the spaz of fitness has arrived

Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

Functional in Formosa

In General, Rhetoric, Writing on May 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm

As fun as kipping pull-ups are, after I’ve incorporated more strict pull-ups into my regimen, I have to admit that they’re not at all the same beast as the real thing. One’s a conditioning movement, one’s strength…

Fortunately, I had a chance to return to Formosa Fitness, where I got to sit down and speak with the owner– Dave Chesser. To be honest, I was relieved to have a conversation in English for the first time in a significant while, and to talk about “functional fitness” which seems a foreign language in and of itself sometimes. Moreover, I was really impressed by Dave and the amount of thought and devotion he has put into his business. Though still somewhat of a niche market in America, CrossFit seems downright mainstream there compared to the fitness culture in Taiwan. When I tried explaining what I was studying to my aunt and uncle (the seminar paper I wrote last semester on CrossFit Sri Ram Ashram), they– very generously though misguidedly– brought me to a tour of the highly exclusive gym atop Taipei 101. There, we were given a small tour of the facilities (a glut of elliptical machines and some globo-gym weight machines). Our neatly tailored, three-piece-suited tour guide informed me that “weight training is not just for men” and “these days, women are starting to try strength training. Women should not be afraid of using the weight machines because they would not make you bulky.”

Anyway, Dave articulated to me precisely the reason I had a difficult time explaining to my aunt and uncle the philosophy behind CrossFit (though eventually I think I almost managed it). The concepts are so foreign here, there aren’t any terms for things like “metabolic conditioning.” Poor Dave first has to define his services before he can market them to the public. Nevertheless, it seems like he’s done pretty well. He talked about what limited access he has to equipment, but (as I mentioned in my last post) he has virtually everything a CrossFitter-away-from-home could hope for, and then some. All the equipment is in stellar condition, and though they’re not branded by Rogue or Again Faster, they’re damned more than I could have wished for thousands of miles from home.

It’s also worth noting that Formosa Fitness is not a CrossFit affiliate. In truth, that’s probably a good choice. The word “CrossFit” has virtually no value here– at least not in any of the conversations I’ve had, so there’d be no reason for Dave to shell out the affiliate fee. Moreover, Dave seems to exercise more freedom in his own programming, tailoring it to the needs of his clients in their setting.

For example, Formosa Fitness seems to make more frequent use of kettlebells– something I actually envy because I wish I knew more/had the technique to actually employ kettlebells to their full potential. KB’s suit Taipei rather well because they take up less space than fully-loaded olympic bars… and space is a rare commodity in this city. Moreover, it may just be my personal experience, but for some reason Taiwanese people seem more intrigued by kettlebells than powerlifting. When I showed CrossFit websites to friends and family, they were immediately curious about the black, steel bells.

I’ve also made no secret about the fact that I have certain reservations about some CrossFit practices. Heavy lifts in AMRAPs, for example, invite poor form and injury. It could be that my own technique and ability just aren’t there for these elements, but I tend to avoid movements that I think carry too much risk. Because Dave operates independently from any overarching “program,” he has even more room to breathe when helping his clients. Just from the materials around the gym, I saw elements of traditional CrossFit, Gym Jones, 4-hour body, Tactical Athlete, and of course Dave’s own approach.

Our conversation also gave me some more ideas about my dissertation research. I’m not going to go too in-depth here, but I’m thinking about looking at the various manifestations/interpretations of “functional fitness”– considering the physical practices as rhetoric and seeing what values are produced, performed, or resisted in different cultural settings…

Also, as a random note on “functional fitness,” I really haven’t done much CrossFit here– if any– but small moments here remind me of what I’ve gained in the past year. I’m certain that, before CrossFit, I couldn’t have cleaned and pressed my mom’s carryon luggage into the train’s overhead bin. I also couldn’t have deadlifted my grandfather in his wheelchair over the curb to get him from the hospital to the restaurant across the street when taking him out for lunch. I would’ve also possibly not made the mad sprint to the bus stop so that I wouldn’t have to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. Not quite the same as chasing mastodons and hunting sabre-tooth tigers, but still… functional fitness in practice :).

Formosa Fitness

In General, WOD on May 23, 2012 at 5:30 am

The travels continue to progress well. Mostly my days are filled with eating and socializing (which happens around more eating) and walking about Taipei. I’ve been pretty shamelessfully neglecting my work, but hopefully my adviser will forgive me for that when I return to reality America.

Really, food is just better here– everything from duck-tongue-on-a-stick from stands on the side of the road to 7-course meals where every course incorporates toro (tuna belly– in America, sometimes $20 for two pieces).

Today I paid a visit to Formosa Fitness, which– according to my extensive googling– is the closest thing Taiwan has to a CrossFit gym. The owner, Dave Chesser, has his Level 1 cert (along with what seems like a very thorough kettlebell background), but the gym isn’t an affiliate. Unfortunately, Dave wasn’t around when I dropped in, but hopefully I’ll catch him sometime before I leave the country. Nevertheless, I couldn’t surpress my mile-wide grin when I walked into the facilities and saw two Concept2’s sitting on the main floor. Downstairs, Formosa Fitness boasts an extensive kettlebell collection, two squat racks, bumper plates, medicine balls, a punching bag (with gloves and focus mits/pads/etc), and two prowlers. There were also rings and ropes and tires and all such things that delight a CrossFit-sick Jo.

If only because I was overenthused to see the squat rack, I tried doing 3×5 with 30kg loaded onto the bar. Unfortunately, I failed on the third rep of the last set. I’m thinking it could be because I’m out of practice, could be because I’m walking around a lot, could be because I wasn’t in the right headspace… but I’m not going to overthink it really. I’ll just see where my squats really are when I’m back home. After that, I did “The Chief” for the hell of it:

5 rounds of:

3 minute AMRAP

3 power cleans (I did 10 kg on a standard bar… something a little less than 70lbs?)

6 pushups

9 air squats

1 minute rest

At any rate, I hope to have a chance to drop in and actually meet Dave before I depart. Maybe I’ll try one of his WODs on the board. But for now, I’m off to the night market for more deliciousness. Best wishes to all.


In Food, Training, WOD on May 18, 2012 at 8:40 pm

A tasty spread at a Taiwanese restaurant. Guests select any number of vegetables, noodles, and meats (mostly organ meats– pig’s ear, chicken heart, pig intestines…) and have it cooked and sauced and plated. Delicious.

Well it didn’t take that long. Four days without CrossFit and I begin to get irritable. Don’t get me wrong… I love it here. I adore the pace of life, the food (omg the food), the atmosphere… Strangely enough, as much as I’d always resisted visiting Taiwan as a child, I now feel a sense of belonging here that I’d never had as a kid… it speaks to the part of Jo that must remain dormant for most of her life in State College. Unfortunately, CrossFitter Jo doesn’t have much of a place here. With no CrossFit gym– or, indeed, no access to a gym at all for the past few days and most likely the coming weeks, I miss lifting heavy things ;). It’s also the rainy season here right now, so it’s been pouring nonstop for the past four days. For those of you unfamiliar with weather on tropical islands, by “pouring” I don’t mean heavy rain; by “pouring” I mean God has upturned a bottomless bucket of water that is shitting indiscriminately over everything. I mean I wake up in the middle of the night to what sounds like waves crashing on the rooftop. Anyway… with the significant decrease in physical activity, I’ve actually started climbing the walls– literally. I’ve discovered that one can do dead-hang pull-ups by clinging to the edge of a door. Not ideal, but it absolutely prevents you from cheat-kipping, or even curling your legs up.

This morning, just before the drizzle rolled in, I took my jump rope to the park across the street and did a short AMRAP. 15 Minutes:

Sprint (a loop between two pagodas and stone turtle statues… I’d guess ~150m)

20 double unders

10 “ski-abs” (This is not at all a CrossFit maneuver, as far as I know… I stole it from my Shaun T “Insanity” days…)

I chose the ski abs because mountain climbers tend to wear my shoulders well before my abs and I never feel them in my core… but I don’t think 10 was enough of the ski abs to get much of an effect either. I have to figure out an effective core movement that doesn’t require me to sprawl down on the questionably black and slushy Taiwanese concrete…

That said, I’m so happy to be here and grateful that I had the opportunity and resources to save up for this trip. I’ve managed to not at all touch any of the work I’ve brought with me, but it’s still the first few days of “vacation,” right? Supposedly, I’ll have read through the entirety of a course syllabus I’ve drafted with my dissertation adviser by then (roughly 2 anthologies of articles and another 15ish articles, maybe?), I hope I’ll manage that…

Wishing all of you well back in the States.