SAN JOSE--Body-building, martial arts and gymnastics came together over the weekend at an indoor fitness exposition that featured some ancient sports and a few creative competitions that stretched the boundary for fun and games.

"I just love it," Lura Roberts, 30, said Sunday morning during the The Fit Expo of Northern California at the McEnery Convention Center. "It's what keeps me in shape and feeling good, and the group support is great."

Roberts and three teammates from a gym in Rohnert Park had just completed their first heat in a "cross-fit" competition that blended traditional exercises with new games that seemed borrowed from hokey television competitions.

Working against the clock, the co-ed teams lifted weights, performed grueling chin-ups and push-ups. They sprinted back and forth on a rubber tarmac, rowed on an exercise machine, and heaved 20 pound. medicine balls at a metal plate the height of a basketball rim.

Ashlie Vallez, a member of a competing San Jose cross-fit team, took up the multi-faceted sport less than two years ago. The 23-year-old San Jose State University student noted, "I like it because it's a family environment."

Comfort fitness

A teammate, 40-year-old Greg Hancock, said he took up the new sport after becoming bored with routine workouts at his former health club.


Advertisement

"Every day it's something different in cross-training," Hancock said. "It never gets stale." The two-day exposition, which ended Sunday, brought together hundreds of fitness buffs and professionals who, only a generation ago, would never be found under the same roof.

Rich Piana remembered when bodybuilding competitions resembled beauty contests held in auditoriums and judges decided winners from losers based on minute differences in muscles and how they posed on stage. The former Mr. California title holder now preaches a more relaxed approach to bodybuilding.

"There are no strict standards anymore," Piana said during a break from selling his company T-shirts and nutritional supplements and signing autographs for fans. "You should build yourself according to your own body and be comfortable."

The show featured at least seven separate stages or sections dedicated to one of the activities that encompass the new world of fitness training. One stage featured a steady stream of zumba and dance-oriented exercises. Others offered jiu-jitsu, power weight lifting, mixed martial arts and healthy-cooking demonstrations. A "Battle of the Bar" stage featured a blend of gymnastics and break-dancing.

Big connections

Among the stages were a jumble of busy booths offering vitamin supplements, energy bars and drinks, colorful skin-tight pants, tiny tank tops and even exercise cycles for use in swimming pools.

Standing out from a crowd of much younger people, 64-year-old Odd Haugen supervised the "Mas-wrestling" fights, an ancient sport he is introducing to the new fitness generation. Originating in northeast Asia, Mas wrestling pits two opponents who sit on a mat across a thick board. They brace themselves against the board with their feet and tug on a single wooden stick. The idea is to pull the opponent to your side or force him or her to let go of the stick.

One of Haugen's recruits is Sonya del Gallego, a 31-year-old from Sacramento whose progression through the new fitness landscape would have been unheard of for girls and women not so long ago. Gallego wrestled in high school, skated in roller derby and participated in traditional Scottish highland games. The highlander crowd introduced her to power lifting, which in turn led her to Mas wrestling.

"Everybody is kind of inter-connected," Gallego said.

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him at Twitter.com/joerodmercury.