"Variety. There are so many exercises to do that it's impossible to get bored with CrossFit. Possibilities are endless."
Although many different cultures thrive in South America, the people think alike. This is reflected in their history.
If you ever read a South American history book, you might notice that most major events occurred across the entire continent at the same time: declarations of independence, and revolutions and left- and right-wing governments forming military coups.
It seems CrossFit is no exception, as several people started teaching CrossFit at the same time a few years ago, becoming known as the “pioneers” of CrossFit in South America.
Joel Fridman, in Brazil, Carlos Andrade, in Ecuador, Jaime Arashiro, in Peru, Pavel Saenz, in Chile and Santiago Terbalca, in Argentina, were the brave men who began teaching something new and fresh in their respective countries.
“Due to non-efficient training methodologies, I used to get injured and my physical performance wasn’t as good as I expected to be. So, I started digging around on the Internet until I found CrossFit,” Terbalca, head coach and co-owner at CrossFit Tuluka, says. “By the time I found CrossFit, I was surprised by the fact that part of what I thought a training program should be was already being carried out by Coach Greg Glassman.”
Fridman, owner of CrossFit Brasil, found CrossFit while he was looking for a job in Canada.
“When I first saw those videos of common people practicing weightlifting and killing themselves in every workout, I was amazed by it,” Fridman says.
Fridman achieved his greatest goal after only a few years, moving to a much larger box in San Paulo.
“Variety. There are so many exercises to do that it’s almost impossible to get bored with CrossFit. Possibilities are endless,” Arashiro, owner of CrossFit Peru, says when asked about the thing that caught his attention when he first saw two Americans training CrossFit in Lima. “At the beginning, everything was hard. I knew that CrossFit was something new and I needed to gain my own clients one by one. It was no easy task.”
“Although there are many good personal trainers using unconventional training for their programming, I’m convinced that CrossFit is the largest community in South America and it is no fad at all. There is a before and after CrossFit, and I think we are entering a new era, a paradigm shift,” Santiago says.
Andrade, of CrossFit Guayaquil, and a Level 1 translator for Latin America, was inspired to do CrossFit in May 2009 when Coach Glassman attended the Latin America Regional in Peru.
“His aura, the way he spoke and the way he made you feel while he listened to you, made me certain that CrossFit would grow to change many lives,” Andrade says. “It was as if Coach knew what was going to occur, as if he was shaping the outcomes … He was a soldier back then, and I am honored and eager to continue spreading CrossFit in my country and in South America.”
“Even a pencil can be dangerous, it always depends on how you use that pencil,” Saenz, owner of CrossFit Santiago, says. “The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful affiliate relies on the quality of coaching. In coaching we trust, and it is the only way to achieve excellence in every sense, including extraordinary physical performance or just a healthy body and mind.”
The pioneers agree quality coaching is the most important thing in their everyday operations.
But, every affiliate owner has to start digging into business matters, and although South America is full of opportunities, there are often hurdles, and sometimes progress can be tough. There was no shortage of dedication and passion from these coaches, but they needed something more to make their businesses grow and expand. CrossFit’s community and worldwide brand recognition helped them achieve that goal.
“As it has happened in many countries, Brazil was no exception. We started with three affiliates, and one year later we had 20,” Friedman says.
“CrossFit is something new, something fresh and it definitely helped me grow in Argentina, which is quite difficult,” Terbalca says.
Expectations are great for the continent.
“South America and Australia are the two regions leading the growth of CrossFit outside the U.S.,” Cantu, member of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff, says.
Despite the rapid growth of CrossFit, the pioneering coaches stand firm that it is not a fad, that strong coaching is fundamental to continued success.
CrossFit brought a major shift in the lives of the pioneers.
“CrossFit is not just another thing that I can write on my (resume), it’s the milestone of my entire life right now,” Arashiro says. “Things have changed dramatically since then and I have established as my personal objective to spread CrossFit in Peru.”
“CrossFit gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people who will push their egos aside in order to be a better person and learn something new every day,” Saenz says.
Without question, these coaches are busy. Aside from the business aspect of being box owners, they are responsible for programming, coordinating nutritional seminars and continuing personal interaction with clients for nutritional and training guidance. They also continue on their own path of self-improvement, learning new techniques and attending seminars.
They were the first people to start teaching CrossFit in South America and they are the true believers that as professional coaches, they can help others make major changes in their lifestyle.
“Physical activity is part of our essence as human beings. It is a necessity that soul and body have and that has to be satisfied,” Terbalca says.
CrossFit is not just changing people’s lives, it’s also saving entire communities, he adds.
“I’ve seen people becoming more self-assured, quitting smoking and alcohol, changing their way of eating into a more healthy way or even seeing everyday problems at work as challenges that have to be solved no matter what; a complete change of attitude,” Friedman says.
Pioneers pave the way in every major change that occurs in a community, especially one that is spreading across a continent.