Crossfit Trainer Exercises in the Dogpatch
Zain Elmarouk, who began his fifth year conducting Crossfit training in Dogpatch this summer, believes his lifestyle is a good testimonial for the benefits of the fitness program. The 37-year-old father of five commutes from Contra Costa County to his single-car-garage-sized “gym” on Indiana Street up to five days a week. He also acts as physical education director for a 40-student Arabic private school that was co-founded by his wife near their home.
Elmarouk’s typical day often starts with a 5 a.m. appointment to work with clients, including one of the first people he began training when he started his business seven years ago. And he may continue to work with clients until 10 p.m.
“I’ve been fortunate. Some of my clients have followed me since the beginning” said Elmarouk, who has worked as a Crossfit trainer at three different gyms, including the Bakar Fitness Center on the University of California, San Francisco-Mission Bay campus.
“Crossfit is controversial. A lot of trainers who follow traditional methods don’t want to try something new,” said Elmarouk, who explained that the physical training system he leads was developed “less than ten years ago” by a trainer in Santa Cruz. “It’s grown like wildfire. There are twenty thousand plus Crossfit affiliates worldwide.” Elmarouk said his business, Crossfit 415, was the third of about 20 Crossfit training facilities in San Francisco.
Advocates of the Crossfit approach explain that their program is designed to promote total fitness rather than concentrating on strength, endurance or the other “limited” fitness goals promoted in most exercise methods. Elmarouk said the training is defined as “constantly varied, high intensity functional movement. There are people who may have a very strong upper body but can’t run around the block. Or think of a woman who runs marathons all the time. But if you ask her to pick up a cardboard box that weighs twenty pounds, she blows her back out because she’s not used to that.”
He explained that each training is individualized and meant to incorporate the ten “Crossfit elements:” cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy of movement.
“People don’t think about how important total fitness can be. But the minute you have to dart out into the street to grab a child who’s about to get run over, or you have an important job interview in an office on a high floor and the elevator is out; in order to be there on time, you have five minutes to go up a bunch of stairs, wash your face and stroll into the office all ready for the meeting; that’s when you are glad if you are in total physical condition.”
In addition to individual trainings, including work with a few prominent San Franciscans—he mentioned hotelier and Potrero Hill resident Chip Conley as a long-term client — Elmarouk conducts group sessions relying on simple equipment, a Crossfit training characteristic. There’d be no room in the 415 Crossfit space, on the ground floor of a small office building, for elliptical machines, rowing equipment, an assortment of free weights of various sizes, and the other workout systems available at more traditional and well-branded fitness gyms. Instead, Elmarouk follows a common Crossfit practice of using whatever facilities are at hand and can be easily obtained. He got permission to install a rubber padded octagon space for stretching, along with pull up bars and a climbing rope in Progress Park, next door to his facility. And Indiana Street is the running track.
Elmarouk, who has five separate Crossfit certifications, said he has a passion for the training, and talks with admiration about the community that’s grown up around training programs across the country. He evangelizes as a “total lifestyle about forming good habits,” what some critics call the “Crossfit Cult.”
Regardless of the way it’s regarded, the training has been adopted by the U.S. Military, including the Marines, the service in which Elmarouk enlisted after graduating high school in San Francisco, where he grew up. He talks with equal enthusiasm about his devotion to his Islamic faith and the round-the-world travel and pilgrimage in which he engaged before settling back into San Francisco and working in various jobs, including ambulance attendant and restaurant server, before he was introduced to the physical training profession, ten years ago, by Shehabeddin, his twin brother. Shehabeddin has an office/studio in the same building, where he conducts Pilates and Paul Chek training.
According to Elmarouk, his clientele of roughly 50 people have a variety of goals, such as weight loss, endurance training, strength building. ”Everyone progresses at their own pace. The most important thing is to show up and to be consistent. That’s a good lesson for life.”
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