Gyms dedicated to CrossFit, an intense new exercise craze that mixes together different workout styles, are appearing all over Jordan. One of the first to establish itself was CrossFit QuickSand, which was set up by a group of savvy entrepreneurs committed to getting us all in shape.
By Celine Alkhaldi
Vigorous cardio and weight lifting carried out by athletic twenty somethings under the watchful gaze of ruthless personal trainers. If this description of a typical gym experience isn’t enough to intimidate you, throwing in the term CrossFit probably will.
But Laith Masri, the cofounder of the QuickSand CrossFit gym in Amman, believes people of all ages and abilities can benefit from this relatively new fitness regimen, which incorporates elements from high intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, and gymnastics among other exercises.
Created by Santa Cruz personal trainer Greg Glassman 15 years ago, the CrossFit fitness subculture offers an intense promise to new converts. There are over 13,000 affiliates worldwide, with nearly 4 million members. Masri and his partners were the first to bring an official CrossFit gym to Jordan in 2012.
Their gym, or “box” as it’s known in official CrossFit lexicon, is spread across two floors. It has a gritty, fuss-free industrial feel (parts of it look like a converted auto repair shop). There are no mirrors for posing and none of the expensive training equipment often found in conventional gyms.
Members sign up for training sessions where they are encouraged to have fun and compete against one another as part of a team. Masri said training as part of a group rather than individually achieves better results.
Passionate about the methodology, Masri first set up the gym in his parent’s garage. “With no initial business plan or path, we started with one member at my parents’ garage. Once we became more serious about it, we created a detailed plan with actual numbers to give us a path. Today, we have over 200 members,” he says.
As the concept of CrossFit gained popularity, it soon became obvious they needed more space to cope with rising demand. Four years later, the gym is now a popular fitness hub located in Wadi Saqra that brings people from all ages and all walks of life.
The variety of levels that can be offered at CrossFit include everything from military style training, to sessions that cater for senior citizens, kids and physically challenged members.
Hassan Abdul-Hadi, co-owner at QuickSand, says CrossFit workouts are tribal, intense, and never the same twice. It places emphasis on function, work capacity and progress and is a vehicle for living well. It replaces the ease and comfort of gym machines with a demand for all-out effort and endurance.
The “Workout of the Day,” or a WOD, consists of purely strength or skill-based workouts. For example, one of CrossFit’s toughest WOD, a “murf,” consists of a one-mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 bodyweight squats, and another one-mile run.
The gym is just the right size for coaches to work in close proximity and help participants with movements and motivation during workouts. One will not get lost in a herd of people and a ton of equipment.
The “box” is home to a knowledgeable team of more than nine coaches, all of whom have a sole aim to meet the training needs of members of all levels of technical ability, confidence, and fitness aligned with their personal goals. They accompany members at all times to provide motivation, safety, and guidance. Taking a holistic approach to health and longevity, trainers incorporate many aspects of fitness, helping members learn how to lead a healthier life, feel fitter, and become stronger.
While many resort to QuickSand to create a balanced body and mind, Abdul-Hadi stresses gym-goers find the tight-knit community atmosphere to be just as engaging. He tells Venture that it is what makes the gym so popular. It’s elements like the post-workout discussions that are held or the ‘question of the day’ feature led by the coaches before a WOD, that makes CrossFitters look forward to the next class.
“There’s always that constant reminder that we are all there for the same reason and working out is no longer a chore. You actually want to go and believe it or not, miss it when you can’t get there,” says Farah Nahar, member at QuickSand.
According to Masri, health and wellness are still very primitive in Jordan. “When we started, very few people knew what Olympic lifting is, let alone CrossFit,” he explains. “People are, however, starting to better understand what CrossFit is, and what is required for proper strength and conditioning.”
The owners of QuickSand aren’t ruling out expansion as the concept gains ground in the country. However, they insist they are depending more on word of mouth rather than aggressive marketing to increase customer base.
Though not a tech company, CrossFit’s triumph is tied directly to the birth of the web era and the rise of social media. Initially, CrossFit gained converts by posting daily workouts on a basic website. Today, Glassman’s no-frills business model is a $4 billion brand, as estimated by Forbes.
While social media may be the lifeblood of the CrossFit enterprise, its enthusiastic participants are still the beating heart of Glassman’s business plan. Many CrossFit boxes around the world started with a group of men and women lifting tires in garages, trying their luck at the CrossFit website’s daily workout.
Although the average member is aged between 25 and 35, Masri and his team’s aim is to further diversify the segment and increase the base of athletes. “Our goal is to be able to reach as many people as possible to help and educate people about proper health and wellness,” says Masri.