May 28, 2014
Have Fitness, Will Travel: Johannesburg
By Kevin Daigle
Johannesburg, the site of the Africa Regional is deep in history and culture.
Johannesburg, the site of the Africa Regional is deep in history and culture.

Johannesburg, the site of the Africa Regional is deep in history and culture.

Johannesburg, South Africa, is the economic—and by many accounts cultural—center of South Africa. The history here is both deep and recent, with the ink on the pages of history books concerning epochs—such as apartheid—still drying.

The city, commonly referred to as Jozi or Joburg by locals, is the second largest city on the African continent behind Cairo, Egypt. With a population around 4.5 million, it is the largest city in the world not built on or near a major river, lake, ocean or coastline of any kind.

The Coca Cola Dome in the city of Johannesburg will host the 2014 Africa Regional. With a high density of CrossFit affiliates within a few minutes of the venue it should be packed with randy CrossFit enthusiasts. What? The Rand is the official currency in South Africa. What were you thinking?

The stakes in Africa are high; David Levy, Rika Diedericks and CrossFit Platinum are looking to go to back Carson, California.

There will be updates on the action all weekend via, @CrossFitGames and @CFGAfricaRegion on Twitter, and the CrossFit Games Facebook page.


Fitness is in good supply in South Africa; there are more than 20 CrossFit affiliates within just a few minutes of the regional venue. CrossFit Platinum, last year’s Games qualifiers from the Africa Region, is just 12 km from the Coca Cola Dome.

Also check out these boxes:
CrossFit Jozi
CrossFit B4C
CrossFit Kyalami

To find all the CrossFit affiliates in Johannesburg, visit


If you’re in Joburg for this shindig, you’ll want to get a feel for the local culture. This should start with your taste buds, of course. South Africa seems to be the origin of the eat-like-a-fat-kid gene (which I definitely have two copies of) evidenced by foods like Bunny Chow, which is a hollowed out half a loaf of bread, filled with … well, whatever. The South Africans are also fond of vetkoek, or deep-fried dough with delicious fillings. It’s almost as if they hired the 20-year-old drunk college student version of me to create their cuisine. I might move there.

If you’re looking to keep things on point, nutritionally, you may have to work harder at it than you’re used to. “Eating clean is not as widespread in South Africa as in Europe and the U.S.,” said Gail Mathewson, an athlete at CrossFit Bryanston.

Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg CBD (Central Business District) has a Sunday market that would be good for clean eaters,” Mathewson added. “Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein has a Saturday market, also good for the clean eaters among us.”

The Eco Urban Café at The Living Room is “a vibey spot with magnificent views over 'Jozie' city, a unique boutique nursery and health cafe that has the most creative and delicious cocktails and smoothies,” said Cindy Ellis, athlete and photographer at CrossFit Double Platinum.

If you’re interested in a wider range of choices, Ellis suggested the Fourways Farmers Market: “A great mix of guilty and not so guilty treats, ranging from organic, seasonal vegetables and herbs, grass-fed beef, organic cheeses, cupcakes and decadent confectionary, Balkan burgers, German flammkuchen, Dutch krokketen, Belgian waffles and Dutch poffertjes and craft beer and cider on tap.”

If you’re like me, and you want to try some of this amazing sounding local fare, regardless of the dietary consequences, Mathewson said, “Dirty eating is easier. The suburb of Parkhurst 4th Avenue has a selection, such as Jolly Roger for pub grub and good beer, excellent atmosphere.”

She also recommends “Bistro Vine for French food, and Espresso Caffe for easy continental fare.”

A few more options to explore:
Local Grille
Cnr Café


After you’ve had your fill of the local fare there is a lot to see in Joburg. Ellis suggested checking out Arts on Main in Maboneng Precinct for a fine dose of culture.

If you’re interested in testing your monostructural training, visit the Lion Park, which “is home to more than 85 lions, including the rare white lions, and many other carnivores such as cheetah, wild dog, various hyena,” Ellis added.

Bungee jumping and more can be found at Orlando Towers, which Ellis called, “The world’s first bungee between two cooling towers.”

Mathewson suggested taking a tour. “Johannesburg is a relatively young city in European and U.S. historical terms, but an interesting history nonetheless,” she said. “I would suggest visitors go on a Soweto Guided Tour …  you can visit Nelson Mandela’s home in Soweto, as well as that of Bishop Tutu on Vilikazi Street Soweto.”

Tours of Gold Reef City are also available, exploring the discovery of gold in the area and the beginnings of Johannesburg.

Of course, no trip to South Africa would be complete without visiting the Apartheid Museum, which Mathewson said, “Is a favorite with tourists who want to learn about South Africa’s history.”

No matter where you’re coming from, South Africa has many elements unlike your home. Appreciate the culture and stay for the vetkoek. And make sure you get in enough training not to end up an appetizer for the indigenous wild life at the Lion Park.