CrossFit in Singapore: Try it to believe it

Cheryl Tay

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at She also happens to be a recent gym and fitness convert. Here she tries her hand at the increasingly trendy exercise programme called CrossFit.

I heard about CrossFit some time back but hesitated giving it a try because I had the impression that it was going to be very tough, and also felt I wasn’t "fit enough”.

But I did finally find the courage and eventually headed to CrossFit Fire City at Lavender for my first session.

CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning programme founded in the United States in 2000.

Basically, there are daily workouts posted on the founders’ website that individuals can follow, or they can attend local affiliated gyms (or Boxes as they are called in CrossFit) where the coach will prescribe the workouts.

Designed to help build general fitness, CrossFit workouts – referred to as “Workouts of the Day”, or WODs, are described as constantly varied plus high in intensity and functional movement.

The workouts can be defined, measured and repeated; and contain elements of gymnastics, weightlifting and metabolic conditioning.

Workouts are short but intense and consist of activities like sprinting, rowing, climbing ropes, flipping tyres, weightlifting and other body-weight exercises that might involve gymnastic rings and pull-up bars.

No expectations

Although I have been training for the past six months with a personal trainer, and am not new to many of the exercises used in CrossFit, I was genuinely afraid I wouldn't be able to complete the WODs.

However, as Samuel Lim, head coach at CrossFit Fire City, said: “No one will ever be ready. No one is really fit enough for CrossFit."

"The WODs are only revealed the night before, most will just walk into the Box with no knowledge of the WOD, but with the courage to finish whatever is prescribed.”

The 31-year-old Singaporean emphasised that “it is important to come for CrossFit with an open mind and to have no expectations.”

Affectionately referred to as Uncle Sam, Lim started CrossFit Fire City in August 2011. It was the third CrossFit Box to open in Singapore, and is now one of five local affiliated places.

Having been a personal trainer for 10 years, at gyms like the now-defunct Planet Fitness and Fitness First, Lim’s journey with CrossFit started seven years ago when he saw a gym member practising a routine he didn't understand.

After speaking with her, he found out it was from CrossFit and went to do his own research. From there, Lim went on a self-taught process before being awarded a CrossFit coaching licence three years later.

“Ever since I was introduced to CrossFit, I've wanted to start a community. CrossFit is a global community and across the world, CrossFitters can relate to one another easily through the Internet, sharing best practices or motivating each other,” said Lim.

“Instead of spending one hour at a personal training session helping one person, I feel more satisfaction helping an average of 50 people a day. We hold five classes a day (except Sundays when closed) and have about 10 people per class.”


Besides the ‘I’m not fit enough’ excuse, other misconceptions people have of CrossFit include ‘It’s too difficult because of the intensity’ or ‘I have an injury’.

But actually, CrossFit is for anyone willing to try. If you're injured, the WOD can be modified to your limitations.

The oldest CrossFitter Lim has met is in his 70s, while the youngest a three-year-old at a Kids class he used to conduct.

Maleha Haroon, 37, is a mother of three children who has never exercised in her life. But she got hooked on CrossFit when she first tried it two years ago.

“I thought the workouts would be very hardcore, but once you get into it, it's not bad at all. It tests you in every possible way, mentally and physically," said Maleha.

"It's the mix of exercises that keeps it interesting. You don't repeat and your body never gets used to one routine. It guarantees results and most importantly, it's fun!"

I won’t lie – the WOD I went through at CrossFit Fire City got pretty tiring, and some might feel pressure from the timed aspects of the workout. But I liked it.

And actually, you can control the intensity of your own workout. If you cannot lift as heavy, go lighter; if you're not a great runner, run slower if you have to.

There is the benefit of working out in a group too, as everyone can motivate each other as they go along. That’s why the community aspect of CrossFit is so crucial.

Essentially, I'd say to just enjoy the experience.

You may also have your own habits or techniques picked up from your trainer or at other gyms, but be ready to re-learn. Put down the ego, respect CrossFit and its values, and rock the workout.

I know I'll definitely be back for more CrossFit!

Membership prices at CrossFit Fire City are in monthly packages or in sessions of five and ten. A drop-in or trial class is priced at $35, but note that not every CrossFit box offers one-time classes.