Location: One of the most visually unique CrossFit boxes I’ve seen yet, the newly remodeled CrossFit Antwerpen is housed in a renovated factory. Hidden away at the back of a short cobblestone road in South Antwerpen, this box is lined with rustic brick and a row of windows along its high ceiling.
Ownership/Affiliation: Owner Bert Hendrickx opened CrossFit Antwerpen in 2010 with a whopping 10 total members. Now, after moving the box downstairs in June of 2012 and more than doubling its square footage, CrossFit Antwerpen has grown to 180 members strong (with roughly 70:30 male to female ratio).
Back in 2009, after enduring a self-professed ‘chubby childhood’ and investing eight years as an accountant, Hendrickx decided he’d had enough. When a close friend passed from cancer, he rededicated himself to fitness, first searching “sports” on youtube and then discovering videos of CrossFitters. Hendrickx wasted no time quitting his job, selling his car and his house, and reinvesting it all into opening a proper CrossFit box. “Now, it’s all in the kettlebells,” he jokes.
Hendrickx writes the programming for CrossFit Antwerpen, following the philosophy of CJ Martin of San Diego’s CrossFit Invictus and tailoring it for specific members. “We follow the general guidelines: squat heavy twice a week, press once a week, clean or snatch once a week,” he explains.
In addition to regular WOD classes, CrossFit Antwerpen offers Olympic lifting and yoga, and just added a physical therapist to its staff (slated to join to the team in August).
WOD (July 23rd, 5PM)
Strength: Back Squat 3×5 reps (+2.5 KG each set)
3 Rounds for total reps:
—[2 minute AMRAP: 5 hang clean squat thrusters/25 double-unders
—1 minute rest
—1 minute AMRAP: Burpees]
Hendrickx kicked off his nutritional revamp with zone eating and progressed to strict paleo, but like most other Belgians, has trouble keeping it strict with the wealth of local temptations available, “We have great bread, beer, and chocolate,” he confessed. “It can be hard when it comes to socializing, too.”
He noted the box had great success with a paleo challenge, “We gave them a little bit of freedom, adding in oatmeal and potatoes so it wasn’t so intimidating at first. 50 people entered and 40 finished with our top 5 competitors earning prizes.”
“Our members have the CrossFit community spirit,” Hendrickx begins. “They enjoy themselves, they like to have fun and get results too, of course. It’s a fun community, we like to organize group events and go out together.”
Hendrickx estimated that CrossFit Antwerpen members put together at least one event a month, like June’s Race Against Nature, similar to a Tough Mudder event race here in the States.
Global Sport Culture:
Hendrickx has observed a CrossFit boom among existing athletes, “We’re starting to see athletes give up other sports because they just like it better.”
“Getting started was hard,” he reminisces. “Now we get to focus on the best part: maintaining quality and keeping up close contact with our members.”
Though growth is slow in Antwerpen, Hendrickx is positive about the future, “I think it might take 3-5 more years to be truly mainstream. It’s evolving into something everybody has at least heard of, and now people are willing to give it a try.”