This is a first in a series of ‘Fitness Friday' Your Health stories.

A high-intensity workout is exploding in popularity in the Edmonton area.

It’s called Crossfit – and the workout is intense, varied, and focuses on building strength and conditioning.

“(It’s) the most challenging you’ll ever do,” says Brenda Smith, with a laugh. “It’s complex. You don’t do the same work every day. There’s no boredom. Every day is challenging a different muscle.”

At 51, Smith says she’s in the best shape of her life – and credits much of that to Crossfit.

“I would say I’ve drank the Kool-Aid. I’m a little bit addicted,” she said. “I’ve gone to a bunch of different gyms over my life. This has been a really supportive community and I’ve seen the progress.”

Smith says the community aspect of Crossfit is the reason she keeps coming back – in fact she goes four to five times a week.

“I think it just fosters that, ‘let’s get together, let’s work out together,’ and the support,” Smith said. “I think it’s just a really good thing to do together.”

The challenging routine isn’t new – but Angie McNally, trainer at Crossfit Machine Shop in Sherwood Park, says it’s been growing in popularity over the past year.

'It's a little community that's really growing'

“It’s taking the boredom out of your exercise and making you do things you never thought you’d do,” McNally said.

“Fifty, 60-year-olds are climbing ropes, doing handstand pushups, pull-ups, it’s a little community that’s really growing.”

Last year, there were about 3,400 international Crossfit affiliates.

Now there are more than 5,000 and so many people are taking part in Crossfit that beginning this month, there will be World Crossfit Games in California – where the most extreme men and women will compete for the title of ‘Fittest on Earth.’

McNally says more people are turning to Crossfit because they see results.

“It’s full-packed for an hour and results are the first thing that come. Within two weeks, people are feeling better, more energy, within a month they’re seeing their body transform,” McNally said. “It sells itself.”

There’s no treadmill, bike, or elliptical machine in sight.

Instead, instructors use weights, pull-ups and sprinting to train.

Demand for high-intensity, quick workouts

Lisa Belanger, with the University of Alberta's Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, says there’s a demand for quick workouts that pack a punch.

“There’s a lot of call for quick workouts, so being in and out of the facility within an hour to fit it into your schedule,” Belanger said.

Belanger encourages those interested in high-intensity workouts not to jump in too fast – or else you could be injured.

She advises against sitting for most of the work day and then going to do a high-intensity workout.

“It’s something that your body does need to build up to,” Belanger said.

“If you’re starting out, let them know this is your first class or your first session and they’ll usually bring you up to speed nicely, lighter weights at first and gradually building up.”

Smith says she’s amazed by the improvement she’s seen – particularly in her strength – since she started doing Crossfit.

“I probably went down two dress sizes and as well as being able to do say a 100-pound back squat to 225, I mean, that’s just strength. It’s been a great thing for my strength,” Smith said.

“I used to run three to four times a week and did marathons and never saw the change in my body like I’ve had here.”

With files from Carmen Leibel