The CrossFit craze has clearly swept Egypt, but it was Ramy Saleh who initially brought the exercise regimen to the country, earning himself the moniker of Godfather of CrossFit. We speak to the coach as he slays a workout clad in his Reebok CrossFit Nano 5s kicks.
We have a question for you, Cairo. What comes to mind when you think of CrossFit? Is it the all-consuming nature of the lifestyle, and the fact that CrossFitters insist on calling it a lifestyle? Do you think of the athletic equivalent of vegans, who go around announcing their lifestyle without being asked? Or, better yet, does CrossFit draw to mind images of all the hot fitness chicks on Instagram with bodies we'll be polite enough not to comment on? If so, pause and rewind; we're about to set this image straight.
Catching fire across Cairo, CrossFit is a fitness lifestyle that has rapidly swept through the West and is increasing in popularity as Egyptians look for exercise that goes beyond lifting weights at the gym. But, like most viral trends, most people are unaware where it came from and, sometimes, why they're even doing it. Bringing to Egypt one of the fastest internationally growing exercise program is none other than the Egyptian “Godfather of CrossFit” Coach Ramy Saleh. On his search for the perfect workout, Saleh stumbled upon CrossFit and returned to Egypt to open the very first Reebok sponsored CrossFit Stars box, predominantly becoming the man we can thank for the nation being swept by this viral fitness trend, which basically promises to make you a heroic, healthy specimen, capable of taking on a variety of different sports.
If Egypt had an Incredible Hulk, he would arguably look like Ramy Saleh - minus the green skin. Passionate about sports from a young age, we were surprised to learn that Saleh's love for fitness didn’t begin in a gym but, rather, on a tennis court. Having done all he could to master the game in Egypt, Saleh travelled to America intent on becoming the next Andre Agassi. Instead, he came across the chiselled bodies in the movie 300 and was determined to figure out where they trained. At that time Saleh had no idea what CrossFit was; but, we all know that once you start barking up that CrossFit training tree there really is no turning back.
According to Saleh, “I kind of started searching online for who trained these guys and I found a place in the US, it was a place called Gym Jones.” Located in Salt Lake City, this small private gym was started by renowned mountain climber Mark Twight as a gym that would train Hollywood stars and elite athletes. After six months of emailing, Saleh was finally able to take the first steps in his newfound journey and set foot into Gym Jones. “It took me about three and half years to be fully certified at the gym, and there are only about 35 people around the world with this certification. It was during this time I kept hearing people talking about CrossFit,” explains Saleh.
So, what is this CrossFit thing they speak of? Overcome with curiosity, Saleh did his research and discovered that, by creating a routine that mixes a variety of exercise derived from sports like gymnastics and weightlifting, CrossFit's overall goal is to make you better no matter what sport you play. “By 2007 CrossFit became so popular that the first CrossFit games was launched crowning the fittest women and men on earth,” Saleh exclaims. Shoe companies like Reebok took immediate notice of capitalising on this internationally growing market, which is why Saleh prefers to train in the new Reebok CrossFit Nano 5, one of the lightest CrossFit shoes available. Wanting to see his fellow countrymen one day compete in the fast growing sport of fitness, Saleh received his certification in California, and returned to Egypt to spread the program.
Although he has no interest in competing for the title of fittest on earth, he hopes to one day train one of its future champions. “CrossFit is a very young sport in Egypt and we're probably the only solid competitors program in the country. I’m the only Egyptian coach that actually trained athletes to regionals in the last couple of years,” Saleh explains. Currently standing in Egypt’s way to qualifying for the CrossFit finals are regional competitors, Dubai and South Africa; however, at the rate that the sport continues to grow in Egypt, we could be a matter of years away from making the CrossFit Games and hopefully within a decade from crowning an Egyptian champion.
As CrossFit’s popularity grows, we hope that Egypt will become more competitive and, when this country starts producing the next wave of champions, chances are Coach Ramy Saleh CrossFit Stars will have helped along the way. Now, instead of the stereotypes that came to mind when we first started, we're hoping that when you think of CrossFit it draws to mind Coach Ramy Saleh - The Godfather of CrossFit.