Thursday, November 19, 2009

CrossFit's European Central Station

If there is a Crossfit capital in Europe, it’s Copenhagen. And if there’s one place that I would want to train, it’s here. In 72 hours, I visited four gyms, did five WODs, and left the city with a true appreciation for its people, culture, and fascination with fitness. They’re nuts for it! The members were strong, motivated, and welcoming everywhere I went, and the facilities were top notch. I really feel that this place has the opportunity to become CrossFit’s central hub for training, learning, and growth, not just for Scandinavia, but for all of Europe.

To give a better idea of the proliferation of the program in Copenhagen and its surrounding areas, here is a list of affiliates, memberships, and locations. Note that the oldest affiliate has been around for less than eighteen months, and that most have come into being within the last six. The numbers are staggering.

-Butcher's Lab Members: approx 600, First affiliate in Denmark (2008), Has hosted Crossfit challenges and weight lifting competitions for Crossfitters, Has hosted 1 CERT1 + 2 GYM CERT, Located: Copenhagen

-CrossFit Copenhagen Members: 800, Affiliated since June 2008, Hosted a local challenge in August 2008 + participated in the Affiliate Cup @ the CrossFit Games 2009, Hosting challenge in February, Located: Copenhagen

-CrossFit Denmark (Hellerup) Members: approx 100, Affiliated since 2008, Located: Hellerup, 8 km from Copenhagen

-Paideia CrossFit Members: 100, Affiliated since August 2009, Located: Copenhagen

-CrossFit Royal Danish Guards (military base affiliate) Members: approx 230, Affiliated since June 2009, Located: 20 km north of Copenhagen

-CrossFit Royal Danish Defense College Implementing CrossFit in the Danish military, Affiliated since October 2009, Located: Copenhagen

-CrossFit CTC Members: approx 500, including MMA etc, Affiliated since November 2009, Located: 50 km south of Copenhagen

-CrossFit OBBC Members: approx 300, Affiliated since November 2009, Located in Odense, 170 km from Copenhagen

-Aarhus CrossFit Members: approx 200, Affiliated since August 2009, Located in Aarhus, on the Jutland peninsula

-CrossFit Aalborg Members: N/A, Affiliated since 2009, Located in Aalborg, on the Jutland peninsula

Obviously, people here are drinking the Kool-Aid.

In addition to the sheer numbers that this area boasts, it also offers incredible diversity. Often, CrossFit gyms look pretty much the same. (There’s a reason why they’re called boxes) Typically built in old warehouses or office space, they tend to take on a similar shape: four walls, high ceilings, and floor space. They’re uncluttered, minimalist, and, many times, lack an individual character. Such is not the case in Copenhagen.

Of the four gyms I visited, none is comparable to the other.

Paideia Gym is on the ground floor of a large concrete building, accessible through the loading dock door. Inside it has two rooms (one for classes, one for general use); a unique multi-purpose steel grid for heavy bags, rings, etc.; two proper Olympic platforms and a power rack for heavy squatting; and tons of non-traditional fitness tools like sledges, maces, club bells, and sand bags. The walls are covered in artwork for sale, and the whole place has a very intelligent feel.

Crossfit Denmark (Hellerup)is in one of the wealthiest areas of Copenhagen. It exists as a world within a world, a CrossFit haven amidst the health and wellness aura of the fitness spa from which it rents space. Their “box” is glass, well lit, completely stocked, and exposed to the curious view of many a treadmill worshipper.

Crossfit Copenhagen operates out of a different place of worship, a church. Now affectionately called “the church of pain,” CC’s home is incredible. Two floors with very high ceilings give this place an enormous feel, and a very unique look. It’s really two boxes in one. They have tons of equipment, tons of space, and STAIRS. The fact that they use both floors in the same workout means you have to climb stairs constantly. I love it.

Butcher's Lab is, as the name would indicate, housed in an old butchery. It has a bunch of rooms, all of which have tile walls and big, hazy windows, giving this place a great raw quality that you can’t help associating with a slaughterhouse. Sounds morbid, but it works. They also use neon colors for their logo, so the place has flashes of bright green, pink, blue, and orange depending on which room you are in.

The uniqueness of these gyms gives them character and personality, thus differentiating them from other boxes. In my opinion, this gives their memberships a stronger sense of identity, ownership, and pride. These are qualities that hold communities more tightly together and serve to draw new members in.

More so than the number of members or the environments they train in, though, it’s the quality of the people that really makes Copenhagen a CrossFit Mecca. The owners and coaches are well-educated, thoughtful program designers that understand the importance of balance and variety. The athletes are eager, tough, and tuned in to the greater community. Perhaps the only area in which the city is lacking is the coordination between gyms. They’re all so close together, but it doesn’t seem like one community is interested in the actions or development of the others. This is too bad.

The exception to this is to be found in my host, Sarah Lindasdatter Troelsen Krarup. This woman is a machine. In addition to being a great athlete with a serious motor, she knows everyone, everywhere. It was through her connections and knowledge that I was able to experience as much as I did during my visit. While she has founded the Royal Danish Defense College affiliate and is an original member of CrossFit Copenhagen, she continues to train everywhere and maintain relationships throughout the community, essentially creating a link between parallel worlds.

Ideally, it would be great to see a truly cohesive network of affiliates, members, and owners that are tied loosely together by their common goal of building fitness in Copenhagen. Perhaps with cooperative challenges and events, and with people like Sarah continuing to connect the dots, this will become possible. In any event, Copenhagen has grown into a breeding ground for elite fitness in a very short amount of time. I can't wait to see where time will take it from here.

From Nov 15, 2009_3


  1. We'r expecting you in Copenhagen in february.
    It was great trying a killer WOD at CC with you.
    And yes loads of "spirit hands" for Sarah.


  2. We are also locking forward to se you back i Butcher´s Lab i diddent have the chance to meet you. ( I am one of the owners) but net time I am ready for a challange..;)
    Greatings from affe

  3. Great summary and overview. Especially for someone in the area looking to for a gym to join.