Saturday, July 13, 2024

Get into Mexico’s growing extreme fitness scene

Despite its reputation as a wellness destination, Mexico is a fat country — in fact, it has some of the highest obesity statistics in the world. A staggering 32% of men and 42% of women are considered obese. With a further 41% of men and 36% of women considered overweight, you could be forgiven for thinking that the fitness scene in Mexico is nonexistent.

But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. From high-intensity programs like CrossFit to grueling Spartan races, Mexico has fitness options for people who want to take their workout to the next level. There are CrossFit gyms in every major city and beachside destination — from Puerto Vallarta, to Mexico City, to Monterrey or Tulum, and a number of high-profile fitness events for enthusiastic (or masochistic) amateurs to compete in.

CrossFit is a highly social workout, promoting friendship and support as part of the program. (Fibonacci Gym)

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a very intense workout program that uses functional movement and weight training in high-cardio sessions. It is, in many ways, the ultimate HIIT session, with set numbers of repetitions, time limits and distances set for participants. Generally, the activities in a session are similar to those you might find in Olympic disciplines, and can include gymnastic and flexibility challenges, traditional weight training and also sprinting and resistance challenges.

Usually, sessions are led by a qualified coach, and have structured warm-ups and cooldowns, as well as more strength and flexibility-oriented stages. Notably, however, these workouts are best for people with a more competitive streak, as they are designed to track progress, and face gym goers off against each other. 

As a result, CrossFit can also be a great way to meet new people if you’ve just arrived in Mexico. The social element of the workout is so strong, in fact, that many gyms — such as Cancun’s Fibonacci — advertise the great community element of their CrossFit programs.

Mexican CrossFit competitor Paco Zárate believes the sport is accessible to anyone who wants to try their hand at extreme fitness. (Francisco Zárate)

How do I get started with CrossFit in Mexico?

Paco Zarate is a competitive CrossFitter, taking part in competitions in Mexico and the United States. At 49 years old, and having recently become a grandfather, you might think that his best gym years are behind him — but Paco is one of the top-ranked competitors in his CrossFit age group —which boasts 8,000 competitors — a testament to how fast the sport is growing within Mexico.

“There’s a great [CrossFit] culture in Mexico,” Paco says. “ It is not for everybody because it’s a hard discipline, but it’s accessible.“

“You register, pay your membership to CrossFit and start,” he explains. “It’s for me and for every age. There are people who are 80 years old in CrossFit.” 

When asked how people can get into CrossFit, Zarate explains that it is important to find the right starting point, instead of diving in at the deep end. It’s important to ensure that if you’re going to embark on a fitness journey, you always do so with a properly accredited trainer to help reduce the risk of injury. 

CrossFit allows contestants of any age to test themselves. While Paco is 49, some athletes are as old as 80. (Francisco Zárate)

“The first thing you need to do is find the right trainer. You need to start from Basics to Advanced,” he says. This is important, because given the intensity of the training, it is possible to find yourself pushing harder than your body is ready for. “You could walk into an advanced class, and if you don’t know how to do it, you might try to lift [too heavily] or do handstand walks, and you’re going to get hurt,” Paco warns.

Although CrossFit has a bit of a reputation for causing injury, many of these injuries are caused by people pushing too hard and too fast — so, taking your time and working with a professional who understands your training needs is paramount.

Put your skills to the test with a Spartan race

If you want to put your CrossFit skills into action, then a Spartan Race might be the best way to do it. Mexico has a host of options for anyone who wants to test themselves on the ultimate obstacle course: climbing, running, crawling and sweating on routes ranging from 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) to a brutal 160 (yes, one hundred and sixty kilometers — 99.4 miles). 

The most popular races, the Spartan Sprints, are between three and five miles in length, and feature between 25 and 30 obstacles on the course. Other disciplines, such as the Spartan Super, a 10-km version, and the Spartan Beast (21 km) are also popular choices for athletes here in Mexico.  


If you are already familiar with Spartan races in the United States, the Mexican versions are slightly easier for beginners. “I went to the United States to run and the parameters were different. The people were bigger, the weights were heavier and the obstacles were taller,” Paco says. “I suffered with my wall climbing because [the walls] were taller than I was used to. It’s complicated sometimes when you go to another country to run a Spartan race, but it’s very fun and it’s very challenging.”

With upcoming events in Campeche, México state, San Luis Potosí and Acapulco, it’s also a great excuse to explore more of Mexico.

CrossFit in Mexico is for everyone

If you are feeling insecure about your personal fitness before beginning an intense sports workout — challenge that mindset!. “Pregnant women do CrossFit,” Paco says. “There are people with physical disabilities who train. There are even specific categories in CrossFit games for these people. Everyone can participate… your age, gender or size don’t matter.” 

“We are often afraid of not finishing, or looking ridiculous in front of other people… but the thing is, you just have to start.”

If you’re thinking of signing up for a Spartan race (you should!), then more information is available on their website.

Of course, if you’re looking for something more holistic and a bit less hectic, why not check out our guide to Tulum’s best bikini bootcamps?

By Mexico News Daily writer Chris Havler-Barrett

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