I knew from the start, when I decided to write this article about how Crossfit has been growing in my country Portugal, that I had a huge responsibility to those who have so kindly collaborated and patiently helped me with the information.
I also wanted to be fair and honest, but above all truthful to a group of Fitness professionals who are the pioneers of Crossfit and Fitness in general in my country.
This journey has been one of the most rewarding and fascinating experiences since I started practicing CrossFit.
For the past 6 months now I have met, spoken and interviewed so many people, and to think that it all started when after nearly 27 years ago I left my home town Aveiro, I decided to search for a place to practice my new sport, CrossFit.
To my surprise and through a contact on my Facebook page I was told that a Box had opened in March 2013 in my town, a box called CrossFit Aveiro.
I sent Crossfit Aveiro a Facebook message and within less than a day I got a reply and an invitation to visit their Box.
I was blown away by the warm welcome that Jose Pedro Magalhaes and Juvenal Cardoso Fernandes gave me, and by the professional and caring approach they have towards our sport. At a glance, and later more meticulously when they took me around for a visit of their Box. I witnessed how they ran the place, in terms of organisation, equipment disposition, their motivation, but most importantly their knowledge.
Jose Pedro and Juvenal complement each other very well and their passion for CrossFit is palpable. All these, combined with their enthusiasm makes them great ambassadors to the Crossfit community in Europe. They were the perfect hosts and CrossFit Aveiro is a great place to CrossFit all together.
The experience with CrossFit Aveiro injected me with such a boost, that in the following six months I decided to build a network of Portuguese Crossfiters. I created a blog called Crossfitters Lusitanos and a Facebook page group under the same name. By doing this I was able to connect with other Crossfitters in my country.
I quickly received replies to my friend invitations from the top pioneers of the sport in Portugal.
I explained to them that I was thinking about writing an article for my blog and also for BoxRox about how Crossfit has grown in our country. To my surprise, ALL of them without hesitation were keen to help with their views and experiences.
I set up a few main questions, so that I could get an insight to how the sport has been developing and what were, and still are, the obstacles they face for those who open Boxes.
Here are the results of my work. I hope it will be informative and helpful.
” We have less then 5% of the population that takes part in any kind of sport activity, the market is very small and with very little economic power” (Diogo Henriques)
Diogo Henriques was the first person to take the level 1 CrossFit trainer course, and to open the first official affiliate Box in 2011 in Palmela near Lisbon. Diogo also Coaches Sonia Alves, Portugal´s number one female athlete. Responsible for introducing similar training method in the country was Sergio Rodrigues and Christian Luis Aza Hindrickx .
Asking Diogo about the challenges he faced when opening his Box, he told me the following:
Diogo: ” The difficulties were ( and still are) always the same, excessive bureaucracies, we have less then 5% of the population that take part in any kind of sporting activity. The market is very small and with very little economic power”.
I also spoke to Sonia Alves, whom this year managed to go the CrossFit European Regionals . I asked her what kind of support did she receive from either Reebok or any other company.
Sonia Alves: “This year, I have received sponsorship from Reebok due to the fact that I qualified for the Regionals. They gave me some training material, but I was lacking a few items that I could have used in the main competition. I was very grateful nevertheless, of course.”
Sonia Alves plans to create a group of female Crossfitters in Portugal, but the struggle is very evident trying to find females who want and are prepared to take this kind of training.
The second official box opened in Portugal in March 2013 in the town of Aveiro, where the Cross Games Manz are held in November. Since then, Portugal has 7 new Boxes. I asked Juvenal and Jose Pedro who own Crossfit Aveiro how they saw the future of Crossfit in Portugal.
Juvenal and Jose Pedro: ” Crossfit is growing really fast ”
” In March 2013, there were only two official boxes in Portugal. We now have a total of 7 boxes, and also a few places that work with a similar philosophy”. (Juvenal C. Fernandes).
Juvenal also commented on how each Box owner supports new ones.
Jose Pedro and Juvenal: ” The camaraderie we receive, and support from each other is fantastic. When a new Box opens we all go and show our support to the new affiliates. For the moment that is (grin).”
I met up with Filipe Alves, who owns a Box called Elite Fit Box, at the opening of a new Box in the City of Porto, CrossFit OPO. We exchanged a few words about upcoming games and competitions, and who we should keep our eyes on as a new talent.
Filipe Alves : “ We have fantastic athletes in Portugal, considering that until recently we only had two official Boxes. Gonçalo Teixeira, Sonia Alves, Diogo Henriques, Mikael Godinho, Luis Sa Bastardo, Pina Ramos, Tiago Pinto, Andre Almeida, Ricardo Pereira, Bruno Militao, Diogo Portas, Pedro Vasconcelos, and Filipe Alves of course. But, there is a lot of hidden talent in our country.”
Portugal has three official games based on high intensity with the similar philosophy and methodology as CrossFit: CrossFit National Games; Promofit Games and the Cross Games Manz. The last two games are being sponsored by BoxRox.
Diogo Henriques organised this years first CrossFit National Games with great success.
“We now have a responsibility to go out and promote our sport ensuring people that CrossFit is for everybody.”
I asked Catia Silva and Carlos Oliveira from CrossFit LX in Lisbon how they saw the future of Crossfit in Portugal.
Catia and Carlos: “CrossFit in Portugal has a lot of growing still. Unfortunately, like everything in life, we encounter excellent trainers and also bad ones. But, I think that we now have a responsibility to go out and promote our sport ensuring people that CrossFit is for everybody.”
They also share the same opinion as most regarding the difficulties about opening a Box and promoting it.
” There is so much red tape, the government really makes it harder for us , or anyone who wants to open a business. also when it comes to CrosssFit people still have the image of what they see on YouTube, so they get a little bit scared of trying it out. we always tell them to search more and not to be intimidated by what they see online”.
“We also feel that we don’t really get much support from CrossFit HQ apart for being able to use the name CrossFit as an affiliate, the same goes for Reebook.”
Top athletes like Ricardo Pereira, Gonçalo Teixeira and Pedro Vasconcelos , Diogo Freitas, Mikael Godinho with whom I also spoke to, share the same view that we now have to promote the sport in our communities individually.
On my last night in Portugal, I had a great dinner with three very enthusiastic new CrossFitters, Luis Sa Bastardo was one of them.
“Luis Sa Bastardo: “How do we really explain to people what CrossFit is without having to give the full description that we learn at the L1 Course, and without scaring them with the word HIGH INTENSITY”
I have to say that for a country that is slowly recovering from a major economic crisis, and for a country with so many bureaucratic red tape, the determination of the young and strong Fitness professionals is very admirable.
They have to face huge bills not just from CrossFit HQ but also with massive government tax, rentals, and licencing for the Box [to name a few].
Someone said to me once and I agree, that 3000 dollars for an American or anyone in a country who is economically doing ok, its not that big of an amount of money, however for a country like Portugal where the average salary is 500 euros a month, it’s a ridiculous amount to be paid every year for very little in return.
The majority of the people I spoke to also felt that, the affiliates are now at a point where they are actually questioning the loyalty of HQ, and if it is really worth it what they pay for what they get in return, they also believe that CrossFit HQ gives far more support and marketing to Boxes and the sport in general in America, and they also feel that there are two different sports altogether. The feeling goes towards Reebok as well, the lack of support is very evident.
Nevertheless, I really take my hat-off to them, and I feel very proud to see such determination and great attitude towards CrossFit and Fitness in general.
Portugal is now covered in all corners with CrossFit Boxes and places that offer High Intensity training, so nobody has an excuse NOT to CrossFit, and I have to say from the few places I have visited, these Boxes are top of the range, these guys really went for it. Fantastic equipment and great locations.
What I noticed was that ALL of the Box owners and those involved in CrossFit have a university degree in Physical education, coupled with many other courses within the Fitness industry. Some of these Fitness professionals are highly educated and have huge amounts of experience.
I truly believe that Portugal will play a major role in the development of the our sport in Europe, I also feel that the games that are slowly growing in the country will be a must for any athlete who is serious about CrossFit.
CrossFit in Portugal not only offers fantastic resources, but also great value for money, accommodation, and a holiday feel when you come to our country. What better combination to practice a sport that we all love so much.
Congratulations to all of them, special thanks to those mentioned here in this article for their collaboration and to all my fans of my blog CrossFitters Lusitanos , and my Facebook gang, you guys are AWESOME.
TUGA POWER INDEED.
Until my next post….Keep Crossfitting!!!
Places to CrossFit in Portugal:
CrossFit Palmela – Palmela – near Lisbon
CrossFit LX – Massama – Lisbon
CrossFit Aveiro – Aveiro (Center Region of Portugal)
CrossFit 2725 – Sintra – near Lisbon
CrossFit Palmela or Box 1RM as it’s known Now.
CrossFit Portimao – Portimao (South Region of Portugal – Algarve)
CrossFit OPO – Porto (Northern Region of Portugal)
The Cross – Ferreira Do Zezere – North of the Capital Lisbon
Box Project – Porto (Northern Region of Portugal)
Cross Fundao – Fundao (Northern Region of Portugal)
Cross Revolution – Ermesinde – Near Porto (Northern Region of Portugal)
Personal Training Center – Algarve ( Southern Region of Portugal)
Box1RM – Santaren (Near Lisbon inland)
Elite Fit Box – Vila das Aves (Near Porto- Northern Region of Portugal)