Review: CrossFit ALC. Alicante, Spain.
During the month I trained at CrossFit ALC in Alicante, Spain, I was constantly asked “Por que??!”. Why Alicante? This is a city known for attracting hoards of German tourists during summer who flock to the beach, even though the city itself isn’t particularly pretty. Why would a travelling CrossFitter choose to base herself here? Bright lights and shining stars – Carl Paoli, Mr GWOD himself is part-owner of this impressive box, located on Spain’s stunning Costa Blanca.
Seeking training experience in a European box, I was sure that a box owned by someone like Paoli would guarantee good coaching, programming and experience. Oh, and Annie Thorisdottir was due for a visit with Paoli sometime in the summer. My short time at CrossFit ALC certainly taught me a lot, including the fact that, although this is a solid box, a name is only part of a puzzle.
Paoli set up CrossFit ALC together with mates Martin Coluccio and Javier Soro in 2012. With Paoli’s extensive experience as a former gymnast, movement coach and coach to top CrossFit athletes like Thorisdottir, as well as Soro’s experience as a Sports Doctor and Coluccio just generally being awesome, they make a formidable team. Add in Miguel Borrazas, former coach of the Spanish Olympic weightlifting team, and the experience on the floor is huge.
For starters, CrossFit ALC’s programming seems solid. The WODs are varied and interesting – short and long, hard and harder, hero WODs, special WODs, normal WODs. Despite succumbing to the Spanish habit of daily beer, tapas and partying (it was tough with a beer costing 1 Euro with an unhealthy tapa thrown in for free), after training 4-5 times a week for the month I was still fit, lean and had mastered a tidy snatch.
7 min AMRAP
10x podium press
15x sit ups
10 mins to complete 200 double unders, with 10 dips every time you stuff up (I got confused and kept doing more and more d/u’s!)
7 mins to do 3 mins worth of handstands. 20x hollow rocks when you stuff up
10x toes to rings
50x sit ups, 50x hollow rocks, 50x sit ups ball to wall, 50x rotating sit ups.
Warm ups at CrossFit ALC generally involved a jog around the block, jump rope and double under practise. Although lacking some variation, it quickly became apparent how the repetition improved people’s double unders. And it’s a great way to get your heart rate up. We’d usually continue with a range of exercises, often in a tabata format, including squats, push ups, sit ups and what soon turned into my most hated exercise of all time – the bear crawl.
It took me a while to figure out the point of this exercise – I’d never done it before, was never told specifically how to do it (hips and shoulders square with one another, hips high, back flat) or what it worked (everything apparently). This, combined with it being quite uncomfortable, had me avoiding it at all costs (oh, doing my hair! oh, gotta go to the bathroom! Bad CrossFitter, Bad!). It wasn’t until I finally asked Borrazas what it was all about that I finally understood. This highlights the need for coaches to constantly be aware of how their athletes are performing ALL exercises, and to inform and remind them of the point of exercises. It might be time-consuming and repetitive, but doing this regularly would avoid confusion like what I suffered. There are actually few resources online about the bear crawl, perhaps an indication of how the technique and effects of this exercise are assumed to be simple and obvious. They’re not, and, like any exercise, this one deserves proper explanation. One of the better explanations I’ve found online is here at bodeefit.com.
Warm up done, we would jump into a WOD. I generally found the CrossFit ALC WODs to be fun and creative. They were challenging, often quite long and usually included standard exercises like pull ups, kettle bell swings, toes to bar and burpees. Sometimes they were broken into two or three parts, and sometimes included a “cash out” section at the end. I’d never seen a “cash out” before, and quickly determined it’s meaning to be “we’ve already broken you, and now we want to make sure that you’re in little pieces”, as they were generally a tough addition to an already hard work out. Ie: they were awesome and certainly strengthened me mentally!
Following the WOD there was always time set aside for stretching, with the coach walking us through various
movements, and usually putting us into pairs to really work our range of motion. The coaches were thorough and I even learnt some stretches I’d never done before.
Unlike most boxes I’ve come across, CrossFit ALC doesn’t include weightlifting as part of their regular classes, but they hold weightlifting-specific classes twice a week. I can see one benefit of this being the opportunity to work hard and really concentrate on a range of lifts a couple of times a week, but it does mean a whole extra class and extra time that people might not have. I prefer the format of combining both weightlifting and a WOD in one class, and I usually ended up following my weightlifting class with a regular WOD. The weightlifting classes were long and taxing, combining various lifts in one session.
Working up to 3×3 at 85% of 1RM*
5×2+2 overhead squat
Clean and 2x jerk
Working up to 85% of 1RM*
* This is more or less the structure of the lift, following how I noted it down
CrossFit ALC also offers G-Basics gymnastics classes twice a week. This was work that I had never done before and I found the movements challenging – inch worms where we supported ourselves at horizontal for as long as possible on our hands and toes; getting good height and speed as we jumped from standing to land on our backs with our feet in the air; and the classic handstand. Despite being hard, the classes were fun as we got to play around and gain more awareness of how our bodies can move. I even mastered a one-armed handstand on a kettle bell! Attending these classes proved to me that, like always doing the double unders in the warm up, you really need to identify and practise your weaknesses, otherwise your CrossFit progress will stagnate.
99% of my classes were with Borrazas and he made them a lot of fun. He was casual, relaxed and quick to joke around. As a general CrossFit coach he was fine, although I wasn’t into him using his cellphone so much during class. It was as a weightlifting coach that he really shone. Borrazas is passionate, dedicated and thorough. He gave me excellent coaching tips and I saw my weightlifting form drastically improve.
Although Soro was quite a behind-the-scenes owner and surprisingly quiet, it was reassuring to know that such a knowledgeable coach was on hand – he gave me advice on my running style, push up position and an old shoulder injury, and even produces his own protein powder.
What truly blew me away was the coaching style of Jaime Ramis. I only managed one or two classes with this young, slim guy who was constantly going at a million miles an hour and initially his style shocked me a little. I found him brusque, hurried, impatient. But I quickly noted that he had an incredible eye for technique, was quick to discover my weaknesses and cared enough to take the time to teach me tricks that no one had ever shown me before. After just one session he had me kipping my toes to bar. I’d never even considered trying this before. Ramis’ genuine passion and desire to make me and the rest of the class better athletes shone through and I developed a quick respect for him. He may have been a little accelerated, but for me Ramis embodies what any coach should strive to be.
I often joked that, for me, working out at CrossFit ALC was like working out with a football team. The classes would
be large but, invariably, I would be the only girl. CrossFit ALC, one of only two CrossFit gyms in this city of 335,000 people, really struggled to attract female athletes and in all my time there, I only worked out with three others. The lack of girls was a combination of a few factors – CrossFit is still relatively new to Spain and a lot of people don’t know about it; CrossFit ALC had previously designed he-man style flyers which weren’t attractive to girls; but, more importantly, Spanish girls generally aren’t in to working out, and it shows. In fact, the Spanish girls were a large inspiration for my pieces on people getting it wrong and being skinny fat and then needing to balance their weight obsession.
For the past two years CrossFit ALC has run a Fittest on the Beach competition, held on the amazing, long, white-sand beach of San Juan. Although I left before the competition was held, it looks amazing in the videos on the CrossFit ALC website. Heaps of people, energy, varied work outs, sweat, flying sand, toned abs and bare legs. A fun competition and an awesome promo opportunity, not just for CrossFit ALC but for CrossFit itself. I’d be interested to know how many new people signed up to the box following the competition.
It took CrossFit ALC a while to jump through various bureaucratic hurdles and finally open their doors, but they managed to secure a very large space for their box. It’s so big, in fact, that they only use half of it and it’s still large enough to run the mobility, kids and gymnastics classes while the regular classes are on. They’ve got some cool t-shirts up on the wall and are continuously working on the space to make it better.
CrossFit ALC’s timetable structure reflects the different culture and routine of the Spaniards, with the first class kicking off at 8.30am and the evening sessions running from 6pm to 10pm. I wondered how they would cope with the sweltering summer heat and learned that there would be a lot of CrossFit beach sessions held – sounds like fun!
Despite the experienced coaches and awesome space, CrossFit ALC wasn’t the training mecca that I had expected it to be – Paoli’s touch is light and the coaches are still feeling their way around as they learn, in just the way any coach would. The owners intend on sticking closely to the main CrossFit formula and this could potentially hinder some growth in a country that simply doesn’t share the same culture as that of the US. I have no doubt that this box will continue to grow, the owners will have more fun ideas and new strategies and techniques will be developed. In any major city, CrossFit ALC would be stiff competition for other boxes but in Alicante, where you can talk to 100 people in the street and only 2 would have heard of CrossFit, this box will have to be content with dominating in its own bubble of awesomeness.
Drop-in dates: 13/05/13 to 14/06/2013
More info: crossfitalc.com
Posted on 26/11/2013, in Boxes, Spanish Boxes and tagged Alicante, bear crawl technique, Carl Paoli, cash out, Costa Blanca, CrossFit, CrossFit ALC, Fitness, Miguel Borrazas, Olympic weightlifting, Spain, stretching, Warm up, weaknesses, weightlifting, WOD. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.