Category: CrossFit

25 Feb


Brazil: Rocinha CrossFit + The Biggest Vision


Rocinha Main photo

Rocinha Main photo
Whatever Rocinha CrossFit lacks in physical space, it makes up for in heart. Head Coach Rogério Rodrigues runs the Rocinha CrossFit show—not out of a permanent box location—but wherever he can gather enough resources for a class.

Unable to find a physical address or schedule for Rocinha CrossFit, I connected with Rodrigues via e-mail to set-up a time to WOD. Initially hesitant about entering one of the most dangerous favelas (slums) in all of Brazil, I couldn’t have been happier with my decision to meet up with Rogério. It was one of the best experiences of my entire time abroad.

From my hostel in Lapa, I took a 55 minute bus ride to the base of the Gávea foothills, gazing up through the dirty windows at one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the magnificent Cristo Redento (Christ the Redeemer) statue atop Corcovado.
Cristo Redentor
“Last stop!” the Portuguese bus driver bellowed as the bus jerked to a stop at the base of a significantly steep, winding road. I hopped out and started my ascent, sweating profusely as the tropical humidity pushed early morning temperatures into the high-80’s.

At the top of the hill, I met Rogério Rodrigues, a 32-year-old Rocinha native with an infectious smile and incredible perspective.

Rogério and I kept climbing, the views growing increasingly spectacular. Along the way, Rogério (in perfect english) asked me why I had decided to travel. When I answered with some version of, “to stay fit, learn more about CrossFit culture and meet interesting people along the way,” he nodded, smiled and deadpanned, “I am the most interesting people you will meet baby.”

We crested the hill and I was treated to a stunning panoramic view of the favela from above, nestled in between two huge rock faces with the beaches in the distance. Rocinha

Rodrigues nodded for me to follow him and we descended into the outer edges of Rocinha. He navigated the crowded and narrow streets of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious favela with ease. To call Rocinha overpopulated would be a drastic understatement. Bustling with 120,000 residents, Rocinha’s tin shanty houses are built right into the hillside in Rio’s South Zone between the districts of São Conrado and Gávea. Despite open sewer lines, crumbling walls and tangled nests of power lines, the Rocinha residents seem productive and happy.
Rochina 2

Rogério greets many of the favelados (favela residents) by name and is recognized by many others. He’s clearly established a reputation here and it’s one of respect and admiration.

After a mini-tour of the favela, we come to the perfect location for first WOD, a playground. But first, Rogério and I stop to stretch and discuss how Rocinha CrossFit was born.

In 2008, Rogério met Chris Clark, a US marine teaching english abroad in Brazil, when they both worked with the non-profit Institute Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers), an organization aimed at promoting community and education.

Clark introduced Rogério, a volunteer coordinator and boxing instructor with 10+ years of Muay Thai experience, to the CrossFit methodology—and the idea for Rocinha CrossFit was born. The pair wrote to Founder/Coach Greg Glassman who, “replied instantly and enthusiastically,” and they were awarded the first and only non-profit CrossFit box status in all of South America.

Rocinha CrossFit’s biggest issue, besides lack of space, is shortage of equipment. Though plenty of supporters have pledged resources, delivery via boat is time-consuming and expensive. Rodrigues gets creative with his programming utilizing nearby playgrounds, benches, stairs, and minimal equipment like kettlebells, elastic bands, sandbags and stones.

After almost 30 minutes of warm-up with plyometrics, stretching and band work, Rogério revealed the WOD.

Playground WOD


September 13th (10am), Rocinha Playground WOD:

5 Rounds of 3 min AMRAP:
5 burpee pull-ups
1 kettlebell complex
Tabata box-jump cash-out

Two days later we met up to WOD again, this time at the gorgeous São Conrado beach.

September 15th (9am), São Conrado Beach WOD:
Rogerio beach WOD
15 min Partner AMRAP:
10 sandbag cleans
10 tiger push-ups
50 yards overhead lunging
10 yard swim/sprint

3 Rounds:
10 sandbag swings
15 air squats
25 yard forward sprint
25 yard backward sprint
10 yard swim

15 minute gratitude meditation

Sao Conrado beach WOD

São Conrado beach WOD

Rogério is eager to teach paleo nutritional fundamentals to Rocinha residents, who have plentiful access to processed, packaged foods but lack the awareness to prepare and consume real foods. “People are still starving,” he says. “They eat the cheap, deep-fried, sugary treat and then wonder why they’re hungry 5 minutes later.”

Rodrigues plans to offer interactive nutritional classes (“Not just seminars!”) and have his members get their hands dirty in a community garden.

At the heart of Rogério’s quest: the favela children. A favela native, he knows how limiting the walls of the favela can be for its inhabitants.

Rogério’s first goal is education, from which he plans to build a culture of excellence. He’s frustrated with the one-sided media portrayal of favelas—the culture of violence, gangs, drug and alcohol abuse. “99% of Rocinha residents are good, happy people,” Rogério says, gesturing around.

“My vision is so BIG. I see my clients being proud of being from a place like this, of inspiring the thousands of other favela residents to say, ‘Okay, we can do this.’ I want to change the victim mentality, the lazy mentality.”

Classes are free for Rocinha youth, especially aimed at creating a healthy structure and environment for those who have dropped out of school.

This monumental effort, though, can be fatiguing. Rogério has often thought of giving up, of pursuing another career, but he’s too committed to changing lives. It’s a discipline he brings to his CrossFit training.

“I get stronger every time I try. You just have to work with it. Some days you don’t want to WOD, but you get up and you’re always glad you made the effort.”

At the time of my visit, Rogério averaged roughly 5 visitors every two months from locations worldwide. Plans for a permanent location are in the works—he has identified the perfect space, in all places, an abandoned church. Rogério believes that once a physical space has been established, this box will flourish.

Rogério is the ideal box owner. Generous with his time, resources, and knowledge. Passionate about his community, fitness and nutrition. Willing to risk it all for what he loves. A huge heart and an even bigger vision to match.

More Resources:
Favela Fitness CrossFit Journal Article by Chris Clark
Interview with Rogério
Short Documentary
Foundation for Human Performance:  A non-profit foundation that wants to take Rocinha CrossFit to the point of self-sustainability, and then continue efforts to help other boxes do so, as well. The foundation can be reached through Chris Clark at

04 Feb


USA: Telegraph CrossFit + Teaching Others


Telegraph CrossFit

Location: Telegraph CrossFit
In a thriving city full of fitness options, Telegraph CrossFit brings its unique approach to the quiet Inner Richmond neighborhood in western San Francisco. Just off of Geary and Arguello boulevard (and easily accessible by the 38 Muni line), Telegraph CF is the sweet spot of convenience and quality.

Owner and Head Coach Angel Orozco (along with his wife, Tamra), formerly of San Francisco CrossFit, has devoted 7 years to the Sport of Fitness, coaching for the last 5. Before CrossFit, Orozco competed in football, baseball, swimming, surfing, and triathlons. He discovered CrossFit by accident in a Men’s Health feature detailing WODs by SWAT team members.

Incredibly knowledgable but laid-back, friendly and open—-Orozco has always known he wanted to open his own box.

Head Coach, Angel

Head Coach, Angel

He finally made his dream come true last summer, opening Telegraph CrossFit in June of 2012. Though he had plenty of experience as an athlete and coach, Orozco knew there was still one aspect that needed work, “I really learned how to become more of a people-person.” Orozco’s work has paid off. Well-respected in the community and well-loved by his members, Orozco strikes the perfect balance of tough love and friendship.

“Athletes can tell a good coach from a bad coach,” Orozco smiles. And he’s right. His directions are simple and his coaching tips efficient and powerful.

The team of three Telegraph trainers (including Scott Penwell and Orozco’s brother and recent San Diego transplant, Sean Pacher), welcome about 60 members to Telegraph each month. Orozco hopes to continue to expand programming, adding Olympic lifting specific classes and powerlifting clubs. Co-coach Scott leads the endurance club.
Telegraph CF 1
Orozco’s members rave about the quality of his programming—something he writes entirely on his own. Orozco describes his style of programming as “old school,” saying he pulls from a mix of influences including former colleagues at SFCF like Kelly Starrett, other top level NorCal athletes, highly-respected Olympic Lifting Coach Mike Burgener in San Diego, and other coaches/athletes at the Santa Cruz HQ.

WOD (Friday, January 11, 5:30pm):

A: 5x1rm jerk

B: 5x 5 weighted pull-ups

C: 3x for time:
50 double-unders
25 hand release push-ups
15 db hang clean (50/300)

Orozco describes the Telegraph community as, “pretty much paleo.” Adding, “It’s tough living in a city with such great food.” Orozco doesn’t believe in charging a separate fee for nutritional guidance, instead offering tailored support whenever clients ask for more direction.
Paleo info
Orozco has seen great results with nutritional challenges like the Whole30 program and admits he’s, “done it all,” when it comes to nutrition, including experimenting with Zone, strict paleo, anabolic, and calorie counting among others. The box just kicked off their first Paleo Challenge on February 1st.

Orozco has demonstrated success with a particular demographic: the beginners, the non-active, the overweight, the smokers. He welcomes all levels of athletes with open arms. Orozco strongly believes that once you are ready to commit to losing weight or working through your medical condition, you can change your life forever. He sees Telegraph CrossFit as a place for every member to be successful, sometimes for their first time.

Ideally, Orozco wants the quality of his coaching, community, and programming to be successful enough that his athletes can go teach others. Isn’t that what CrossFit is all about?

10 Sep


Chile: CrossFit Santiago + Potential for Growth


CrossFit Santiago

CrossFit Santiago
The first established box in South America (2006), CrossFit Santiago evolved like many other of the best CrossFit boxes—out of a small backyard set-up. Currently situated in an expansive warehouse in Central Santiago just east of the Toesca metro station on the orange line, CrossFit Santiago welcomes 140 members a month through its doors.

Ownership/Affiliation: Sole owner Pavel Saenz, a former MMA fighter, first discovered CrossFit on a quick trip up to Portland, Oregon in 2005 where he connected with CrossFit Portland owner Scotty Hagnas, and fell in love with the sport of fitness. “At this point in time, there were no Level 1 certifications,” Saenz explains. “First, we had to train. Then we had to learn to teach others. I got a lot of great advice from [then affiliate director] Tony Budding. The original blog I started back then is still up today.”

CrossFit Santiago today, from the outside

CrossFit Santiago today, from the outside

Saenz kept his day job as a documentary filmmaker but wasted no time setting up a small box in his backyard with the goal of training other MMA fighters, CrossFit-style. “We had one barbell and a big log for box jumps,” he laughs, recalling their cramped space. Quality training didn’t go unnoticed for long and other clients came calling after seeing about the results Saenz produced. He juggled his backyard box and day job for two years before getting fired and investing everything in CrossFit.

Saenz writes the entirety of CrossFit Santiago’s programming, splitting the WODs into three levels of training based on experience; those with 2 months or less, 4 months or less, and 6 months or more. Like many other boxes, Saenz creates special programming for an elite group of athletes with a focus on competition.

12 Minute AMRAP (Friday, September 7, 5pm):
First minute = 5 strict press (35kg)
Second minute = max rep pull-ups

Repeat sequence 6 times

CrossFit Santiago regularly introduces nutrition challenges and seminars for their clients. Currently, they’re in the midst of the The Best Shape of My Life Nutrition Challenge created by CrossFit Verve owner, Matt Chan. Saenz believes it’s just a matter of breaking bad habits, “They’re just used to a lot of bread and soda. But eating clean isn’t an economical issue here, we have lots of cheap fruit and vegetables available.”
“A lot of community, a lot of friends,” Saenz says about the CrossFit Santiago community. “We’re downtown, but people commute from all over just to be here.” On average, Saenz estimated that the average CrossFit Santiago client traveled over 35 minutes to get to the box for a WOD.

“Our community sets us apart. We have all types of clients from all over.” The CrossFit Santiago community regularly meets outside of the box for workshops, camps, hikes and “fondas” or parties. With the approaching Chilean “Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day)” on September 18th, CrossFit Santiago members will gather for a huge fonda complete with paleo food offerings, drinks and dancing.

Global Sport Culture:
Saenz is excited about the future of CrossFit, especially in Chile, “We have a greater potential, percentage-wise, for growth, than other countries. Besides futbol (and a little tennis), we don’t really participate in sports,” he laughs. “So when people tire of the traditional gym, CrossFit is a great alternative.”

07 Sep


Argentina: Reebok CrossFit Tuluka + Serious Service


Tuluka Main Entrance

Tuluka Main Entrance
Members of Reebok CrossFit Tuluka greet each other with a special Tuluka handshake, an open horizontal high-five followed a quick fist bump and a smile. The handshake is a small thing, really, an intimate gesture among trusted friends. But it’s representative of the warmth and community at Tuluka, a box with big dreams that could be the blueprint for CrossFit’s future.

Reebok CrossFit Tuluka, the first and most established CrossFit Affiliate in urban Buenos Aires (est. 2010), just launched a second location along busy Avenida Libertador in Nuñez. Both locations (including their original box in Palermo off of Honduras) are beautifully decorated and offer an impressively comprehensive array of services and amenities to their 600+ members.
Tuluka amenities
From the exterior, the Reebok CrossFit Tuluka boxes might be mistaken for trendy, boutique globo gyms. Make no mistake, despite their luxurious appearance and amenities, these boxes are serious about the training. In each location, a receptionist checks athletes into classes and doubles as a barista for the caffeine-addicted. Small paleo treats, protein bars, and packages of nuts are also offered. Inspirational quotes and gorgeous murals line the walls. Above the main training floor, a full-service locker room and lounge oversee the action below.

Here, the Reebok CrossFit Tuluka brand reigns paramount and the marketing has been tailored accordingly. Brochures, pamphlets, posters, stickers and business cards are all perfectly executed. In-house motivational videos inspire on multiple TV screens throughout the box, accompanied by upbeat music.

Check out some of their videos here! When I showed one of these clips to my Argentinian host, she replied, “Are you train to be superhero?”

Four co-owners (Martín, Santiago, Nico, Lucas) oversee development, marketing, coaching, nutrition and management at the two bustling Reebok CrossFit Tuluka locations. I chatted with Martín Casas after an evening WOD in their original location.

Tuluka's upstairs locker room

Tuluka’s upstairs locker room

I told Casas how impressed I was with the amenities and he thanked me graciously, saying, “At Reebok CrossFit Tuluka, we are serious about service.”

Head Coach Santiago “Siri” Terbalca writes the programming for these boxes. Kettlebell training featured prominently in both WODs I completed at Tuluka locations. When I asked co-owner Lucas if they utilized kettlebells over barbells because of limited space, he replied with a smile, “No. We use them because they’re effective.”

Reebok CrossFit Tuluka maintains a robust class schedule; at their original location in Palermo, WOD classes begin at 7am and members crank out workouts every hour on the hour until 9pm. Weekends are much the same with WODs beginning on Saturdays at 8am – 1pm, breaking for 2 hours, and continuing from 3pm – 8pm.

At their new location in Nuñez, classes run on the half-hour.
WOD board
Tuluka also offers an “athletes” class; an elite group of members handpicked by the coaches to tackle extra strength training in preparation for competition.


Reebok CrossFit Tuluka Nunez (Saturday, September 1st, 1pm):
300 KB Meltdown (R’x: 24kg/16kg)
25 weighted sit-ups
50 kb snatches
25 kb figure 8’s
50 kb goblet squats
50 kb swings
50 kb alternating lunges
50 kb clean & jerks

Reebok CrossFit Tuluka Palermo (Tuesday, September 3rd, 7pm):
18 minute AMRAP:
8 kb cleans
12 Grasshoppers
16 kb wall balls

Paleo seminar flyer

Paleo seminar flyer

Paleo nutrition is common among Reebok CrossFit Tuluka members, Casas says. “We want to teach the community. We want to educate our members, so they can make the best choice,” he explains. Both boxes host paleo seminars at least once a month and employ a nutritional consultant for private sessions.

Coach Pablo Cariman described the Tuluka philosophy with an appropriate iceberg analogy, “What we do [here] in the box is just the tip. We want our members to take that same attitude to life outside the box, to push yourself in the same way you push yourself here.”
Tuluka philosophy
Global Sport Culture:
Casas is sure that CrossFit is here to stay. He and the other co-owners have started integrating training with some of the local sport clubs in the area, targeting rugby in particular, “Rugby players come in, train for a few months and see the same results in a year’s worth of work.”

Tuluka has established itself as a premium fitness brand, and Casas believes other boxes will move towards their model, “I believe CrossFit will begin to take the place of other ‘globo gyms’ out there. People are bored. Once they start to train CrossFit, they love it. It’s not just a sport for fun, it’s a way of life.”

04 Sep


New Zealand: CrossFit Queenstown + Improving Performance in Every Sport


CF Queenstown main

CF Queenstown main
Currently sharing space and running WOD classes out of an all-purpose training room in the Queenstown Event Center, CrossFit Queenstown resides just outside the bustling tourist center in Frankton. Easily accessible by bus and close to the airport, CrossFit Queenstown’s current set-up is only temporary. Blueprint plans have already been drawn for their new box, set to be built just outside the Event Center with a spectacular view of The Remarkables for a fitting backdrop.

Co-owners Graeme Macdonald and Stephen Orr affiliated recently, making their box official in February of 2012. A Canadian transplant who came to Queenstown for a winter vacation and never left, Macdonald fell in love with the charming tourist ski town (and CrossFit) and decided to bring the sport of fitness to this adventure seeker’s paradise.

The Remarkables

The Remarkables

Macdonald started his athletic career with soccer and lacrosse but found CrossFit at age of 18, immediately attracted to its intensity and variety. After three years of dedicated training, and a transition to CrossFit Vancouver, the first and biggest CrossFit gym in Canada, Macdonald felt passionate and prepared enough to become a certified trainer. He earned his CrossFit Level 1 Certification in Portland, Oregon.

Macdonald and Orr “individually write programming for our own respective classes,” Macdonald says. In the true spirit of CrossFit, he believes it, “Keeps things random and unpredictable.”

CrossFit Queenstown offers 11 classes per week with the 6:30am WOD drawing the most members, between 4-9 athletes.

Coach Graeme Macdonald

Coach Graeme Macdonald

5 x 3 of heavy deadlifts

Fight Gone Bad [Queenstown style]
1 minute per exercise for 3 rounds:
Box jumps
Deadlifts [60kg]
Ring Dips
Wall Balls
1 minute rest

Still working on establishing a consistent client base (Queenstown is notorious for high-tourist traffic, especially in winter), Macdonald recognizes the value in nutritional consulting, he just hasn’t had time to introduce it yet. “Paleo is something Stephen and I have both dabbled with. We hope to introduce it to our members in the very near future,” he explains.


The Big Al (and a big stomachache)

On a not-paleo sidenote, I indulged in a local institution known as Fergburger, dubbed the best burger in town by multiple sources. This “Big Al” came loaded with 1/2 lb prime New Zealand beef, bacon, 2 eggs, beet, lettuce, tomato and red onion.

It didn’t disappoint.

CrossFit Queenstown’s philosophy is simple, “We strive to deliver the most consistently variable, professional, and valued service to every single athlete,” Macdonald says.

A mecca for adventure sport athletes, Queenstown draws skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and paddleboarders alike. Macdonald recognizes a market ripe with potential when he sees it, “We promote CrossFit as a means of improving your performance in every sport. The generation of lean muscle, combined with metabolic conditioning creates a perfect platform for sport performance increase. From soccer to rugby, paddle boarding, cycling and running, we train and support them all.”

CF Queenstown

Close to the proposed site for the new CrossFit Queenstown box.

Macdonald is quick to credit the Queenstown community, “The community has been so supportive. Personal trainers have sent us clients because they feel we can offer them more. That’s amazing.”

In the future, Macdonald believes, “CrossFit will lead to an elite population of educated, fit, and AWARE citizens that know their bodies like never before.”

27 Aug


New Zealand: CrossFit New Zealand + Preconceived Limitations


CF NZ main photo

CF NZ main photo
Location: The first box established in Auckland, CrossFit New Zealand opened in 2008, making it one of the first 500 boxes in the world (at last count, total number of affiliates hovered around 4,400). In their second location, a sprawling garage in the eastern suburb of St. Johns, CFNZ serves a community of 150 diverse athletes.

Coach Darren
Darren Ellis, sole CFNZ owner and former gymnast/martial artist, first found CrossFit on the internet. After reading through “Angie” (For time: 100 Pull-ups, 100 Push-ups, 100 Sit-ups, 100 Squats), Ellis thought to himself, “Who does 100 pull-ups? That’s just stupid.”

But after earning a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, working in the fitness industry, and doing extensive research into his own health, fitness and performance, he felt his knowledge and experience weren’t reflected in the way that mattered most: progress. “CrossFit showed me how to enjoy exercise again, and how to push myself past preconceived limitations, both physical and mental,” Ellis said.

Ellis loves power cleans and hates handstand push-ups. His favorite aspect of coaching is simple, “I love undoing the damage done to people’s bodies and minds by poor advice from gyms, food companies, and government ‘experts’. Taking people who have lost all faith in the possibility of being health and fit, and showing them how to achieve it.”
CF NZ box and WOD
Ellis writes all of the programming for CFNZ with a focus on strength and Olympic lifting. CFNZ offers a variety of classes in functional exercise; including kettlebell training, bodyweight calisthenics, Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics. According to their website their classes, “purposely avoid muscle isolating machines in favor of the real world movements of life and sport.”

WOD (Thursday, August 23rd, 4:30pm):
Back Squat 5×5
Hip Extension 5×10

5 rounds for time
200m run
5 burpees
15 sit-ups

“We’ve definitely got that community going. It’s good honest hard work in here. We have some of the best athletes in the country, but you won’t see anyone being cocky or arrogant,” Ellis says of the CFNZ members.
CFNZ comm
Ruth Sullman, a 4-year CFNZ veteran, acknowledges that the box has grown quite a bit in the last year but still retains its positive, friendly vibe. “The growth is a credit to Darren,” Sullman says. “He’s able to attract new clients while maintaining the strength of the original community.”

As we wrapped up our quick interview, Ellis added one last thought.

“We get shit done,” he said with a smile, hustling off to corral the next batch of incoming athletes.

23 Aug


New Zealand: Reebok CrossFit Canterbury + World Class Fitness


CF Canterbury main photo

CF Canterbury main photo
Located among the industrial warehouses just west of Christchurch city proper, Reebok CrossFit Canterbury started out in a small warehouse on Moorhouse Avenue back in 2010. In August of 2011, they relocated to Montreal Street and added plenty of extra space, more equipment, a physio therapist and a sports masseuse.

A fixture within the rugby culture in New Zealand for their close family ties to the All Blacks, Reebok CrossFit Canterbury Director of Coaching, Ken Franks, and his two sons, Ben and Owen, opened this 250-member box with a second location already in the works.

Franks brothers

All Blacks brothers, Ben and Owen Franks

Overseeing a staff of one full-time trainer and five part-time trainers, Franks implemented his own coaching program for aspiring trainers. New coaches must progress through five levels of instruction to teach at Reebok CrossFit Canterbury: trainee, trainer, coach in training, coach and head coach.

Always on the hunt for any programming that could give his sons a rugby edge, Franks stumbled upon CrossFit through google four years ago and introduced some of the principles into Ben and Owen’s training regimen. He cautions against those who see CrossFit as the be-all, end-all of sport specific fitness, “It’s important to remember that even though CrossFit makes you supremely fit and gives you the ability to do rugby skills longer and faster, it doesn’t make you a better rugby player.”

“To be a better rugby player,” he added. “You must train rugby specific skills.”

At Reebok CrossFit Canterbury, Franks discovered that a traditional two-week element course with six sessions wasn’t practical for kiwis. Instead, he put together a comprehensive one week element program (meeting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) that covers the fundamentals.

When asked about the addition of any additional Olympic-lifting specialized courses, Franks explained, “Olympic lifting and CrossFit are two different beasts. Of course it’s important to get your Olympic lifting technique correct. In Oly lifting, though, you’re looking at sets of 3-5. In a CrossFit sense, it doesn’t really matter how great your form is, if you’re doing 30 clean and jerks for time, your form will deteriorate to some degree. So we try to balance the two here.”
CF Canterbury WOD
WOD (Saturday, August 18th, 9am):
400m sprint for time (fastest+slowest finishers paired up by time:, ie: 1st and 10th place, 2nd and 9th, 3rd and 8th, etc)

10 minute partner AMRAP (one partner working at a time):
10 Thrusters (40/55kg)
10 hand release push ups
2 burpees

400m sprint for time (if you don’t beat your combined time from the first sprint, you owe a minute of burpees)
1k run cool-down

Though a massive aftershock in 2011 interrupted their last Paleo challenge, Franks says the majority of their members eat clean. He encourages his athletes to test out paleo and zone approaches to see what works best.

Franks is clear about his goals for Reebok CrossFit Canterbury, saying simply, “We want to be world class.”
Reebok CF Canterbury from street view
He acknowledges that his sons’ high-profile reputation might affect how some see the box, “We’re not just a ‘meathead’ gym, we’re here for everyone. I don’t believe we’re world class if everyone can’t come in and participate. That’s what it’s all about.”

Gesturing out at the athletes gathering for the next WOD, Franks says,”We’ve got the greatest community here, and such a broad spectrum of athletes.”

The Reebok CrossFit Canterbury members are dedicated, too. Even after the quake hit in 2011, athletes barely skipped a beat, stopping for a few moments to look around outside the box after the shaking subsided and then coming back in to finish their WOD. They finally, reluctantly, headed home after a second aftershock hit.

Though he’s had the ability to train elite athletes in a variety of sport disciplines, Franks says he gets the biggest kick out of seeing new athletes accomplish something they never thought they could do.
CF Canterbury
Global Sport Culture:
Franks believes there is a place for CrossFit among the elite rugby athletes in New Zealand, especially with the introduction of offseason periodization, “If we get them in here during the offseason and really work hard on their strength… there’s just an unlimited future there.”

Still, Franks understands that it might take time for the naysayers to come around. For those who aren’t quite convinced, Franks imparts some simple advice, “Do what you’re doing, especially if you’re enjoying it. If you find it doesn’t work, come see us, we have an alternative.”

17 Aug


Australia: CrossFit 224 + Better Environments


CrossFit 224

CrossFit 224
Location: Situated conveniently in Melbourne’s bustling CBD (central business district) at the intersection of Lonsdale and Queen street, CrossFit 224 is a relatively new addition to the CrossFit scene in the recently renamed, “world’s most liveable city.”

Ownership/Affiliation: Co-owners (and former gym coworkers) Frank Cisternino and Dan Lempriere launched the converted bank vault turned box with an official kickoff party in early June of 2012. With over 10 years of experience in physical therapy and personal training, Lempriere began incorporating CrossFit principles into his client sessions with great success. It was only a matter of time before he decided to make CrossFit his full-time pursuit.

Lempriere writes the majority of the programming for CrossFit 224’s 60 athletes (60:40, women to men), tweaking it to accommodate new members with little CrossFit exposure, “We’re mixing in plenty of elements but still following a solid basic template,” he explains.

In addition to on-ramp and WOD classes, CrossFit 224 also offers personal training, mobility sessions and a CrossFit Endurance team to target emerging triathletes.


Fight Gone Bad WOD

WOD (August 15th, 7:45am):

Fight Gone Bad
1 minute AMRAP, each exercise for 3 rounds:
Wall Balls (9kg)
Sumo deadlift high pull (35kg)
Box Jumps (20″)
Row (calories)
Push Press (35kg)
1 min rest

My visit to CrossFit 224 landed mid-Paleo Challenge (running August 1st-31st) and they surprised me with a beautiful Paleo breakfast spread. Julia prepared all kinds of delicious paleo fare (see photo!) and Mandy brought in some homemade pumpkin bread.

Paleo spread

Paleo spread: fresh fruit, paleo pancakes (almond butter, banana, eggs), coffee with almond milk, hardboiled eggs with spinach+sweet potato and paleo pumpkin bread!

Paleo challenge competitors are asked to register in advance, take before and after photos, and log all of their food intake for the entire month. The top three finalists are voted on by the box athletes and the champion takes home a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant and free month’s membership.

Frank and Dan plan to run challenges every quarter and encourage their athletes to maintain good nutritional habits through a paleo facebook recipe page.

Despite being a new box, the community at CrossFit 224 has blossomed into a tight-knit, super friendly group. Greeted by incredibly kind athletes the moment I stepped foot into CrossFit 224, I felt unconditionally welcomed and immediately at ease. “Everybody is friendly, everybody is inviting, everybody really gets along… We’re so supportive here,” Lempriere confirmed.

“Saturday WODs are a great community experience,” Lempriere said. “Our workouts are in groups or teams and it ends up being pretty social.”

Outside of the box, CF 224 athletes recently tackled a local 10k fun run and plan to participate in an upcoming Tough Mudder endurance obstacle challenge.

Global Sport Culture:
Lempriere acknowledges that CrossFit faces an uphill battle in gaining a firm foothold among Australian sport culture.

“Some have an issue with the idea of shorter, more intense work periods and longer rest. It goes against everything they’ve ever learned but it’s impossible to argue with the results,” Lempriere says. “You just can’t ignore the workloads these athletes are handling… Show me another sport where the athletes are completing a triathlon and then another three full days of brutal competition on such short rest,” he continues. “You can’t.”

Co-owner Frank knows that some of the bigger Australian Football clubs have started to incorporate CrossFit principles into their training, “You’ll start to see the bigger clubs adopt it and then it will trickle down,” he says.

“CrossFit will have its place, eventually,” Lempriere says. “We’ve done market research and we believe the ‘traditional’ gym will fall away and be replaced by CrossFit and MMA-type gyms.”

“We [CrossFitters] just care more about the members. It’s a better community, a better environment.” If the atmosphere at CrossFit 224 is any indication, the sport has bright future indeed.

13 Aug

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Australia: CrossFit Victoria + Protecting The Status Quo


CrossFit Victoria main

CrossFit Victoria mainLocation: Stationed just one block off trendy Brunswick street in the Fitzroy neighborhood of Melbourne, CrossFit Victoria has an established presence, registering as the third affiliate in Australia and ranking among the first 80 worldwide.

Co-owners Scott Waugh and Adam Stanecki founded CrossFit Victoria back in 2006, expanding into their current location in Fitzroy in 2008. Previously housed in the state weightlifting center in Hawthorn, CrossFit Victoria’s humble beginnings are rooted in the fundamentals of Olympic lifting.

Waugh and Stanecki co-author the programming for CrossFit Victoria’s 170 members (60:40, men to women). Says Waugh, “Our programming is more strength-based. We program for health and fitness first, rather than for the ‘sport of fitness.'” Waugh and Stanecki’s team of 7 full-time trainers (and 3 interns) keep the members fit with 6-8 week blocks of Olympic lifting classes, kettlebell classes, and mixed martial art sparring. There’s also an elite team of 15 athletes who follow rigorous Games-focused programming incorporating principles of west side periodization.

WOD (August 13th, 12:30pm):
Snatch-grip deadlift 3RM (3-3-3-3-3)
1/2 gassers (100m sprints) for time, every minute on the minute for 8 minutes
Whole 30 header
CrossFit Victoria runs regular Whole 30 challenges (absolutely no dairy, no sugar and no grains) with great success. Waugh, in the midst of a Whole 30 Challenge, even gave up coffee during his current challenge, “Coffee and alcohol are the big ones for me! Especially in social situations,” he laments.

Waugh describes the character at CrossFit Victoria as community-based, “Most of our members are here to improve their general health and fitness,” he says. “We want them to live a balanced life. There are other boxes that are more focused on competition but that’s not us. We want it to be accessible to everyone.”
CF Victoria banner
The community extends beyond the box; every Friday night 10-20 athletes gather at a local cafe to indulge in $20 steak night.

Global Sport Culture:
“The main focus here is Australian Rules Football,” Waugh explains. “It’s hard to find a place for CrossFit in the AFL dominant culture. AFL strength and conditioning coaches are so protective of their jobs, of their status quo. They just don’t want to see anything change.” To develop new business, CrossFit Victoria sponsors athletes from different disciplines (mountain bikers, marathoners, cross skiers, martial artists and rowers) to grow into new markets.

Waugh foresees more local competitions in CrossFit’s future, “Now that we’re more established, I can see our box spearheading a competition circuit. We want to expose our elite athletes to more competitive events to prepare them for a run at the Games.”

07 Aug


England: CrossFit Central London + No Magic Bullets


Olympic Rings

CF Central LondonLocation: Tucked in a back alley a few blocks walk east of tube stop Southwark, CrossFit Central London contends for the title of oldest CrossFit box within London city limits.

Co-owners Clare and Brian Sharp, two of the kindest and most welcoming box owners I’ve encountered, first began practicing CrossFit out of their garage in 2005. Brian, then deeply involved with karate, originally came across posts on the emerging CrossFit message board, “It was like a light bulb went off. I couldn’t come up with a good reason not to do constantly varied, high intensity, functional training,” he recalled. His first attempts were no great success. “I think Filthy Fifty took me an hour and ten minutes,” he chuckled.

Clare has surmounted her own set of obstacles. Diagnosed with cancer in 2005, treatment forced her to scale workouts while she was ill. Unable to log regular, continuous training, she feels her fitness has suffered, “I want to be the best. I want to be a great example for our members as the “box owner” but I have to be realistic about what I can achieve.” She’s aiming to stay healthy for the current 12 week cycle in prep for sergeant testing next month. No doubt, her positive attitude and perseverance serves as great inspiration for the Central London athletes. “I have to keep doing what I can,” she smiles.

The good-natured couple carved out almost an hour and a half for me on a frantic Friday evening that coincided with London 2012’s Opening Ceremonies. They cracked jokes and offered me beers as Brian frequently poked his head out of their office to hurl insults and encouragement in equal doses to the athletes streaming in and out.

“Are you wearing that weight vest?!” Brian called to an elite athlete preparing to tackle a particularly tough WOD.
Hearing the assent, he roars, “You’re hardcore!”
“Mostly,” he adds to me with a wink, “because that thing smells.”

The Sharps and a team of 10 high-energy trainers hustle 350 members (75% men, 25% women) in and out of their doors each month. CrossFit Central London officially opened in 2009 and hosts the CF Level 1 seminars in the city. Their box also boasts an impressive number of Level 1 certified members—making for an increasingly knowledgable and competitive athlete base.

Naama schooling newbies

Naama schooling the newbies.

Newcomers to CrossFit Central London have a choice: complete their foundational course in one weekend (6 hours on Saturday & Sunday) or spread it out over two weeks. After that, they move into “Elements” spanning the next 8 weeks, learning and practicing the foundational movements to perfection before graduating to WOD classes.

Short in stature but huge on energy, Israeli-born Naama Chezar leads most of the introductory classes at CrossFit Central London. At just 4’11, Chezar’s undeniable presence in the box commands the attention of a trainer twice her size. I observed her coaching style at two different boxes in London.

“What’s my ONE rule?” she barks at her class of 12 beginners before going over the basics of a deadlift.
“Lumbar curve?” someone shouts from the back.
“No,” Chezar chastises. “Who remembers?”
She bends down to pick up the bar but her eyes remained fixed on the crowd. “I want you to deadlift every f*cking thing you pick up outside of here,” she instructs. “What’s the point of deadlifting in class if you’re not going to use it in the real world?”
She pauses for just a moment and then orders, “Now get to work!”

Chezar’s special brand of tough love endears her to students. “I love seeing them develop confidence and get stronger. I love coming into the box and seeing them in regular WOD class, doing prescribed weight and succeeding. I think to myself, ‘those are my babies!'”

Clare and Brian are so confident in their product that they offer a special deal to beginners: if a new member commits to showing up 3x/week, working hard and cleaning up their diet for the first three months—and they don’t see results or aren’t satisfied—they’ll issue a full refund.

“Not once,” Brian answers when I ask if anyone has claimed the refund yet. “You know, there’s no magic bullet. But if they come in, commit to the hard work, and stick with it, they’ll see results.”

Olympic lifting, endurance, karate, and yoga classes are also offered at CrossFit Central London.

Firebreather WOD

Crazies attempting the Firebreather WOD.

WOD (July 27th, 4 PM):

Team WOD:
For time, lift 3,000 kg ground-to-overhead: do 5 burpees together every time you switch with your partner.
(Roughly 50 clean and jerks at 80 lbs)

Core Work:
50 KB russian twists
100 abmat sit-ups
50 strict toes-to-bar

“Firebreathers” WOD:
For a spectator event, nothing beats checking out the the best (and craziest) athletes braving a weekly “Firebreathers” WOD (time cap: 36 minutes).
Fran (21-15-9: thrusters/pull-ups)
400m run+rope climb
Elizabeth (21-15-9: cleans/ring-dips)
400m run+rope climb
Diane (21-15-9: deadlifts/handstand push-ups)

That’s right, you read that correctly, three ‘girls’ in one workout(!) Guests are welcome to come, cheer on the athletes, and “fundraise” by donating 2 pounds for a large beer–a great idea that creates a raucous celebratory atmosphere perfect for these crazy WODs.

New CFCL members get an introduction to paleo and clean eating in their foundational courses and find online support in their Facebook paleo recipe group. Two members have even started their own paleo blog, London Paleo.

Brian and Clare estimate all of their members are aware of paleo eating, “We encourage sensibility with nutrition. When you’re surrounded by these people who are eating a certain way, training a certain way, and getting the results you want, it’s only a matter of time before they understand what they need to do.”
POD eats
“Listen,” Brian explains. “Zone works. But paleo is just so much easier. We see such great results [with paleo], we don’t feel the need to get into all the little details of zone.”

From a personal perspective, London was an incredibly easy city to find affordable, delicious, and quick paleo meals. Two “chain” restaurants in particular, Pret a Manger and Pod, carried a wide array of paleo-friendly salads, smoothies and snacks.

In January of 2012, CrossFit Central London had 160 members. Now, in the wake of unprecedented growth they have a waiting list full of new potential members, an expansion in the works, and a community of 350 committed athletes. Clare is convinced that the boom comes by way of referral, “80-90% of our new members have a friend that does CrossFit.”

“It’s such a friendly community,” she adds. “We sponsor social events like ‘barbells and brunch,’ where we WOD and then head to our favorite cafe across the street. We gather for a Christmas meal every year at that same place,” she says. “We convinced them to open just for us in the evening and we closed that place down last year!”

Brian chimes in with a grin, “I reckon we went through 17 bottles of tequila that night.”

Like any great box, CrossFit Central London combines a supportive social community with the hard work that creates transformation. “The best bit,” Brian admits, “Is seeing the newbies blossom. Seeing them transform from fat and broken to healthy and happy. That’s why we do what we do.”

“You know what?” he says, gesturing out the door at the bustling box. “I can’t imagine a better place to come to work everyday, or a better group of people to work with.”