“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”- Seth Godin
Pair of Up-and-Coming South African Athletes Talk About the Future of the Sport
Ruan Potgirter and Gilmari Reyneke both placed third in the 2023 African Semifinal in Johannesburg, South Africa. The pair, both from the country they competed in this spring, had the same outcome, and a similar outlook on what comes next for them. But how they got here differs widely and tells a greater story of what elite competition is like for African athletes.
Potgieter, now 26, found CrossFit in eighth grade and officially joined an affiliate–CrossFit Sledgehammer–in 2016. Through his later teen years and well into adulthood, it held his interest and the idea of competing at the top of the sport like he saw while watching the CrossFit Games on YouTube lit a fire in him.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be good, but I knew I was going to enjoy it,” Potgieter said. “I immediately enjoyed the idea of competing, and (my excitement) has skyrocketed every year.”
Potgieter has been on the up-and-up ever since. Since his first Semifinals appearance in 2021, where he placed sixth, he’s slowly chipped away at the final spots separating him from a CrossFit Games appearance. Of course, the region is only awarded one male, female, and team ticket every year, making that spot highly coveted.
At the 2023 Semifinals, Potgieter placed third, though after Jason Smith’s failed drug test, he would’ve been just three points away from a Games qualifying spot over Conrad Winnertz. Despite being so close to making his dreams come true, Potgieter says that he’s okay with waiting for the right moment.
“I want to make sure that I don’t get (to the Games) because I’m lucky that year,” he said. “I want to get there because I’ve earned my spot.”
One challenge, though, that Potgierter has experienced is that he has to juggle the intensity of training to be a successful elite athlete while also making a living.
He recognizes that sponsors don’t have the same incentives to take on athletes in Africa or Asia, where the CrossFit population is much smaller, as compared to North America or Europe. This means that Potgieter is coaching a full day every day and fitting as much training in as he can around it.
Some perspective on this matter came to Potgieter from seasoned pro Brent Fikowski, who he competed alongside and got second behind at ELFIT in 2022. Of course, he picked up on some of the “Professor’s” signature methodical warm-ups, but he also affirmed for Potgieter that he’s doing something right with the balance he strikes in training.
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Box Jump Overs
Alt. DB Snatch (R+L=1, R+L=2…)
*1 min rest after each round
Time Cap: 20 minutes
ICYMI: With four jobs, a husband headed to basic training and little free time, Liz Bell used CrossFit to prepare for an ultramarathon.
Our "Way Too Early" Thoughts on the 2024 Open
With the 2023 CrossFit season officially in the rear view, we are already eagerly looking forward to the 2024 season, beginning with the Open in just around 150 days.
As a part of that anticipation we have been speculating on the possible new movements we could see next year, especially based on what we witnessed throughout this year’s Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Games.
Below we will give our “way too early” thoughts on some of those movements and overall trends along with our reasoning.
If you’ve ever stepped a Nano-clad foot into a CrossFit box, odds are you’ve heard the 35-pound (15kg) barbell called a “women’s” barbell and a 45-pound (20kg) barbell called a “men’s” barbell.
But “gendering” a barbell is not only inaccurate, it’s also just plain silly.
That’s why activist and the owner of Rocket Community Fitness, Alyssa Royse, urges CrossFit box owners and coaches to designate barbells and prescribed weights in different–actually helpful ways.
“Barbells don’t have genders, they have weights,” she explains. Ditto goes for plates, kettlebells, and dumbbells.
People of any gender can use any weight barbell—so long as they have the requisite strength to move it well and safely, she says.
Calling the heavier, 45-pound barbell a “men’s” barbell and the lighter, 35-pound barbell the “women’s barbell” suggests that all men are stronger than all women, says Royse.
But that’s not the case—and it’s physically dangerous to imply such.
“Anyone who has ever stepped foot into a CrossFit box knows that there are absolutely women in a CrossFit class who out-lift men in a CrossFit class,” she says. “My daughter, for example, can out-lift my husband any day of the week.”
When you tell people what barbell they should be grabbing based on their gender, you increase the risk that an individual lifts more weight than they are physically capable of.
“You are implying that if a man cannot handle the heavier barbell that he is less of a man, and that that is a bad thing,” says Royse. This, she says, can increase the likelihood of someone using a heavier weight bar than their current training age or fitness level allows them to use safely.
And when an individual lifts more weight then they are physically capable of? Well, that increases the risk of injury.
Another issue with gendering barbells as for men or women is that you are implying that there are only two genders, says Royse.
“You are inherently excluding non-binary folks,” she says.
Good news: There are so many other ways for coaches to help figure out what barbell to use.
“You can simply refer to the barbells by how much they weigh and allow people to pick the barbell they think is best for them based on the exercise,” says Royse.
If, for example, you are doing a barbell bicep finisher, you might tell people to pick the barbell that allows them to get 20 or more reps unbroken.
You could also refer to the barbells based on how small- or large-hand friendly they are. You could, for example, tell people to pick a barbell that they can hookgrip.
Finally, you can suggest that people vary the barbell they use class-to-class —so long as they never pick a bar that is heavier than they can lift safely.
CrossFit, after all, is the sport of constantly varied movements. And varying barbell width and weight is just another way to add a little variety into your fitness routine.
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Earlier this month, CrossFit Skylight, in Istanbul, Turkey burned down, due to an external fire. Everything was lost, and they are asking for the help of the greater CrossFit community. They are accepting donations to help re-build their space purchase new equipment.
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