Earlier this month I traveled around Iceland for ten days and had a memorable adventure seeing volcanoes, glaciers and lots of sheep. I bookended my trip by staying in Reykjavik and, as I’m want to do, I visited a local CrossFit box.
The country is home to some of the strongest athletes in the world. At the 2016 CrossFit Games, Iceland native Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir won first place and Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundsdóttir won third place in the women’s competition. What was in the water? I had to witness the Icelandic advantage in person.
So on my first Sunday morning in Iceland, I decided to find CrossFit Reykjavik and attend class. Their website wasn’t working but I figured surely these tough sons and daughters of Vikings would be up and moving if I got there by 10am. With my trusty map of the city in hand, I walked 2.5 miles through the quiet residential streets to a shopping area where CrossFit Reykjavik had their box in the lower level of a plain concrete building that also housed a 66° North outlet store.
Box is an understatement. This is a sweat factory. The space was huge and had more equipment than you could imagine. Rowers lined the central aisle along with tons of racks, rings and pull-ups bars throughout. There were so many areas where you could train and the amount of people coming through was awesome.
After paying a drop-in fee of 2,500 krona ($21.00), I signed up for the 11am class, which allowed me sometime to change and warm-up. The gym has a mobility space where the floor is a soft mat and that has shelves of foam rollers, lacrosse balls, ab mats, etc. There was also a TV setup and when I got there two members were just starting a ROMWOD, which I joined them for.
Classes on Sundays were starting every 30-minutes. There was a warm-up and then the coach spent 15-20 minutes focused on skill work. The coach for my class spoke in Icelandic the whole time. I didn’t interrupt him to translate as I got the general gist through his gestures that he wanted everyone to focus on the hollow rock position while stringing together toes-to-bar. We practiced our kipping swing and he gave personal instruction. When he did help me, I quickly informed him that I only spoke English and he was happy to oblige.
Then as another dozen people shuffle in, the coach went over the WOD with my group. We were to set-up in an area of the gym and start when we were ready. It was a met-con with a 40-minute time cap:
- 66 deadlift (50 kg / 35 kg)
- 66 box jumps (60 cm / 50 cm)
- 66 kettle bell swings ( 24 kg / 16 kg)
- 66 knees to elbows
- 66 sit-ups
- 66 thrusters (25 kg / 17.5 kg)
- 66 wall balls (20 lb / 14 lb)
- 66 burpees
- 66 double-unders
One guy in my group who helped me find all the necessary equipment explained that this was pretty typical for Sundays. No wonder these people are so strong if this is their casual Sunday workout. This was a lot of work and the clock ran out on me when I was half-way through the thrusters. I enjoyed afterwards going to a local pool to enjoy the hot tubs and steam.
I should mention that while there were about twenty of us doing the metcon, there were people doing their own workouts, lifting, rowing, running on TrueForm Runners, etc. It looked like the warm-up area for the Granite Games – truly inspiring.
This was exactly the same the following Sunday. I had just spent five days in a campervan driving the Ring Road around the entire country through heavy winds and rain. I needed to stretch my feet and move around so before I returned the vehicle I decided to make a pit stop at CrossFit Reykjavik.
Again, though with a different coach, we did a warm-up and then talked about the butterfly kip movement for pull-ups. Then it was time for another epic metcon. Another 40-minute time cap for the following:
- Part A – 5 rounds of 12 wall balls (20 lb / 14 lb), 9 toes-to-bar, 6 power cleans (85 kg / 60 kg)
- 5-minute rest
- Part B – accumulate 800 meters of farmer’s carry with kettle bells (2 x 24 kg / 2 x 16 kg)
- 5-minute rest
- Part C – 21, 15, 9 overhead squats, handstand push-ups, burpee bar jump overs
Again, a ton of work, especially the farmer’s carry, which ate up a lot more time than I anticipated (or at least felt that way). I extended the workout an additional 10-minutes and completed the 15 overhead squats and handstand push-ups. Perhaps to be a true Icelandic warrior I should have finished, but I figured I am on vacation and could cut myself some slack.
With a small nation of only 315,000 people, it did feel like every 20-something and 30-something was at CrossFit Reykjavik. There were equal amount men and women at the gym and they all seemed very focused and dedicated. I found throughout my trip and during both visits to the gym that Icelandic people are not very friendly, but despite the lack of conversation and high-fives, it was a cool atmosphere to experience. I was there to do the work, sweat it out for an hour or so, and feel like a modern day Viking.