Legion-A Box in Armenia is the best place to do CrossFit close to Salento. It was a great find. Armenia is a small city to the South of the stunning, must-see spots of Salento and El Valle de Cocora (The Cocora Valley). Whilst Armenia itself isn’t on many people's list of essential places to visit when they come to Colombia, most will travel through Armenia on their way to or from Salento. Salento and the Valle de Cocora offer plenty of walking, running and mountain biking opportunities to keep you active. However, if you see the value in supplementing these with either a Metcon, or a heavy lifting session, look no further than Legion-A Box.
As you walk into Legion-A Box in Armenia, there is a sense of a very friendly community. Legion A is the only box in the area, so the whole CrossFit community trains here. Juan David runs the gym. He, and the rest of the coaches immediately made me feel welcome.
The space itself is long and narrow, with ropes and rings hanging from the tall ceilings. There is a rig that runs down the left-hand side of the gym, which has surprisingly pleasing, slightly grippy bars. At the far end of the gym, there’s storage space for your bags (it took me a while to find it).
The class typically uses the space in the middle, so if you want to train by yourself just be considerate of where the class is and try to keep out of their way. In the evening it can get a bit busier, so if you do want to do your own thing you might prefer to avoid peak times and opt for mornings or early afternoon.
Whilst Legion-A Box are quite active in local competitions, it’s not a gym which has a big athletes programme. This could partly be the reason that I struggled to find KBs or DBs over 25kgs. They also don’t have any cardio equipment, and whilst they do have plenty of barbells, you may just want to check how well they spin before you use it. They do, however, have a couple of peg boards, tyres, plenty of high rings, ropes, and a turfed track for sled pulls. Although it might not be appropriate to drag a sled across the length of the gym unless it’s particularly quiet.
All things considered, Legion-A in Armenia had everything I needed to get in my olympic lifting, work on my gymnastics skills, and do a sweaty Metcon whilst I was visiting Salento. I even bumped into a Canadian couple who were spending a month in Armenia to train at the box whilst they were traveling in the area.
Workout of the day
When I joined the 7pm evening class after a long cycle around the beautiful surrounding countryside, the first thing I noticed was the impressive strength and fitness level of some of the members in the class. Personally, I love it when gyms don’t make a big thing of having a separate competitors program. It tends to increase the average fitness level of the classes and gives you more people to push yourself against. This seemed to be the case in the evening at A-Legion Box in Armenia where there was a full range of fitness levels.
The workouts had a strong focus on conditioning. From what I could tell they also tended to be in the slightly longer time domain space (30-40 mins). Alternatively it would be two or three slightly shorter 10-15 min workouts back to back. So, if your thing is those longer endurance workouts where you just need to keep moving, you’ll love dropping into a class at Legion-A.
Although there is no dedicated time for 'Open Gym', Juan David is very happy for people to do some lifting whilst classes are going on. It would probably be better to avoid to avoid peak evening times though.
About the Area:
The city Armenia itself doesn’t have the biggest draw for tourists and backpackers. However it’s surrounded by Colombia’s amazing coffee culture and a landscape which UNESCO declared a World Heritage Site. This surrounding area is definitely worth exploring.
Where to stay:
If training CrossFit every day is a priority, you may want to base yourself close to the box in an AirBnb to avoid a daily journey to and from the gym which you may tire of. Armenia offers a good range of restaurants, and stores to buy fresh fruit and veg from.
However, most visitors choose to base themselves in either Salento (25 km away), or Finlandia (28 km away), and for good reason. These beautiful rural colombian villages have are very relaxed and offer a pleasing contrast to the bustle of the cities.
Finlandia has been getting more popular recently as visitors look for an alternative to the more established Salento. It can get busy with Colombians on weekends and peak season. That being said, you can avoid the noise of the village by staying in a finca slightly a short walk out of town. This way you can still benefit from the restaurants and activities run from Salento.
Accommodation in Salento
By far my favorite place to stay in Salento is Macambo Hostel. This is a very peaceful little guest house on a small farm with a spectacular view. The dorms have double beds, and the private rooms open directly onto the view over the town. Johanna, who runs the hostel, is lovely and serves up a breakfast of eggs and fresh fruits every morning.
Activities on offer in Salento
Walk / Run the Valle de Cocora: The 12km loop is a must do. You will walk through a valley full of some of the oldest, tallest palm trees in the world. They say the walk takes 5 hours, however this is very conservative. If you are up for it, I recommend running it and seeing what time you can set.
Mountain Biking: Salento has three companies running mountain biking trips
Road Biking: You can join a road cycling tour, doing a fun 85km loop with some very fun descents surrounded by coffee plantations.
Bike rental: Or just rent a bike and do it by yourself
Coffee tours: A nice relaxing way to learn about how the coffee we all love is produced
Horse riding: because I guess some people like that.
Hike up to the Paramos in the Los Nevados National Park. This is usually a two day hike, where you stay in little fincas on the Paramos. Most people will do this with a guide. However, I met a couple who said it was very easy to do on your own.