The Best CrossFit Gym in Cardiff

EDIT: Feb 2011 Since writing this post, a dedicated CrossFit gym has opened in Cardiff: CrossFit Cardiff funnily enough! I recommend you go there (near Boulders Climbing Wall) and get proper CrossFit coaching from my mate Jon Hares, he’s a top coach and top fella to boot. Failing that, there’s also Dragon CrossFit, who operate out of Train Station 2, closer to the city centre.


Looking for a Crossfit friendly gym can be a frustrating task. When I was looking in London, I put together a long post on all the Crossfit capable gyms near Farringdon, London. It’s about time I did the same for Newport and Cardiff.

When I started working in Newport it was obviously one of my first jobs. Clearly it would be great to find a Crossfit friendly gym on my doorstep, but that was too much to hope for. I also didn’t expect to find somewhere in Newport so expanded my search to Cardiff from the off. Moving to a new town I did what everyone does now when looking for local information: I searched in Google and spent several days phoning and visiting gyms.

It’s probably worth listing here what makes a gym suitable for doing Crossfit? At least in my mind anyway, in rough order of my importance (obviously more of each is better), this is my list:

1. An Olympic weight lifting bar. Eleiko would be best.
2. A modest selection of bumper plates for said bar. By bumper plates, I mean rubber weight plates that don’t break the floor or themselves when dropped from over head.
3. A suitable floor to drop the bumper plates on, with enough surrounding space for safety. Basically, can I do clean and jerks, snatches, thrusters, push presses, shoulder presses etc?
4. A squat rack for back squats and front squats.
5. Somewhere to do deadlifts.
6. A rower, Concept 2 is preferred.
7. Somewhere to run, outside would be best, but treadmills are likely to be the norm obviously.
8. A pull up bar, stable enough and with enough room for kipping.
9. A selection of rubber dumbbells.
10. Boxes to jump on.
11. Medicine balls to throw at walls.
12. Walls to throw medicine balls at! Though I do hate wall balls.
13. None bouncing balls for ball slams.
14. A set of gym rings… yeah fat chance of that.

Armed with my mental list, these are the list of gyms I checked out:

  • Peak Physique Gym, Rhymney River Bridge Road, Cardiff, CF23 9AF, 029 2046 2040
    • I called, they didn’t have any Olympic lifting facilities.
  • Newport International Sports Village, 01633 656656
    • I called, seemingly a normal gym, the woman didn’t really get what I was asking.
  • Sun Health, Risca Road, Newport
    • I visited this small independent gym.  It had a lot of potential but was quite cramped with no possibility for olympic lifting.
  • Daves Gym, Cardiff, 029 2046 0232
    • Again I called, they didn’t have any Olympic lifting facilities.
  • The Welsh Institute of Sport, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, CF11 9SW, 0845 045 0902
    • A large complex, but the gym is split between 2 cramped rooms.  There were olympic lifting platforms there, but there wasn’t a lot of room and not very Crossfit friendly.
  • Elite Fitness, Unit 2, Fairwater Industrial Estate, Norbury Road, Cardiff, CF5 3AU, 029 2055 5272
    • This gym had potential, especially with 2 Avanco oly bars, but both were rusty and very obviously bent, which was a real shame.  Their video motion capture setup was cool though.
  • Train Station 2 (TS2), 14-15 Curran Road, Cardiff, CF10 5NE.
    • See below…
  • Aspire Fitness, Sanitorium Road, Canton, Cardiff, CF11 8DG, 02920 23 55 23.
    • See below…

It’s worth mentioning the runner up first, which was Train Station 2 in Cardiff. TS2 has a lot of room and uniquely a 90m running circuit round the outside. It’s also allegedly the home of Crossfit Wales, which is a slightly ambitious title, especially as when I went to see the place, they weren’t doing any Crossfit classes. That’s actually changed now, and I know there is a Crossfit class being run on a Saturday morning, by a certified Crossfit instructor called Dav. I’ve got his number if you’re interested.

However I decided against Train Station 2 primarily because of the oly bar and plates. Whilst possibly adequate, there wasn’t a proper lifting platform and I was concerned about dumping the bar on the 1st floor. Having seen many places by now, I was thinking I’d been spoilt by Crossfit Manchester’s dedicated lifting platforms.

That was when I found what is undoubtedly the best gym in Cardiff to do Crossfit. I’ve mentioned it before, it’s Aspire Fitness on Sanatorium road. I should put the record straight right now: when I mentioned them before I called them a “Globo Gym”. Now when I said that, I meant that they appeared (at least to my inexperienced eye) like most other “normal” gyms out there, and not like a sparse Crossfit gym. I didn’t mean to allude to them being part of a large chain, they are not and the benefit from the very friendly small business atmosphere they have. What really sold me on Aspire however, was the brand new Eleiko oly bar they had, and the very nice personalised lifting platform in the corner.

Aspire Fitness Eleiko Olympic Weightlifting Bar

At the time I looked, they had some dodgy Apollo bumpers that were falling apart (Apollo bumpers do appear to be rubbish):

Broken Apollo Bumpers

But they assured me that they would maintain a decent set, and true to their word, they now have a full set of good quality York Fitness bumpers: 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25kg:

Aspire Fitness Crossfit Gym York Bumpers

Off my shopping list of requirements, Aspire Fitness cater for very nearly everything else as well as the Olympic bar and bumper plates. They have 4 power cages (I think they’re called) for doing squats in, plus a free standing squat rack. They have plenty of weight and space for dead lifts; 2 Concept II rowing machines; I think 8 treadmills; a selection of variable sized boxes to jump on; room for floor work like press-ups (push ups for the Americans), skipping etc.

Each power rack also doubles as a pull up station, by hanging on the horizontal bars at the top. They are even cunningly designed for just such a use. The designers were so nice, they thought they’d be really helpful: the knurled the bar! I strongly suspect that most people (like I hadn’t) have never tried kipping pull ups on a knurled bar… take my advice… don’t! It will rip your hand to shreds. Fortunately the second bar at the top, whilst painted with a rough finish, is not knurled and is usable, you just have to move the bar out of the way and put it on the floor.

So pretty much the only thing Aspire don’t have, is a set of gym rings and a selection of medicine balls. They also suffer the ailment that most normal gyms suffer, it’s called mirror-itis. There are far too many mirrors for my liking, but to be fair, they are by no means everywhere and I strongly suspect that just 1 mirror, would be too many for my liking!

However there is really only 1 place to do wall balls, and even then I need to move the bin, fire extinguisher, and ensure no one is using the power rack next to it. There’s no ball slam facilities either.  I tried once with one of the heavy basket balls they had, nearly knocked myself out!

Oh yes, they also have an assortment of mysterious devices, contraptions and machines which I stay well clear of, but again, not too many as most gyms have.  And as you can see, if you’re prepared to go a bit later, it’s pretty quiet too.  This photo was taken about 20:45 :

Aspire Fitness - a good Crossfit gym

The point I’m making is that nothing but a dedicated Crossfit gym is going to be 100% perfect for Crossfit, and even then, not always. Aspire is not perfect, but I’d put them 90% there on my “Crossfitoscale” and that last 10% can usually be subbed, as most Crossfit elements can be, e.g. sub wall balls for empty bar thrusters.

So if you’re looking to do Crossfit in Cardiff, or even Newport which isn’t that far away, Aspire Fitness is where I’d recommend you go. They are reasonably priced, but you should measure these things on value, not just price. If you are going to go, say hi if you see me, I’m most often there on a Tuesday and Wednesday around 5-6pm. Or let Pete (one of the owners) know you found them through this blog. Oh and one more thing, if you do see me, don’t hog my oly bar! 😉

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Steve J 15 June 2009, 9:21 pm

    I’ve turned green with envy…well almost.
    I’m sick of training in non-crossfit gyms. CF Manchester is only 40 miles away but ideally I’d like something nearer to home (Especially the M60 at rush hour doesn’t sound like my idea of fun).

    I’m going to start phoning round all the gyms in Wigan and see what else is out there…

  • Colin McNulty 16 June 2009, 6:31 pm

    Good plan Steve, you may need to ask around as Aspire was recommended to me, I didn’t find them on the web initially.

  • Colin McNulty 16 June 2009, 8:41 pm

    Just upgraded wordpress to 2.8 – testing, testing, 1, 2, 3.

    *phew*

  • Mark Kelly 13 September 2009, 1:38 pm

    Colin,

    Many thanks for doing all the ground work in finding these places and sussing out the equipment level and standards. I have only recently read about ‘Crossfit’ in HFM magazine and was instantly gob-smacked. I’ve not long dropped my gym membership as the usual tired old routines were killig me with boredom. Crossfit looks like the sort of challenge I’d love to try, but I am concerned as I would be a total beginner in such routines.

    Any advice?

    Many thanks.

  • Colin McNulty 13 September 2009, 1:44 pm

    Hi Mark, My advise is start first and work it out as you go. Read the “Start Here” section on crossfit.com Especially start with the scaled WODs on the BrandX site. If you can, find your closest Crossfit affiliate and make the effort to travel there at least once a month. There’s no substitute for personal coaching in the lifts and moves, and it’s a great experience to train with others.

  • Mark Kelly 13 September 2009, 3:16 pm

    Thank you for the fast reply, Colin, much appreciated. I know there is a Crossfit gym based in Swansea, that much I did find during my trawling of the internet.

    I agree, technique in the lifts and moves is paramount, and I’m certainly not one of those who thinks he can run before walking, as it were. I know my squatting technique is good, but C & J, Snatch and the lunge and press move I have no experience with. I know Sanitorium Road, as I grew up in Cardiff and attended school just down the road from there. What does it cost to use that place, and is there any kind of Crossfit class taking form down there?

    Sorry to be chucking these questions at you, but seeing as you seem to be there and doing it you really are the best source of information.

    Thanks once more.

  • Colin McNulty 13 September 2009, 4:31 pm

    No worries Mark, I’m happy to help if I can.

    Aspire Fitness charge a competitive £29.50 per month, depending on how long you sign up for. More if for a shorter time I think. They don’t do any classes specific to Crossfit, but they have pretty much 90% of the kit you need to do Crossfit stuff there. And the denizens there have become relatively accustomed to seeing me near kill myself on a regular basis. 😉

    I did meet a guy called Dav who was running a Saturday Crossfit class out of TS2. If you’re interested, I could email you his phone number?

    Failing that, if you do join Aspire, I don’t mind giving you some pointers if you’re around the same time I am, which is normally 16:30 – 18:30ish on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Although I am going to be following a specific olympic weightlifting program for the next 2 months, in preparation for the Northern Open championships in Nov. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help you out, which I’d happily do.

  • Mark Kelly 13 September 2009, 8:24 pm

    Ok … here’s the dumb question bit:

    Frequency. How often does a person train in the Crossfit programme? Is it akin to ‘normal’ routines, performed 3-4 times a week? More? Less?

    When going through the WOD, is the aim to complete it asap and then that’s it, session over?

    Maybe glaringly obvious to folks reading this, but the way I see it is that there are far more folks thinking the same questions as myself, but less inclined to ask for fear of seeming of bit of a numpty.

    Last question, I promise … fat burning and lean muscle mass – is Crossfit effective at producing both?

    Right, that’s me done for tonight. Oh yes, your training schedule times might clash with my work diary, depending how many folks I have booked in on those particular days, but if I can, and you have no objection, I would be very grateful to pop down and observe your session and possibly hit you with a few more questions thereafter.

    All the best, and thanks for your patience.

  • Colin McNulty 14 September 2009, 5:20 pm

    No worries Mark, ask away.

    Crossfit.com follows a 3 on, 1 off, schedule. However personally that doesn’t fit with my schedule (7 days in the week and all that), so the next preferred routine is 5 on, 2 off. Personally I train 4 times a week, in pairs.

    Unless the WODs are specified for a max lift, then yes, they are all done for time. HOWEVER safety and good form is paramount. If your form is failing, then slow down / take a few seconds breather, sufficient to return to good form before continuing.

    Crossfit is not a weightloss program. Nor is it a body building (i.e. big muscle) program. Crossfit will make you stronger, fitter and faster. And, if you also follow the recommended diet, you will lose fat. Function over form and all that.

    Whilst you’re very welcome to, watching me isn’t going to be all that instructive (Crossfit wise) for a while. Starting this week, I’m following a 9 week Hungarian weightlifting program. It will be all Olympic lifts (or bits of) and strength work. This is not a Crossfit thing, it’s a personal sport thing.

    I’ll email you my number.

  • Matthew Evans 15 January 2010, 8:43 am

    If you would like CrossFit coaching from CrossFit certified instructors come to CrossFit Velocity in Swansea!!

  • Colin McNulty 16 January 2010, 6:40 am

    Hi Matt, thanks for the invite.

    I’m aware of Crossfit Swansea, actually I nearly came to your opening event with Fozzie and Dom etc from Manchester, but personal circumstances didn’t really allow. It’s a bit too far for me to travel on a week night (I’m only in Newport during the week), but maybe I could pop over once before my contract in Cardiff finishes. When are your evening classes?

  • Jen Edwards 19 October 2010, 10:06 am

    TrainStation2 in Cardiff have a new trainer working out of the Gym delivering brilliant Crossfit Classes!! the classes are of small size so not only do you get the feeling of competeing against one another (and of corse yourself), you also get the feeling of being PT’d to!!! Andy is an awesome trainer….I had never done Crossfit before, but now I go to 5 classes a week with him!! My PB Deadlift has gone up 15 kg in 6 weeks, I’ve lost 10 kg in weight and I have never felt better……Check out Andys Web Page and fitness page http://www.chimerafitness.co.uk

  • Colin McNulty 7 November 2010, 7:18 pm

    That’s a great story Jen thanks for posting, I’m glad that CrossFit is working well for you.

  • Lewis North 26 November 2010, 6:51 pm

    I’m a member at TS2 and they have improved their facilities further so you may want to check it out again. They have more floor space and a few more pull up/kipping bars and pretty much everything else you need there.

    Only problem is that its getting too busy!

  • Andy Edwards 5 January 2011, 2:26 pm

    As of the 4t of January 2011 we have been open as an official CrossFit Affiliate.
    We have over 300kgs in Bumpers Plenty of Room to swing KB’s and Cats and Dogs if needed.

    There are now 2 lifting ‘runways,’ 3 Eleiko Bars, plus another 7 of descent quality. 2 concept 2’s etc.

    We have and are investing on improving the level of service we can offer, including 3 classes a day and open gym facilities.

    We’re happy to for anyone to come down and have a free class, all we ask is that you give us a head before via email.

    Thanks

  • Colin McNulty 5 January 2011, 2:40 pm

    Thanks for the update Andy. I’ll stick it on my (sadly enormous!) list of things to do, to do an updated post that supersedes this one.

Leave a Comment