BOX SLUT – Sever CrossFit (St.Petersburg, Russia)


The question I am often asked is which CrossFit Box I train at. I usually get this question, while at yet another box, and the (erroneous) implication is that I belong somewhere.

I am not, however, ready to make that kind of commitment yet. 🙂 I wander in, and waltz out. I date around. My relationship with any given CrossFit box is fairly casual, some would even say promiscuous.

I have trained at CrossFit Toronto, Milan, Bologna, Vancouver, Calgary, Boston, Edmonton, Montreal and New York.

Small boxes, large boxes, busy boxes, empty boxes. I love them all.

I am a CrossFit orphan. Mutt. Gypsie. Roadie.


St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia. Armed with that fact, I was pretty confident that I will find a CrossFit box to visit. As I eventually learned from Nikita, the CrossFit trainer at Sever CrossFit, there are currently eight in the city, with the oldest one opening up in 2011, making CrossFit a fairly recent phenomenon in Russia.

Sever CrossFit is located only 5km away from where we are staying, so running there was in my mind, however, on the morning of, I wimp out, and order an Uber. We’ve been putting on 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day, exploring the city, and I do not want to wipe myself out before noon, and leave Italian with a lame companion.

It’s a Monday morning, and I decide to head on over for 9am class – second of the day. St. Petersburg is having its usual summer effect on me – sleeping time creeps later and later into the night, and wake-up time creeps closer and closer to noon. That’s what happens when it’s light as day at 9pm.

It’s only a 10 minute ride, and soon, my silent driver drops me off on the corner, and I look around, trying to find the entrance to the box. An athletic looking guy with a sports bag slung over his shoulder is walking quickly in one direction, and I follow him. Two minutes later, he enters the subway station. Ok, it looks like I have to figure this out on my own.

The building with the actual address on it – yes! I walk through the doors, and find it empty. The security guard instructs me to go around the building, where I finally find the sign for “Sever CrossFit, The Sports Club”.

I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out the name of this box. Sever? Severe? What the heck is sever? Then… I clued in.


That means NORTH in Russian. The fact that a Russian word was spelled in English letters was throwing me off.


I walk through the lobby, and find an empty desk, and the gym itself visible through the window with two guys warming up. I loiter around. It’s five to nine. Nine o’clock. Loiter some more. Nope. Nothing.

The entrance is separated by a tourniquet – the type you see in some subways or theatres, like this:


I throw my GR1 across, slide my body under, and go looking for some sort of human representation. Finally, a trainer comes out of the change rooms. I introduce myself, and let him know that this is my first class.

“What do I need?”

He shrugs. “You need to change. And start the class”.

Right. I smirk to myself. No waivers here.

The changing process takes about 7 seconds, as I take off a sweater, and slip out of track pants, and proceed to stand in front of the quintessential white board, where the WOD is already outlined. In English. Ahh… how I love the universality of subcultures.


Eight minutes of double-unders as warm-up. Ok. Interesting. 🙂 I am thankful to find a jumping rope that fits, and to discover that my Salomons (one of three pairs of shoes that I have with me, among Lunas, and a dressier platform), do not snag on the rope too much. Feeling a little rusty on this particular movement, but get into the swing of things, and crack into the 300 reps.

A little warm-up reminiscent of fizkultura (physical culture, aka gym) classes in school – we are standing in a circle, turning our head side to side, and making big swings with our arms.

We are instructed to take a “grif”. “Grif”, in another context, refers to the neck of the guitar. Here, I learn (oh the new terms!) that it means an empty barbell.

Few good mornings and light deadlifts later, we go through a warm-up round of the WOD, and the trainer starts the timer.

I fly through the first two-minute interval with 15 deadlifts and 15 wall balls, rest, fly through the second two-minute interval with 10 double kettlebell clean and jerks and 10 burpees, rest. Four more rounds to go. Oh. Man.


I am fairly clueless with the kettlebell C&J, as I have only done them once or twice in a workshop. My forearms affirm my clueless status this morning, with fresh bruises where the kettlebells slammed into my arm on the jerk. My grandma will not be impressed.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 10.09.40 AM

I start cutting reps by the third round – there is no rest between the two-minute sets now, and I am soaked.

Nikita, our trainer, is encouraging us through the last round. “Poterpi”, he is pleading.

“Poterpi” from “terpet'” – to tolerate. I am doing my best.

Finally, the last round is done, and we collapse on the floor, CrossFit style. 🙂

I chat with Nikita for a bit, before taking off. He is originally from Ekaterinburg, and has only been in St. Petersburg for a year. After learning that we are headed to Novosibirsk, he tells me about which boxes to check out, and sends his regards to pass on to CrossFitters there.


A mandatory sweaty selfie before I go – Nikita clearly did not do the WOD – notice the five shades of red going on mah face.

My hamstrings are deliciously sore today. Hopping on yet another plane tonight – hometown here I come.


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