Category: New Zealand

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.”