As we’ve all seen, CrossFit and the community which supports it has seen incredible growth and massive interest over the past few years in South Africa. What makes each CrossFit box unique is that they are run by passionate individuals – their personality gives their box a culture which attracts and keeps their members and it makes them recognised in their community.
In this feature, we interview one of South Africa’s original CrossFit box owners, Brad Strydom, from CrossFit Vaal to get some insight about him, his great gym and his community of avid CrossFitters.
You’re one of the originals, having started with CrossFit a while back. Tell us a little bit about that.
Ja, it’s been pretty awesome to see the growth. I started around the end of October 2009, when SA was pretty new to CrossFit. If you told people that you did CrossFit, you had to explain it thoroughly. Now that it’s grown it’s become more familiar. Everyone seems to know someone who does CrossFit, or something about CrossFit.
You recently moved locations. Tell us a little about that.
It’s been a great journey. We decided to relocate further south towards Vereeniging at the end of last year. Initially a little daunting, but it has proven to be a great decision. Sometimes you just need to take a chance. We are fortunate to have an awesome base of members that branched off with us. We are very grateful for them and they were and still are a base from which we grow.
What do you feel makes you stand out from the rest of the CrossFit boxes in SA?
It’s hard to say these days, because there are so many. I believe that we have a great recipe at our facility. I think it’s purely organic through the culture of our facility and the members.
Of all the CrossFit-style events happening around SA, which is your favourite?
Definitely say the UWS Games! It’s an event that we have supported from beginning, so it’s great to see it growing as the community grows. I think we all love the team events as well; there’s something special in that team environment. I always enjoy the programming too!
In the health and fitness industry, which parts of it do you currently enjoy the most?
One of the most rewarding aspects for me would be the impact you can have on people’s lives, be it on a personal level or through the influence of the facility and its members. There is a lot of hard work that happens behind the scenes from a programming, coaching and a management point of view, but to see someone’s life being impacted in a positive way, makes it very worthwhile.
How behind, if at all, do you think SA is compared to the rest of the CrossFit world?
I think we are getting close on par, from an Affiliate point of view. I believe that there is considerably more knowledge sharing, certs and workshops which allows for the coaches to learn and provide world-class service to their members. Regards to the competition environment, Dave Levey has already proven that an SA athlete can compete on the world stage and from the look of things, the 2014 Open in SA is seeing some new athletes as well as an increase in performance from the common faces.
Which local athlete do you have pegged to win the CrossFit Games Africa Regional?
I used to train with Jason Smith, so I have a huge amount of respect for him and his work ethic. He has been gunning the first place position since I started. I think this is his year.
Who is your favourite international CrossFit athlete and why?
Probably Miko Salo. He hasn’t really featured much in the past few years, but I admire his unorthodox approach to training.
Which international coaches do you look up to?
Zach Even-Ish, Jason Ferruggio, Johnny Pain, Ross Enamait, Eric Cressey and Dan John. They are not entirely CrossFit coaches, but coaches with vast wisdom within the strength and conditioning industry.
If you had to pick another CrossFit box, besides yours, to train at, which one would it be and why?
I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for Imtiaz Desai and the success of CrossFit Jozi. So if I lived in the area, I’d call Jozi home.
What are your goals for your CrossFit box this year?
Success. Defined by growing organically with a great community of people who see value in our service. The more we grow the more we can offer, and we want to offer as much as we can.
Which piece of equipment is your least favourite to work with?
Wall balls! Wall balls are whack.
What is your favourite piece of equipment?
Hands down, the barbell!
What makes your members unique and special to you?
There is a huge amount of respect and encouragement for one another. I’m sure every box feels this way, but I definitely believe we have a home away from home and a second family at CrossFit Vaal.
Which of the CrossFit Girls (benchmark workouts) do you love, and which do you hate?
Lots of love for Helen! I like swings, pull-ups and the odd 400m sprint to shake it out. Much hate for Fran! It’s just too up-close and personal; the forearm pump, the lungs… I get nervous before Fran.