a “way of life” as it incorporates nutrition that reflects what a modern-day body needs. It is based on the premise that the needs of Olympic athletes and senior citizens differ by degree using a fitness program that is broad and general and steers clear of specializing a workout for one particular pursuit whether it is as a firefighter, a runner, a cage fighter, a cyclist, or a housewives who simply wants to be fit and healthy.

“Growing up you are told to clean your plate,” Leong said. “We had a typical Asian diet heavy on rice.”

Leong has been able to build strength, reduce weight, and increase stamina by switching to a diet with some lean meat. For Leong that meant abandoning a heavy rice diet that he was raised on and eschewing other high glycemic carbohydrates.

His diet now consists of some lean meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds with a minimum of starch.

It’s not one that makes him feel hungry. Nor is it one that denies him “treats.”

“You have to really be careful around the fire station because people are always bringing stuff like cookies,” he said.

And if you think CrossFit - which has its roots as the principal strength and conditioning program for military special operation units and many police academies - is just for athletes or those who need brawn to do their jobs guess again.

“CrossFit has soccer moms and senior citizens,” Leong noted, adding that several Manteca Police officers also do the CrossFit program.

Leong has always been active. He played soccer and ran track at Mission San Jose High in Fremont. Exercising has always has been a way of life for him. He was always well aware that as he got older that he would need to pay more attention to his fitness and nutrition.

What he didn’t expect, though, was coming across a program such as CrossFit that took his fitness to a “whole new level.”

Going to a “whole new level” is also what his engine company colleagues also said they have experienced following Leong into a CrossFit lifestyle.

Battalion Chief Dave Marques, Captain Sterrie McLeod and engineer Derek George have been immersed in the CrossFit lifestyle for several months. All report a drop in weight, more strength, and better overall health.

“It’s made a big difference,” noted Marques who has been physically active all of his life. “I don’t fatigue as easily and my recover time is much shorter now.”

The inside of the Manteca CrossFit Excel gym on Moffat Boulevard in the Manteca Business Park is Spartan compared to your typical gym. You won’t see any weight machines. But you will see ropes, barbells, pull-up bars, dumbbells, gymnastic rings, medicine balls, kettle bells, climbing rope, jump ropes, and other items such as sturdy boxes for explosive jumps. The exercise routines employ movements such as sprinting, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope, carrying objects, and weightlifting.

“It (CrossFit) is definitely a part of my life as I work out with my wife and share the same nutrition goals,” Leong said. “You get even more motivated when you see the results.”

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