CrossFit Games 2018 sounds extreme – but the fitness regime has benefited Hongkongers both in and out of the gym
As the CrossFit Games 2018 get under way in Wisconsin, we look at what some of the fitness regime’s Hong Kong pioneers and practitioners get out of it – including love
The CrossFit Games 2018 began on Tuesday at the Alliant Energy Centre in Madison, in the American state of Wisconsin, ahead of a gruelling opening day of individual heats that Games director Dave Castro described as the competition’s “hardest in history”.
Competitors were left speechless when they were informed of the first of five days of individual events on the schedule of the Games, which is traditionally kept secret by organisers CrossFit HQ until shortly before they begin.
The first four events on day one will be a criterium bike race; a discipline where each athlete will have one set of rings and will complete 30 muscle-ups before crossing the finish line; the heavy-weight-pushing event called the “CrossFit Total”, where athletes will be tested with three one-repetition maximum challenges; and a punishing, marathon-distance (42.2km) row.
It may sound extreme stuff, but CrossFit as a fitness regime is something that has taken off in Hong Kong in recent years. A close-knit community has built up around CrossFit, a system of high-intensity exercises and weight training, with many members following personalised programmes. Workouts cater to all fitness abilities, and the city’s trainers are motivating and knowledgeable.
Tax expert and mother of three Tobey Hill told us how she got up at 5am every weekday to do CrossFit in Chai Wan, at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island, before going to work at investment bank CLSA. It’s an activity that has helped her build strength and confidence.
“Other benefits are the general wellness benefits: my heart rate is lower and my body fat percentage is lower, even though my weight is higher,” Tobey says. “Sleep is better, and physical things are easier. It helps me focus better at work. I’m lucky I found something that I really like, that’s different every day, motivating and goal-oriented.”
Jamie Lee turned his fitness passion into a successful business when he co-founded CrossFit 852 in the city’s Central business district. Lee discovered CrossFit in 2009 when he was living in Los Angeles, after working out at a conventional gym became too repetitive for his tastes.
On returning to Hong Kong, Lee noticed the lack of CrossFit gyms in the city, which led to him eventually opening CrossFit 852 with co-founder David Chang.
“In Hong Kong, there never seems to be enough time during the day. This is one of the reasons why David and I decided to open up CrossFit 852, to spread the [word within the] community about the effectiveness of the programming,” Lee said. “[This] includes the high-intensity factor, which allows an effective workout within one hour.”
Many CrossFit devotees sing its praises not only because it has improved their health, but for its social value: Hong Kong’s hottest fitness regimen has made strides in the dating game too. The tough training sessions help exercising individuals bond, and before you know it romance blossoms – it’s even been called the new Tinder.
Cris O’Brien, the owner of CrossFit Asphodel, a gym in fast-gentrifying Kennedy Town, at the western tip of Hong Kong Island, met his wife, Vanessa Cheung, at CrossFit; the couple got married last year. O’Brien said they’ve had multiple relationships start at their gym.
“It’s not an uncommon story now, I would say,” says O’Brien, of the CrossFit couples. “Our head coach, Ash [Booth], met his wife through CrossFit and one of our other senior coaches – our strength specialist coach Taylor [Rank] – also met his wife through CrossFit. So it’s definitely not a unique occurrence now by any means.”