Guido Trinidad describes finding CrossFit in 2008 as similar to “finding God,” “religion” and “the truth.”
Immediately, he began implementing principles of the CrossFit training regimen into his personal training company, Peak360, a CrossFit gym — known to the fitness community as a “box” — in South Miami.
After playing linebacker at Coral Park Senior High, Trinidad played college football at Benedictine College in Kansas, and had a short professional career playing football in Spain and Sweden. This new athletic endeavor, however, gave him the ability to prolong his athletic career. He eventually reached the CrossFit Games, where he finished as high as 29th in the world in 2012.
“I felt like there was a need for a competition like that here,” said Trinidad, 35, who along with his business partner, Steve Suarez, founded Wodapalooza Miami Fitness Festival — a large-scale event that features a CrossFit-style competition.
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Organizers described the Jan. 15-17 event as a “celebration of fitness, community, and life.”
When the event began in 2012, Suarez says it attracted about 150 athletes competing on two stages. Fast forward to year five and the festival featured more than 1,350 athletes from 21 different countries, competing in 22 different divisions, in front of more than 30,000 spectators who braved rain and a cool breeze at Bayfront Park over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
“Working out drenched was a fun experience,” Brooke Wells shared on Twitter. She would go on to win the Women’s Elite division.
Home-grown product Noah Ohlsen — a coach at Peak360 and a pupil of Trinidad — won his second consecutive Wodapalooza championship during the festival. Ohlsen finished within the top three in five of the seven events that took place over the course of the three-day festival.
During the final event, spectators packed the Flagler Street stage, while the floor surrounding the stage packed five- and six-people deep to witness Ohlsen clinch the title.
Ohlsen finished eighth at the CrossFit Games in 2014 and 2015. He beat seven other top-25 competitors at last year’s games in Los Angeles — including Cole Sager (seventh) and Spencer Hendel (fifth) who finished ahead of him.
The workouts — known as “wods” — were designed by Trinidad. Ohlsen described one workout as particularly intense.
“We started on land doing 25 deadlifts of 275 pounds, then we ran down a ramp into the bay where we swam 50 meters onto a barge, climbed a cargo net onto the barge, where we had to do 25 handstand pushups, then we swam back to land,” said Ohlsen, 24. “It was really cool. I don’t know anywhere else where we could do that.”
Ohlsen finished that workout in 7 minutes and 40 seconds — one of the three events he placed first in.
CrossFit is a brand-name corporate entity and Wodapalooza is not a CrossFit-sanctioned event. However, to Ohlsen, outside of the CrossFit Games and its regional qualifiers, Wodapalooza is one of the most highly regarded fitness competitions in the world.
“My fellow competitors always talk about how much they actually like doing the workouts,” Ohlsen said. “I mean, yeah, they’re brutal and they suck and they’re painful but they’re really well put together.”
However, the event was not exclusively for top-level athletes like Ohlsen. The competition also featured divisions for younger athletes ages 10 to 12, 13 to 15, and 16 to 18, as well as “adapted” divisions for men and women in wheelchairs and with other physical disabilities.
Outside of the athletic competition, a rock-climbing wall and inflatable obstacle course was provided for smaller children to play. Corporate sponsors Reebok and Progenex each had large stands selling fitness-oriented clothing and accessories. Food stands catered to the crowd with health-conscious snacks low in calories and packed with protein. Next to a UHealth stand, Wodapalooza-goers could get a haircut at The Spot Barbershop.
Behind the main stage, a community of tents where different gyms were allowed to set up shop lent to the carnival-like atmosphere of the festival.
“It used to be a really local thing with people from our gym that would help put on the event,” said Julissa Lopez, a member of Peak360 who was in charge of handling the front gate over the weekend, and has been a volunteer since the event’s inception.
“Now we have people from around the world that email us, months in advance, offering their help just to volunteer. They just want to be here and be part of the experience.”