Search the word “CrossFit” on any online platform, and an overwhelming amount of results would appear from a dedicated community defining exactly what it means to be a CrossFitter.
By Sami Kawahara
CrossFit, according to the CrossFit Journal, is “a fitness regimen that optimizes fitness through constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity in a communal environment.” It is a combination of weightlifting (barbells and kettle bells), gymnastics (body weight movements), and metabolic conditioning (rowing, running, and swimming). The concept was developed by Greg Glassman of California in 2000 and has become a worldwide phenomenon with more than 10,000 affiliated gyms, or “boxes,” around the world.
CrossFit has been coined as the sport of fitness, and perhaps one of the most defining aspects of the sport is the cooperative approach to accomplishing goals and staying motivated through the very connected environment both inside and out of the gym.
How is the trend faring and adapting in Tokyo?
There was only one CrossFit box and one military affiliate in the city in 2012, and as of 2013, there are six. Meanwhile, the number of Asia-based participants in the CrossFit Games, an annual competition crowning the “fittest man and woman on Earth,” has exponentially increased over the past 3 years. In 2011, approximately 80 men and women participated in the open part of the competition in Asia, and only one team competed in the regionals. This number grew to 500 participants in the 2012 Asia Regional Open and 1,800 participants in 2013. Team participation also increased in one year from 8 teams in 2012 to 33 teams in 2013.
CrossFit is known for quick and effective workouts, with no “workout of the day” (WOD) lasting longer than 30 minutes. Its popularity in Tokyo seems to have grown due the efficiency of the workout, easily integrating into the busy life and work culture of Tokyo. Two-year crossfitter and triathlete in Tokyo, Tomomi Sasaki, appreciates getting in and out of the gym in one hour as it “makes it easier to schedule into a busy week. People get their workouts in before, after, and even during work.”
CrossFit boxes are known for their sense of community and the wide-ranging backgrounds of their members, including Japanese and foreign salarymen and women, mothers, MMA fighters, elite athletes, and military veterans. Although prices are higher than your average gym, there is a vast difference between a CrossFit box and an ordinary gym: the personal athlete-to-coach relationship involved in a box allows members to stay motivated, track results, and not have to worry about the planning or the effectiveness of their workouts. There’s instruction and feedback. And more than anything, there is a sense of togetherness that can’t be purchased with a usual gym membership.
“I really enjoy training with our community here in Tokyo,” Sasaki says. “It’s a great group of people from all walks of life and at many different levels of physical abilities. We’re united by a drive to improve, and to have fun doing it.”
Since CrossFit is a global platform, visitors from all over the world are invited to drop in at Tokyo locations. Likewise, Tokyo members who need to travel for work are always welcomed into other global locations, emphasizing the true CrossFit community not only locally, but globally as well.
As Sasaki gets ready for her evening WOD, she thinks back to when she first started CrossFit. “A friend told me that no matter how you felt before going to the Box, you always felt good afterwards. Always. Two years and hundreds of workouts later, this is still true for me.”
With one month left until the 2014 Asia Regional Open in February, all signs point to an even larger community of Tokyo CrossFit participants in the games, and even more interest in this global fitness phenomenon.