Tagged: paleo

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?

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.”

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.”

13 Aug

1 Comment

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.”

31 Jul


Belgium: CrossFit Antwerpen + Investing In Kettlebells


CrossFit Antwerpen Main

CrossFit Antwerpen Main
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).

Hendrickx hanging from a beam in the old space.

Hendrickx hanging from a beam in the old space.

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]

Belgian treats

Belgian treats

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.”

CrossFit Antwerpen athletes outside

CrossFit Antwerpen athletes outside

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.”

26 Jul


GWP Fitness File: Caroline Cantamessa


Home Box: Reebok CrossFit Brussels
Hometown: Charleroi, Belgium
Age: 30
Occupation: Children’s Physical Therapist
Years CrossFitting: 9 months
Least Favorite CrossFit movement(s): Wall balls, Toes to bar

The Global WOD Project is an exploration of CrossFit athletes and the CrossFit lifestyle all over the world: how they live, eat, train, and experience CrossFit.

Occasionally, as an extension of the project, the GWP will profile select female athletes to examine the intersection of women’s athletics, CrossFit, and the regional sport culture.

Belgian-born Caroline Cantamessa is the second Global WOD Project Fitness File athlete.

Growing up, Cantamessa exhausted every sport available. Her father, a gifted athlete, expected his kids to follow suit and Cantamessa complied, attempting horseback riding, karate, dancing, in-line hockey, basketball and volleyball before settling into a traditional “fitness” routine.
Caroline Cantamessa deadlift
One day, a friend at her gym mentioned CrossFit, saying little more than a cryptic, “Just try it. You’ll like it.” Cantamessa’s first WOD? Turkish get-ups. “The next day,” she grimaced, “I woke up and couldn’t even make it down the stairs, I was so sore. I suffered for three days.”

But Cantamessa had found one sport that stuck, driving one hour each way, three to four times a week, to get to Reebok CrossFit Brussels. Of the commute, she says, “I don’t mind because it’s quality training with a quality community,” adding with a smile, “some people don’t understand, some people think I’m crazy, but I don’t care.”

Despite the ratio of men to women at Reebok CrossFit Brussels (roughly 75:25), Cantamessa says, “We might not have a lot of women, but the ones we have are really good ones. We support each other. The competition is not with ‘the girl next to you’ but with yourself.”

“In traditional gyms,” Cantamessa begins, “it’s all about watching others and trying to measure up. In our CrossFit gym, we all train together. I don’t care if the girl next to me beats me, we’re in it together.”

Pauline, Caroline and Joanna

Pauline, Caroline and Joanna

A confidence radiates from Cantamessa as she explains some of the other ways CrossFit has changed her life, “I put up a picture of myself on facebook lifting a barbell, and I got so many comments, people chiming in to say I’m weird. I’m not trying to be Miss Fitness. It’s just different… here in Belgium, it’s normal for men to lift weights, but not women.”

But Cantamessa is undaunted, “I love being able to lift more and more over time, to measure my progress. I just hit a deadlift PR, I deadlifted 80kg—I lifted my father!”

CrossFit has spilled over into Cantamessa’s eating habits as well. She eased into Paleo eating by first starting with the Zone diet and measuring her portions. Now, two months into strict Paleo (and since eliminating gluten and other irritants from her diet) she’s not only lost weight and gained muscle but, “completely solved my intestinal problems.”

“In many ways,” she says, “I’ve become more aware of my body. I now understand how bad food can affect me and my performance.”
Carolina overhead squat
Recently, Cantamessa acquired the ability to complete one strict pull-up and one strict ring-dip, the two components necessary for the dreaded muscle-up (a pull-up into a ring-dip, performed on gymnastic rings). She’s already outlined her 2013 goal, “I want to do a muscle-up!”

Cantamessa is enthusiastic about the benefits of CrossFit, “The CrossFit word for me is ‘respect.’ Respect for myself, respect for my body, respect for what others can do. I’m doing exercises I never thought I could do, and because of that I’m much more confident.”

23 Jul


Belgium: Reebok CrossFit Brussels + Staying United


Reebok CF Brussels Main

Reebok CF Brussels Main
A short tram ride south of the city center, Reebok CrossFit Brussels lives in a spacious converted warehouse hidden away among the suburban neighborhood of Drogenbos.

Recently converted to Reebok-affiliated status, this box first rolled up its doors in September of 2010 and grew exponentially, now housing over 650 members including personal training clients and mixed martial arts athletes.

Yves Patte, a four-year veteran of the CrossFit World and one of 12 coaches at Reebok CrossFit Brussels also serves as nutritional consultant and community manager. Patte describes his role as, “Engaging people, taking pictures and writing about workouts, organizing events… essentially creating a community and maintaining a relationship with other boxes.”
Reebok CrossFit Brussels amenities
Back in 2008, when Patte first started CrossFitting, “There was really nothing here in Belgium, so I started my website, Sport is Everywhere, to try and promote our box and get in touch with other CrossFitters, mainly French readers.” Patte regularly communicates with other athletes and coaches in the CrossFit community and was one of the first to respond with enthusiasm about the idea behind the Global WOD Project.

A former runner, basketball player, skateboarder, and strength trainer, Patte first saw a feature on CrossFit in a magazine with Andy Petranek doing the filthy fifty. Intrigued, he gave the filthy fifty a go (for time: 50 box jumps, 50 jumping pull-ups, 50 kb swings, 50 walking lunges, 50 knees to elbows, 50 push press, 50 back extensions, 50 wall ball shots, 50 burpees and 50 double unders)

Warming up for Amanda WOD

Warming up for the Amanda WOD

and afterwards—exhausted, laid out on his back on the floor, knew he had found something truly worthwhile.

Amanda Miller Memorial WOD, in honor of Amanda Miller, the 2009 CrossFit Games competitor who died of cancer in 2010:

9, 7 and 5 reps of:
Snatches (60 kg/43 kg)

*To modify, scale the muscle-ups to chest-to-bar pull-ups.
Question and Answer after the WOD
After the WOD, Yves organized a question & answer session with the Global WOD Project. Several athletes stuck around and contributed to an enlightening discussion of CrossFit culture, community, nutrition, and female athletes.

With almost 40 classes a week, Reebok CrossFit Brussels mixes CrossFit Football, CrossFit Kids, Strength and Olympic lifting with personal training and women’s only classes, as well as “free access” or open gym time.

Serving as the nutritional consultant and box role model, Patte follows a strict paleo diet, utilizing zone ratio/measurements and principles as a good introductory tool for those just transitioning. Of his experience with Paleo so far, Patte says, “Of course I’ve seen an improvement in my performance but also in my digestion. I have more energy throughout the day.”

Paleo meal

Homecooked Paleo meal from CrossFit Coach, Patrik.

He acknowledges it can be difficult to break the habits of long-term athletes who believe that rice, pasta, and bread are necessary for hard training, “For those that give up those carbohydrate staples and don’t supplement with enough vegetables, they get hungry. Zone is a good way to balance the portions without overdoing it.”

Despite Patte’s lead, the rest of the Reebok CrossFit Brussels athletes are slow to follow, “For the most part, the athletes here are aware of Paleo, and know that starch and gluten aren’t good for them, so they make an effort to eat less of those foods. But very few are eating completely strict Paleo.”

Global Sport Culture:
As one of the early CrossFit adopters in Europe (and first established boxes), the Reebok CrossFit Brussels team stresses the importance of community, “We’re really friendly and we’re really into the community. We communicate with the other boxes in Europe, especially in France and the Netherlands.”

Yves muscle-ups

Yves crushing muscle-ups during the Amanda WOD.

Fútbol, like in Spain, still reigns as the dominant sport in Belgium. CrossFit’s growth, Patte believes, is evident in its development as a sport, “When I see the Reebok slogan, ‘The sport of Fitness has arrived,’ I think to myself—it really has become a sport. We have competitions all over Europe, there are ‘CrossFit Stars.’ We pull athletes from other sports; fútbol, American football, rugby.”

“Last year, we held a competition, but it was more for show,” Patte continued. “This year, athletes were showing up that already knew the rules. Now, athletes are preparing for the “seasons” of CrossFit. It’s continuing to develop.”

And for the future? Patte is optimistic. In the long run, he only has one wish, “That the community of CrossFit boxes stays united.”

14 Jul

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Spain: Reebok CrossFit BCN + World Expectations


Reebok CrossFit BCN Main shot
Location: Easily the most accessible box I visited in Spain and the first “official” Reebok stop—Reebok CrossFit BCN did not disappoint. A quick two block walk from the Red line (Line 1) Arc de Triomf metro stop in the heart of Barcelona, this box is clean, fastidiously maintained and primed in perfect location to attract new athletes and curious onlookers alike.

Ownership/Programming: Sole owner Marc Solà programs all of the workouts for BCN’s 107 members (and growing). Only four weeks old at the time of this published post, Reebok CrossFit BCN held two weeks of introductory “on-ramp” classes before offering more traditional WOD classes and even hosted a promotional party to celebrate the official opening.
Reebok BCN boys
Marc expects a slight dip in membership and attendance through August as most native Barcelonians skip town for vacations (the heat and humidity certainly must play a factor). And, contrary to Javi’s assumptions (from CrossFit Madrid), Reebok CrossFit BCN had the highest percentage of male to female athletes of any box yet at a staggering 90:10 ratio.

The process of bringing an official box to the Barcelona city center started back in September 2011, when Reebok contacted Marc directly with an offer. After three months of searching, a location was secured and the rest is history.

Marc acknowledged some of the pressure he felt from the community, “The whole world has been waiting for a box in Barcelona and even though they might know much about it… it’s been received really well. Everyone is happy.”
Reebok BCN girl
A former gymnast, Marc found CrossFit via YouTube after tiring of traditional exercise programs. With a full year of CrossFit under his belt, he runs a tight ship at Reebok CrossFit BCN, teaching all parts of our WODs with precision and keeping a watchful eye as we executed movements.

WOD #1 (July 11th, 1pm):
6 Rounds for time:
20 meter overhead walking lunge (20kg/10kg)
4 10m sprints
15 pull-ups

After-burn: 30 burpees
After workout

WOD #2 (July 13th, 2pm):
Strength: 6 sets of 10 strict pull-ups (no kipping)

For time:
30 push-ups
5 push press (35kg/20kg)
20 ring dips
30 push-ups
10 push press (35kg/20kg)
15 ring dips
30 push-ups
15 push press (35kg/20kg)
10 ring dips

30 push-ups
20 push press (35kg/20kg)
5 ring dips

After-burn: 100 double unders

Paleo food

Supermarket shopping has been my savior here in BCN.

Like all of the Spanish box owners I spoke with, Marc is familiar with the Paleo diet but agrees how difficult it can be to follow in Spain. He estimated that only 1-2 people in the entire box eat along strict paleo guidelines.

Global Sport Culture:
Citing the box’s prime location and Spaniards passion for athletics, Marc is sure CrossFit will continue to grow in Barcelona. He’s grateful for Reebok’s support, especially in an environment where athletic sponsors are increasingly rare for anything not fútbol-related.

12 Jul


Spain: Mundo CrossFit + Suffering Together


Mundo Feature

Mundo spaceLocation: An easy 25-minute walk (uphill) from the end of the Alcobendas San Sebastián de los Reyes metro line lands you at Mundo CrossFit, the largest box I visited in Madrid.

Ownership/Programming: Currently staffing 5 trainers since earning its affiliation in 2010, Mundo’s team will grow to 7 by summertime.

Owner Nacho Merino and head coach Jesús Muñoz Blanco (aka The Officer) tackle programming together, offering around 30 classes a week to its 200+ members (60% men, 40% women): foundational classes, CrossFit WOD classes, strength classes and boxing classes. On the day I visited, a Mundo CrossFit athlete crushed our strength workout and then retreated to a yoga-like studio upstairs to conduct a mobility class.
Mundo amenities
Variety, and amenities, are the name of the game at Mundo CrossFit. With space to spare, this box had everything from a waiting room lounge (complete with magazines, a flat screen TV and several video games consoles) to a full-service locker room and private showers. White leather couches and vending machines lined the entry way opening into a big, bright space adorned with several Reebok posters featuring 2011 CrossFit Champions Rich Froening and Annie Thorisdottir.

WOD (July 7th, 11am):
Strength Day!

Push Jerk (minimum 3 reps warm-up, 3 reps at a maximum weight)
1-1-1 [1-1-1]

“Death by Power Clean” (R’x: 70kg/40kg, roughly 150lbs/90lbs)

Mundo CrossFit

“Hangover WOD” says it all.

First minute …. 1 power clean
Second minute …. 2 power cleans
Third minute …. 3 power cleans

Seventh minute …. 7 power cleans
Eighth minute …. 8 power cleans
Ninth minute …. 7 power cleans
Thirteenth minute …. 3 power cleans
Fourteenth minute …. 2 power cleans
Fifteenth minute …. 1 power clean

If at any point you cannot complete the required reps in the minute allotted, you are eliminated from the competition (however, to the best of my knowledge, all competitors finished this challenge, with some even ADDING weight).

Mundo Punishment

Late? This athlete had to knock out 5 burpees for every minute he was tardy (30 in all).

Nacho describes the Mundo philosophy as, “A big sports community that helps each other in achieving their own personal goals, but through suffering and being “uncomfortable” together.” If you’ve ever CrossFitted, that sounds about right. He added that though the group has a variety of different passions, “They have a good sense of camaraderie, motivation and healthy competition in common.”

The Mundo team of athletes recently conducted a Paleo Challenge (supplemented by Omega-3 fish oil and a nutrition plan) with incredible results and are already planning a second one for September. “Right now, no one eats 100% Paleo, but they’ve discovered what things they can eat normally and what they should avoid (except for cheat days!),” Nacho observed.

Global Sport Culture:
While Nacho acknowledges CrossFit is “brand new in Spain,” he believes it still has huge potential to grow.

Paleo on the run

Supermarkets = best bet to find a quick/easy paleo meal on the go.

One advantage over fútbol, Nacho believes, is that you don’t need quite as many players to get a workout in, “[CrossFit] is a little more individual (except for Team WODs), and once Spaniards get more places to practice the Sport of Fitness, I’m sure competition will rise and popularity will go along!” After all, who wouldn’t want to suffer together?

Video: Mundo CrossFit in the local news.