Sitting at home, dreaming of an escape once we have all said goodbye to COVID-19? I thought it might be helpful for me to give those dreams a bit of direction.
When thinking of a CrossFit holiday, most people's minds immediately go to Bali, or maybe Thailand. There are, of course, many more options. I've been on excellent holidays with 'Outside The Box Holidays' on a remote Croatian island which I would recommend to anybody.
However, if you are craving a more independent travelling experience, read on. Maybe you want to get stuck into a new culture, learn a new language, or work remotely. Perhaps you just want to swim in waterfalls and climb mountains after your morning workouts.
If this kind of thing sounds good, consider South America. For almost two years, I've been travelling in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina so that I can provide accurate travel, health and fitness guides on www.fitpacklife.com. All the best CrossFit gyms will soon be mapped out and analysed along with the best places to stay closeby. (Currently, you can check out what Colombia has to offer.)
But if you have to limit your travel to only one of these countries, which country would suit you best? Here are a few points that are worth considering:
What is Colombia like for CrossFit travel?
What makes it great?
A very green country with lots of walks and hikes that can be done in a day.
Lots of idyllic small towns and villages which are set up for travellers without being too touristy.
Great fresh fruit and vegetables for people who like to cook for themselves.
Colombians are generally very active. Health and fitness is a growing part of the collective psyche.
Gyms for CrossFit and Olympic lifting are in cities both big and small. Typically in, or close to most places on the tourist trail.
While Colombia is a big country, there are lots of beautiful towns surrounded by forests or coffee within a couple of hours of the main cities.
Great value for money
The altitude is not so high that it will negatively affect your training.
The best coffee and hammocks you’ll find on the continent
Things to note about Colombia
In some of the more remote areas, it can be challenging to follow a vegan diet.
Outside of the big cities, the range of food available in restaurants is often limited to traditional Colombian dishes.
Healthy options in restaurants often mean simple, clean eating, but you may want to supplement with additional vegetables.
Reggaeton - I guess it's a choice.
What is CrossFit in Colombia like?
Boxes open early (5.30am), but some will break in the middle of the day.
They will often (but not always) be well set up for people who want to train in an open gym.
Members of a higher standard will often train in 'open gym', while the classes can be of a slightly lower fitness level and experience.
Equipment is generally of good quality and well-maintained. (At least the gyms featured on fitpacklife.com)
Why Colombia is my favourite place to travel and train
Colombia suits me perfectly. Cities such as Medellin, Cali, Bogota, Santa Marta, and Manizales lend themselves to people who want to base themself in a town or city with access to a good gym. From here, Colombia has lots of attractive smaller towns to visit for a few days at a time.
Medellin also has a thriving community of “digital nomads,” so if you are looking for a spot to work from remotely, you might find your tribe here.
If you see yourself as an athlete or like to follow your own programming, you will be in good company training outside of class. However, if you prefer to train in classes, you may want to choose your gym and the times you train carefully. At times it can often feel as the classes are made up mostly of beginners.
Pros of Peru
Peru has some incredible multiple-day mountain hikes.
It has a vibrant indigenous culture.
A varied food culture with lots of Asian influence.
Surf and kitesurfing spots along the coast.
The main cities all have CrossFit boxes, and the sport is becoming more popular.
Peru has a long desert coastline with many breathtaking beaches. However, the vast majority of it is incredibly remote.
Peru: Things to note
The beauty of Peru tends to be away from towns. Consequently, except for some key cities, CrossFit boxes do not tend to be where tourists like to spend their time.
The coast is a big attraction in Peru, but apart from Lima, there are no CrossFit boxes in the beach towns. (There are a couple of options if you are willing to get a taxi.)
Often food will come with fries without saying anything on the menu, if that's a problem, just ask and then get them to swap for some salad.
And what about the CrossFit in Peru?
Boxes open early (5.30am), but some will break in the middle of the day.
CrossFit is much more expensive in Peru, but in return, you do get a different product.
Classes are smaller and more personal.
The equipment in Peru tends to be newer.
Boxes tend to be happy for experienced visitors to train outside of class in 'Open Gym'.
My thoughts on Peru as a Fitness Travel Destination
Peru is going to be at the top of many people’s lists because of the iconic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This is only one of several beautiful multi-day hikes. It’s also worth checking out Laguna 69 as well which can either be done as a day trip from Huaraz or as a much longer hike around the stunning glaciers which surround it. If breathtaking hikes around snow-capped volcanoes are an attraction, then you will love both Peru and Ecuador.
As a side note, Peru is also a good option if you don't like to cook your own food.
However, if you are planning to train in a CrossFit box most days in the week, it's not the most feasible place. That's unless you are happy to limit yourself to Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. There are a couple of beach towns with boxes in cities close by, but without your own transport, you would need to be extremely committed to make this journey from the beach each day.
Arequipa and Cusco are both beautiful cities surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and there are several active day and weekend trips to the surrounding areas. However, the coastal areas are much more remote.
Lima gets a bad rep for its cloudy weather, but I really enjoyed my 6 weeks training in the city. If you have the time and the budget to stop in either Lima or Cusco, you are likely to really enjoy yourself.
What makes it great
I found the food in Argentina to be the most varied when eating out.
In restaurants, finding options with enough vegetables was possible. However, it did add to the cost when I also wanted meat. In some areas, following a strict vegan diet may be challenging.
Lunch spots offering a good varied salad bar are quite common. Most of them will charge by weight.
High-quality meat is excellent value.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are notably more expensive than in Colombia, for example.
Healthy snacks like nuts and seeds are widely available from health food shops.
Argentina has some great restaurants which, at the time of writing due to the exchange rate, are at outstanding value.
There are boxes all over the northern half of Argentina. Any large town or city you are likely to visit that’s North of Patagonia will likely have a gym which follows a CrossFit program and methodology.
Argentinians like to keep fit. Health and fitness is already a big part of the collective psyche.
Argentina also has a few options for boxes that are close to popular beaches.
Argentina: Things to note
Gyms don't tend to open until 7 or 8am. Which probably isn't an issue for most travellers. However, if you are making a road trip and would like to get a session in early doors before you hit the road, you might want to consider this.
Argentinians also stay up late, rise late, and take a siesta in the middle of the day. If, like me, you like to hit the hay early and see the dawn, you may find yourself out of sync with the rest of the country.
The currency has been very volatile. Currently, Argentina is the cheapest it has ever been.
Argentina is huge! Places of interest tend to be a long distance away from each other. So day or weekend trips out of the city are not really done. Instead, most people will fly or buckle up for long bus rides.
Patagonia in the south of the country is iconic for its beauty. Still, these remote areas will not have much in the way of training options closeby. The good news is that it's perfect trail running or cycling territory.
What's the CrossFit like in Argentina?
CrossFit in Argentina is targeted at the masses and is very popular.
Classes are high energy.
Some gyms in the centres of the cities can be very busy.
It's not always possible for visitors to train at peak times.
In Argentina, boxes have a much smaller gross profit margin, which means that it's cheap.
This can also mean that the equipment in some boxes is a bit tired (I have searched for the gyms with the best equipment and will be including them on www.fitpacklife.com).
Barbells are frequently in need of some TLC / replacing.
Generally speaking, boxes in Argentina focus on making classes applicable and attractive to all members, often with multiple programming options.
Training in Open Gym is definitely possible, but due to space, potentially more restricted than in other countries.
Why Ecuador rocks
Incredible multi-day high altitude hikes around snow-capped volcanoes and craters.
Home to the Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador is a smaller country than other South American options, with less travel time needed between stops.
Beautiful cloud forest areas.
Surf and party beach spots.
A beautiful indigenous culture.
Enduro and downhill mountain biking parks.
Ecuador: Things to note
The best of Ecuador is the stunning natural landscape away from the cities.
A good number of popular out of city locations have some form of functional training facilities and barbells. Still, these do not always offer CrossFit style programming.
It is very feasible to keep up regular training as you travel, you just may need to adapt your plans a little.
Healthy restaurant options are somewhat limited.
The range of cooking ingredients available is sometimes limited.
My thoughts on Ecuador as a destination for a training travel trip
Ecuador has incredible diversity over a relatively small area. You can train in gyms close to the beach in Salinas and Esmeraldas. In Quito, you can summit a 4,700m peak and be down in time for a workout in any one of several boxes. You can wander the historic streets of Cuenca or Lajo after a morning workout, or you can use the gym in Riobamba as a base as you explore the surrounding mountain adventures. Even in the Galapagos, there are a couple of boxes to choose from while you take a few days to discover the underwater worlds.
In my view, Ecuador is probably best suited to those with less time to explore the continent. It’s a great fit for people who wish to keep training regularly, but who are happy to either join in with a class in some locations, or train by themselves in others where classes might not be offered. It's equally suited to people who are happy to trade in the odd gym day for a few days of hiking, mountain biking, or a trail run.
Hopefully, this has provided some useful guidance on what these countries have to offer in terms of training locations. Each country offers a whole world to explore outside of the gym. However, the gyms themselves can be a great place to get to know a local community. I've had unique experiences, from being invited to members’ houses for dinner after a class to early morning Sunday cycles with fellow gym-goers.
Depending on how often you like to train, how you want to train, and what kind of travel you would like to do, one country may be more appealing than another. If you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email or a DM on Instagram.
I have avoided talking about the cost too much as www.fitpacklife.com is working with gyms to provide more affordable pricing when training in multiple gyms as you travel. For the moment, you can find the prices for each gym at the bottom of the gym description pages. To see the featured gyms in Colombia, please click here.
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