Tough enough?

Extreme obstacle races like Spartan Race and Tough Mudder have become pretty popular in the last decades, especially in the UK and USA. Now Portugal joins in the action with Tribal Clash, which will be held in the Algarve end of this month. Enjoy the Algarve wonders how to prepare for an event that promises to leave you ‘broken, drained and depleted’ (and why on earth you’d want to do this for fun).

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2017

Three pull-ups (yup, all the way to the chin) with a 5 kilo weight hanging on your back, followed by 100 jump ropes and 20 mixed squats. Done? Start again and continue this sequence for the next 12 minutes. An absolute killer; and it’s only the warming up. The athletes working out in the box (in CrossFit lingo, a gym is called a box) on Vilamoura’s industrial zone take their training serious. The majority of the group is preparing for Tribal Clash. This primal team fitness race with CrossFit components will be held in the Algarve, from 28 to 30 April on Praia da Almargem.

The race will include obstacles like rope climbing and rock lifting, but the exact contents will be a surprise. “One thing that I can reveal, is that we’ll get everyone out of their comfort zone,” promises Christian Luis Aza Dierickx (47, pictured above) who organises the event.

The Belgian Christian, who is perhaps best-known for opening Portugal’s first CrossFit box here in the Algarve, has a long history of training teams of athletes, ranging from triathlon to Olympic rowers. Needless to say, he’s extremely fit himself. “I like to exercise,” is his simple explanation. “Especially CrossFit, which is a combination of endurance, Olympic weight lifting and gymnastics, appeals to me. In the CrossFit community there’s a family-like atmosphere; it’s not egocentric like a normal gym can be. Because it’s really tough, you have to stick together and this creates a bond.”

Because of the weather, today’s training is done inside in the box, which is full of pull-up bars, weights, resistance bands and gymnastics rings, and has a huge white skull painted on the black back wall. Most weekends though, the athletes can be found on the nearby beach.

Not only because it’s nice to train outdoors in the fresh air, but also to better prepare for Tribal Clash, where sand, stones and wood will be used instead of ordinary gym weights or kettlebells. Christian explains: “We’re going back to basic with this race, making the participants do things they don’t do anymore. It’ll be a surprise package without fancy machines. Instead, we’ll literally go outside the box and use elements of nature like the sand and the sea.”

After warming up and stretching, it’s time to use a row of wooden logs that are linked with a rope and weigh 11 kilos each. The athletes pick them up, put them onto their shoulders and do squats together (just like is pictured below by Alexander Bogorodskiy). Just watching already hurts.

Afterwards, more squats and making your way over a beam that’s hanging over 2m above the ground. The two hours long training is not for slackers. Team members Maria Rodrigues (38) and João Gomes (30), both with big smiles on their faces, confirm this. “It’s pure torture,” they say.

The reason they’ll be participating at Tribal Clash? “It ‘looked like fun.” Uh right. Fun. Or, as the event’s website puts it: ‘Your legs will burn, your lungs will burst, your hands will blister. You will drive yourself and your teammates far deeper into the pain cave than any of you have ever been. You will hurt in ways that you have never hurt before.’ Coach Christian adds with a grin: “It’s a like a vacation-torture trip.”

The dedication in the box is visible on everyone’s face; here you won’t find people making selfies on their phone, showing off their fancy gym clothes. Instead, they’re all focussed on training as hard as possible.


Apart from workouts that compass the full spectrum of fitness, CrossFit goes further and even includes nutrition advice. “It’s a lifestyle,” explains Christian. “Nutrition is very important; no Fanta or Cola for me.” Also Maria and João prefer water over fizzy drinks. “Bad nutrition equals bad performance.”

Whether it’s CrossFit, gymnastics, weightlifting, or just going for a run or swim, they train every day, often twice. Why? “Being fit makes you healthier and happier,” is the answer. The result of taking this lifestyle to the extreme is clear: all have toned bodies (no fat whatsoever) and are exceptionally fit. If there’d ever be an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse, these guys will certainly survive. Especially as they’re trained to help each other out.

“Teamwork will be of extreme importance in Tribal Clash,” states also Christian. “The stronger team members will help the weaker and because there’ll be many different challenges, these roles will reverse throughout the competition. The winning team probably won’t consist of all top athletes, but of the best communicators.”


He explains: “Hard-core tough guys who think they’re amazing because they’re able to lift 120 kilos sometimes fall apart during the race as they can’t function within a team.” He stresses the importance of working together again to his pupils, who’re all still carrying the 11 kilos weighing logs. Of the 20 squats they did, coach Christian only counts the three repetitions done sync as a team: 17 more to go. Pure torture indeed. Strangely enough, they’re all still smiling.


Tribal Clash – the event

What: a fusion of CrossFit, obstacle racing, adventure racing and a festival

Where: Praia da Almargem, Quarteira

When: 28-30 April 2017

Who: team of six athletes, consisting of three men and three women

Join: teams can register up to 15 April.

Watch: spectator tickets are free.


Indoor pictures by Kyle Rodriguez, beach pictures courtesy of Christian Luis Aza Dierickx unless stated otherwise

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2017

Posted in Activities, People.