The Dream Warehouse Gym, or why I don’t bitch about bodybuilding or crossfit

In 2006 I discovered powerlifting, which basically saved my life. In 2007 I was struck by its dark side – the ugly, corrupt, cheating and cruel institutional and political side -, which almost reversed this effect. As early as that, I was attributed the task of fixing it, which I did not, obviously. But I tried. I tried until 2009, when I just gave up as the last person who I believed would help me do it died of a heart attack: Luiz Henrique Cruz.

I found myself disgusted and hostilized – seriously hostilized: after all, I had tried to fix something that the crooks interpreted as challenging their traditional way of disrespecting the sport and making a little money. Small time crooks.

It was at that time that Eugênio Koprowski found me and rescued me from a dangerous fall into hopelessness. Eugênio actually founded – or at least was instrumental in founding – almost all the strength sports in Brazil. He handed each one of the other sports to someone and kept bodybuilding to himself. His son, Rodrigo Koprowski, whose picture deadlifting at a powerlifting meet I still have, became NABBA president for Brasil and South America. Eugênio’s wife, Elizabeth Koprowski, a former ballet dancer, whom we call “the first lady of the strength sports”, is an international NABBA judge.

That family adopted me. They gave me some space to breath. I started writing for their magazine – the Jornal de Musculação e Fitness. I had the freedom to write about whatever I wanted in strength training, sports and history. They also incorporated me in their continued education programs.

It was when I wrote my best project for the JMF that I met Joel Fridman, owner and head coach at the first crossfit box in Brazil. The project was called “the Dream Warehouse Gym”. I had the idea while listening, as I always did, in one of those lazy weekend afternoons, to Eugenio talk about the ideal gym and how close it was to what it used to be. I realized that the whole underground/alternative fitness movement was actually a form of rescuing lost wisdom.

I decided to interview a number of people outside Brazil, but since we had one crossfit box here, I went to Joel as well.

I published the two chapters of this project and Joel and I became friends. I started visiting his box twice a week and we started “cross-training” and “cross-coaching” each other. I didn’t do such a great job – I still pick on him about taking benching more seriously. But I learned weightlifting. To a point that I almost questioned which was my truest love. Joel is an outstanding coach. He was also an awesome friend.

During those training sessions where there were only the two of us around, we’d talk about almost everything. Out of that careless brainstorming came the “five lift project”. We started teaching a weekend program on the 5 lifts: the snatch, the clean & jerk, the squat, the bench press and the deadlift.

I was always around and I did a couple of WODs with them. Crossfitters loved powerlifting. Many came to lift with us after my disgust with organization allowed me to put up a few meets again.

All my preparation for the international meets that put me in the first places of the world ranking were done at Crossfit Brasil. Well, part of it: the rest was done alone at my powerhouse. The heavy squats were at Crossfit Brasil, though. Joel was particularly happy about my option for raw lifting.

So, if it weren’t for Eugênio and Joel, I would be left with only the dark and unacceptable side of powerlifting. I have no idea what would have become of me, since I can’t live without it – that I already knew.

And if it weren’t for bodybuilding and crossfit, whose athletes and followers so happily embraced the art I offered them, I wouldn’t have been able to devise a way of surviving that dark side, a way to oppose delinquency with knowledge, corruption with fun and shallowness with transcendence.

That’s why I don’t bitch about bodybuilding and crossfit. They were generous with me when I needed, I will always be grateful for that, and give back to them what they gave me: acceptance, generosity and respect.

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