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Workout novelty CrossFit stretches for China market share

By Liu Xuan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-22 08:13
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A CrossFit manager does a handstand in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province, on July 17, 2015. [Photo/VCG]

Many fitness-conscious people may flock to traditional gyms, but a small and growing number of cityfolk are choosing a novel form of exercise to strengthen their athletic ability.

CrossFit, a relatively new type of workout, has been grabbing share in China's fitness market, which is expected to generate revenue of $6.91 billion this year, according to IBIS World, a global business intelligence information provider.

CrossFit was created by Greg Glassman, a former US gymnast, in 2000. It originated in the United States.

It is a strength and conditioning program consisting mainly of a mix of aerobic exercises, calisthenics (body weight exercises) and Olympic weightlifting, according to the creator's method.

Lin Tinggu, a graphic designer, 35, said CrossFit helps her to stick to the goal of losing weight as it includes multiple types of exercise forms, adding more joy and diversity to the workout process.

Lin said unlike a gym workout, the training plan of CrossFit can improve overall fitness by blending weightlifting, aerobics and gymnastics.

"It's really difficult to lose weight as I've tried and failed so many times before," she said. "But I have kept practicing CrossFit for a year and I think I did quite good. The changes of every day's plan can bring freshness and always attract me to train."

Nicknamed Frank, the 26-year-old diving instructor in Beijing said he chose CrossFit to improve his athletic ability and performance.

Shi Zihuan, 27, a finance employ-ee in Beijing, chose CrossFit for similar reasons. "When my traditional bodybuilding training reaches a certain level of progress, I feel that this way will make the muscles stiff, can't improve the cardiopulmonary function, and can even worsen the muscle coordination.

"But the CrossFit training method is more comprehensive in improving the overall ability. Meanwhile, compared with aerobic training, it won't weaken the strength. It can keep a good balance."

Currently, there are more than 160 certified facilities in China, according to CrossFit website. The number was zero before 2013 until the first one opened in Shanghai.

However, the market is still considered a niche segment in China, compared with thousands of Cross-Fit facilities in the US and Europe.

Yu Haiyou, global payment senior manager at ByteDance in Beijing, has been training in CrossFit for over a year. She said the potential for growth may be limited as the nascent fitness concept cannot help expand the overall fitness market.

"Girls want to be thinner and boys want to be stronger within a short period of time, so the gyms cater to this demand, instead of spending time to educate the consumers and help them establish a healthy diet and fitness concepts," she said. "So CrossFit may not become very popular."

Agreed Zhan Lidong, 35, a human resource manager in Beijing and also a CrossFit practitioner. The discipline requires theoretical knowledge and practical ability, she said. "The high entry threshold blocks, or even drives away, some people."

Yet, those who have taken to it already have shown great enthusiasm for CrossFit and said they have gained more than just a healthy body.

"I will use the deadlift skill to lift heavy stuff, or kipping skill to climb a coconut tree," said Frank, the diving instructor. He said he uses some CrossFit skills in daily life to avoid potentially harmful situations. "Besides, I can sleep and eat better than before."

Zhan said CrossFit training helped her to overcome her social phobia. CrossFit is also a community activity involving a bunch of people who train together, she said.

Yu and Zhan said the training has improved their mindset as they are surrounded by fellow CrossFit trainers whose confidence levels have risen.

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