Racklawicka 99! More like Rock-la-viva 99!
You can’t help but love a gym with a community so cool that they pull a chair up for you after the WOD so you can watch one of your own coaches at the Regionals that they are broadcasting over a laptop and projector onto a bed sheet.
CrossFit R99 in Warsaw, Poland is tucked away in a funky old industrial park called Fort Mokotow. It was more rustic, raw and muddy (outside) than any gym I’ve visited but it has an outstanding home-grown vibe and a fun atmosphere.
The facility itself is a bit tight, with a reception area that opens up into a longer space that connects to it in a “T” shape. Before getting to the intersection of the workout space though, there is a full Oly platform. This layout is pretty cool, because it basically makes the platform into a stage where activity being executed upon it cannot be ignored. It is kind of like what would happen if you combined a karaoke bar with weightlifting regional. Except instead of drunken rounds of “Baby Got Back” you’re throwing up heavy hang snatches. I didn’t go near it, for the same reason that I don’t do karaoke. I didn’t need a bunch of on-lookers contributing to my performance anxiety.
Walking into the workout area, on the right is a healthy stretch of Rogue Infinity racking and to the left is an open area for stretching, warm ups and open barbell lifting. Like gyms in the U.S. the after work crowd was a good size and in the space there was a bit of maneuvering to get around each other for stretching and then into the conditioning workout.
As you’ve probably read before in my other reviews of CrossFit boxes in Eastern Europe, the stretching was very calisthenic in nature. We did wrist mobility into shoulder stretching and rounds of jumping jacks. R99 engaged in the same dynamic pre-workout stretching and post-workout cool down stretching that I’ve continuously experienced in Poland and would like to see more of in American gyms. I’m not sure how the boxes in this part of Europe seem to squeeze more mobility into the same working hour that other U.S. gyms use, but they do. And I think it is a very, very good thing.
Moving into the WOD we worked a triplet of handstand pushups into pullups and then pushups. It was good push-pull programming and the coach kept the athletes moving by calling out the clock time for each round. There was a little bumping and jostling to get around each other but it wasn’t distracting. We then went into a strength set of back squats.
What sets R99 apart from almost all CrossFit facilities that I’ve gone to regardless of country is the quality of the community. My mission in writing about my travels and adventures visiting CrossFit boxes around the world and close to home is first and foremost about testing the existence of community in this landscape of loosely federated gyms. From the moment I walked into R99 I was approached by coaches and athletes asking me my name, where I was from and had I been doing CrossFit for long. You could tell by the way that the athletes in this gym interacted with each other that they truly cared about each other and that this was like a family. I could have done without the guy that was comfortable enough with his family to walk around the gym in his underwear, but hey – it is Europe.
By far, the most humbling moments that sealed my belief in the strength of R99’s community was their reaction when I looked up at the ESPN3 broadcast and saw that the Central East Regional was on the screen. To be 5000 miles from home and have someone pull up a chair so you can watch someone from your home gym compete is just plain awesome. But when I went to leave and asked if they had t-shirts for sale; I got the most incredible surprise. I didn’t know that the gym was owned by Bartlomiej Lipka, a European Regional competitor. He wasn’t at the gym because he was on the floor in Ballerup, Denmark tossing up weights and reps himself. The coach handed me an official Lipka team shirt. I reached for my wallet and he said “we don’t have any shirts for sale, but this one is from us. No charge. Now you can support Bartlomiej at his regional too!”
Before the year is out I’ll get back to R99 to tell Bartlomiej, personally, that his gym is outstanding and his staff and athletes are great people. Workouts come and go, PRs are made and forgotten. But this gym gave me the community I look for at every stop – and that is unforgettable.
- An excellent community of CrossFit coaches and athletes
- An “old school” CrossFit feel – like you get when you’re one of the first members of a new gym
- Well stocked with higher end CrossFit rigs and weights
- The space is a little tight (signs of growth aren’t a bad thing) but not limiting