Soy Hakuna, located south of Medellin in the La Magnolia neighbourhood of Envigado, is a popular and highly-regarded box, despite not being officially affiliated with Crossfit. Peak time evening classes can feel more like a festival than a workout, but don't let that put you off. It’s one of friendliest and best-equipped gyms I have seen on my travels. If you want to avoid the daily post-5.30pm fitness festival, come in the morning or early afternoon -- it’s usually a lot quieter then. Hakuna is also excellent for additional, independent training outside of class. It has a separate area with a small rig, lifting platforms, and even a mezzanine level equipped for functional bodybuilding.
Soy Hakuna holds a dear place in my heart, as it's where I first discovered Crossfit. Since then, it has grown exponentially, moving to a new site as well as opening a second gym in Belen, further north in Medellin. Despite the growth, it still has the same vibrant personality. It's a lively and inviting box, drawing in a lot of young professionals and students of all abilities.
The box’s head coach, Maria Clara Ceballos, is somewhat of a local celebrity. The self-proclaimed guerrera (warrior) made it to regionals as part of a team twice, and appeared as a contestant on a Colombian reality TV series Desafio, a show that’s along the lines of Survivor. Maria Clara’s personality shows in the vibrance and friendliness of the gym and coaching staff that have been curated here. Their presence in the area and the commitment of their crossfiteros is demonstrated by their own local competition, Hakuna Fest, as well as an annual fitness camp in Guatapé.
If you’re looking for a clean, fun box with new equipment then this is without doubt one of the best options in Medellin. Though, it might be wise to avoid peak times as it can get very busy in the evenings. But even so, Hakuna has a lot to offer.
It’s a large box with concept 2 rowers, an assault bike, lifting platforms, ropes, high rings and everything else that you would expect. There is also a small cafe, and a physiotherapist at which members get a very good discount -- at the moment the rate for members is 45,000COP per hour.
As is often the case in Colombia, the more experienced members train outside of the usual classes. Hakuna provides a great space for this, and there’s really strong community of young athletes supporting each other through their workouts.
Workout of the day
The Workout of the Day class programming at Soy Hakuna Envigado has been designed with fun in mind. If you’re in the area for a couple of weeks and you are looking for a good workout, it’s perfect. Classes run at half past the hour every hour from 5.30am to 9.30am and then again at 3.30pm.
In regards to these classes, there’s an understanding that the majority of the members come for a good workout and are not overly concerned about progressing as an athlete. Higher skilled gymnastics movements such as HSPUs, T2B, Handstand Walks and Bar Muscle Ups do come up in the programming, both in as a skills session and also in their Metcons. However, the frequency which these appear in metcons may be less than you are used to if you if you’ve been following a dedicated crossfit programme in Europe / North America. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be an issue if you’re training here for just a few weeks. If, on the other hand, you plan to follow the class programme for an extend period of time you might want to make use of the gymnastics classes (see below) or supplement your training outside of class yourself with some of the higher skilled movements.
In a typical class, the time which might otherwise be spent on heavy strength movements is often built around performing a high number of reps with a lighter weight. It can seem a little like a high-volume warm up at times.
All in all, it’s a good workout, with plenty of opportunity to push yourself and make the workout as hard as necessary to suit your fitness level. If you are an experienced CrossFitter and you think it’s a workout where you should be pushing the weight, you may want to arrive early and warm up the lift before class. There may not be time to work up to a heavy weight in the class itself.
The alternative, and something I would certainly recommend to anybody who can commit to a much more extensive programme, is the workout with the more advanced athletes who follow the competitors program. (See below).
In addition to the standard Workout of the Day, Hakuna also run a focused gymnastics, functional bodybuilding, and Olympic weightlifting class through the week.
The gymnastics class is taken by an exceptional calisthenics athlete and coach and it is a great opportunity to benefit from true expert drilling down into your technique.
I would also highly recommend the Olympic lifting classes as an opportunity to lift heavy. The class does not follow a formalised programme so it’s easy to drop into without having to worry which point of the training cycle they are on. Typically the class may spend part of the time focusing on technique or strength, but then you will often work upto a heavy weight for a complex. It is is a lot of fun.
Competitors - Open to all
Alternatively, If you’re in Envigado for more than a couple of weeks and you would like to train with a more experienced group of athletes. It is definitely worth considering signing up to the competitors programme for an additional 100,000COP per month. It’s a separate programme altogether which brings together the programming expertise of a few different specialists. The programme is very comprehensive and the resulting athletes are highly skilled. Typically the programme will take upto 3 hours a day, and there is always a good friendly group of athletes worthing through it together which you can join. - On Thursdays they have an active recovery day when they will often get out of the gym, e.g. for a swim. On Saturdays there is often some form of team training.
Why Envigado is so special:
For anyone wanting to experience the “real” Medellin, Envigado has a lot to offer with its neighbourhood-like feel and traditional tiendas and restaurants on every corner. It was famously home to Pablo Escobar, but today the only sign of this is the area’s increased wealth over some of the city’s other neighborhoods. That, and the hike you can do up the mountainside to the prison which he built for himself.
It’s like a small, self-contained city in itself. Full of restaurants, cafés, health food stores, and a large fruit and veg market. Envigado is a very residential area with a friendly community, but unlike the closeby neighborhood of El Poblado there are very few tourists.
Where to stay in Envigado?
Many that choose to stay in Envigado for a while go through Airbnb to find decent, reasonably priced accommodation A lot of travellers/expats in the area work remotely, or study Spanish at the popular Spanish school Colombia Immersion.
How to get there?
Envigado is on the main Metro line into the city, making it very easy and cheap to get into the centre of Medellin, or to the backpacker hub of El Poblado. The station is located a good 20-25 minute walk from the gym, however, you can take the bus from the Metro station to Las Flores and ask to be dropped off at Magnolia on diagonal 31E, which is around 5 minutes from the gym.
In summary, if you’re coming to Medellin to party, then you’re probably best off in El Poblado or Laureles,where you’ll be in the heart of the city’s nightlife. However, if the idea of interacting with the city in a more authentic, low-key way is appealing, Envigado should be top of your list.