Mention “dragonboat racing” to anyone, and the images come unbidden. Sleek prows that cut through water, propelled by frantic paddling, to the steady sound of beaten drums. 

No fire from this dragon, but the muscles do feel the burn. 

And in a sport where “racing” is included in the name - every advantage counts. 

The Bruins: Racers of the High Seas is a team that has taken to CrossFit (specifically at Primal Ape Makati), for just such an advantage. Consistent podium finishers, the nascent Bruins have already placed in the Cobra Regatta and Ultimate Dragon Challenge, despite only being formed in 2014.

Team Captain Heber espouses CrossFit and its unique benefits towards their performance.

“The training is more systematic. It’s a step-above land training. Coach Trever and the other coaches focus on technique, and are very very precise.” Captain Heber also cites CrossFit’s ability to enhance his team’s endurance for sprints, to elevate their operating heart rates, as well as speed up their recovery. “And the rowing machines. The rowing machines (here) are top-of-the-line,” he muses.

But when racing for gold, safety always comes first. 

And standing at 5’0, weighing just a shade over 90lbs, team member Joanna shares that anyone can get into CrossFit. “The coaches here scale up well,” she says, “I've never felt unsafe, even when lifting the heavier weights.” The demure yet muscular paddler looks forward to weekly (sometimes twice-a-week) training sessions.

Because besides the physical benefits, CrossFit also offers psychological ones. 

“It’s a team bonding activity,” says Captain Heber. “Normally our bonding is from roadtrips, or hiking, or when we’re traveling to a competition outside Manila. We can also do that here.” Indeed, Primal Ape’s box capacity can absorb all of Team Bruins’ forty active members. And it’s being located in Makati makes it accessible, for the most part. 

True to the nature of their name - “Bruin,” meaning bear in dutch - the team muscles through grueling boat, land, and CrossFit training sessions, ascribing to the adage that “train hard, win easy” - applies to box jumps turning into steps-up the medal podium. -RT