Fitness culture is a growing trend in Barranquilla

Total Fitness Expo. Photo Credit: Carlos Alberto Ramirez Morante

If you’re new to Barranquilla, the locals will probably get you to try all kinds of sweets, fruit juices, a wide variety of fried stuff, (there are some incredible options in the fast food area), maybe some greasy looking soups, and lots and lots of beer, rum, and aguardiente (for partying!). Meanwhile, if you invite them for a walk, your might get an answer with a weird expression on their faces – most people have no interest in walking anywhere – it’s simply too hot! But don’t get the wrong idea; the city is more than just alcohol, chicharrones, sancochos, buttifarras and chuzos desgranados.

The fitness culture or “cultura fit” as it’s called by locals, has literally exploded in the past few years. The percentage of people who care about their body, their figure, and what they eat is growing so much that Barranquillero’s traditional daily activities have begun to change.

You only have to look as far as the public park to see a great example of this. Both public parks (and even gyms to some extent) are no longer populated only by the “older culture.” The usual group of seniors jogging or doing aerobics has now been augmented by several college students, and in some cases you can even find a professional instructor. Also, the new gymnastics machines and the exercise bars at the renovated parks are always full, and so are the basketball and football courts that “Todos al Parque” gave to the city.

Jimmy Berbesí, a personal trainer at Body & Soul Gym, explained that the people who train regularly do it because they know that looking healthy enhances self-esteem which in turn helps them in their social and professional relationships, and most of all, improves their health.

This growing culture has made costeños cut down on meat, pork, and the fried food, to a point that many restaurants have been forced to change their menus to offer a level of healthier eating. Now the average establishment has at least one option for fit people, and in those places where they don’t, people themselves are asking for dishes with less fat or salt.

Fit meals in Barranquilla. Photo Credit: Saludable Factory Facebook Page
Fit meals in Barranquilla. Photo Credit: Saludable Factory Facebook Page

Actually, across the past few years, this healthy wave has made possible a series of restaurants catering specifically to the “fit” crowd, offering healthy “corrientazos/ejecutivos”. Places like Go Green or Saludable Factory wouldn’t be profitable if the demand hadn’t grown so much. Even the fast food spaces are changing; we still don’t have many veggie burgers in these types of places but we for sure have sandwiches with only vegetables or pizzas with piles of quinoa, oatmeal, or vegetable protein.

There are mainly two types of “fit” barranquilleros, those looking to lose weight or gain muscle mass, depending on their case; and second, those who have medical conditions and need the exercise to fight their health problems, especially related heart issues and blood sugar. Neffy Triana, the manager of a 100% fit pizzeria, said: “A lot of young people come here. They’re the ones who are really interested in what we offer. Usually, when older guys like me come, they refuse to even try the “healthy choices”, opting instead for regular pizzas. On the other hand, the young ones are very aware that eating this way is going to help them in the long run.”

Healthy Desserts. Photo Credit: Go Green Barranquilla Facebook Page
Healthy Desserts. Photo Credit: Go Green Barranquilla Facebook Page

Both trainers and cooks agree that the average Barranquillero looking to get fit also wants to show others what they’ve accomplished, no matter whether it’s a body change or just the resolution of a salad for lunch. People who do this start feeling better about themselves almost immediately and want to share that in their social media. They even say that it’s so common to see people posing for selfies while training, or tagging their restaurants, that is getting hard to tell which people are actually living the lifestyle and which are just “wanna be fit” (pronounced in Spanish), as they call those posting and chatting but not actually making any sacrifices.

Tips and myths according to Jimmy:

Is being “fit” expensive?
Being fit can be a little expensive, you have to invest a little, but not a fortune. The big money should be spent on healthy food that unfortunately is more expensive. A good gym, supplements, and a personal trainer would be expenses that you might have to add. However, there are ways to manage a decent diet and training without spending much. The key is the food. The food, and the target must go hand in hand.

Jimmy Berbessi is a Personal Trainer, certified in fitness and functional training. Photo Credit: Instagram
Jimmy Berbessi is a Personal Trainer, certified in fitness and functional training. Photo Credit: Instagram

Are muscle/protein supplements necessary to be “fit”?
Progress can be achieved without consuming any supplements. With a proper diet and exercise it is possible to make a complete body change. This doesn’t mean they are bad, indeed it’s quite the opposite; supplements help maintain muscle mass in healthy condition,and helps ensure the muscle mass regenerates quickly after training. Its absorption is immediate, so it occurs much faster than eating a great meal. Nevertheless, it will never replace real food, which would be terrible for a person anyhow.
There are many types you can take; it all depends on what your goal is. That’s why it’s so important to ask a professional before taking anything. Don’t do what your friend is doing because it might not be consistent with your metabolism and your desires.

Are there a lot of gym quitters here in Barranquilla?
Not just here, you see it everywhere, across all the gyms. Many people come to the gym expecting magic, and magic, unfortunately, is not something you can find. Exercise is a day to day process that should be accompanied with discipline. There are several who come here and train but unfortunately eat out too much, or are inconsistent with their objectives, and they end up quitting when they don’t see results. They blame the routine, the coach, and the gym, or they try to find pills or surgeries to get immediate results, when in fact, they could achieve it all with just a little more dedication.

How fast can you notice a change in your body?
There are many factors involved in the rapid arrival of results. These include your the physical past, biotype, somatosensory type, body type, eating habits, and some physical disabilities can vary the time of substantial change. But if we’re talking about someone that has everything in order, but has never exercised,well, with discipline, they’ll notice a sharp change in only six months.

What do you mean by discipline?
First, we do a one-month adaptation, and after that we do training stages, and only then do we start achieving our goals. Some people reach their desired level long before six months and others much later. Sometimes the process is interrupted with travel, and it must be continuous, and with discipline.

Jimmy Berbessi and Boris De la Rosa after training. Photo credit: Instagram
Jimmy Berbessi and Boris De la Rosa after training. Photo credit: Instagram

Again, what do you mean by discipline?
Hahaha, you really want numbers. Five times a week is enough to have a balance between rest and training to produce change. Three days a week would just maintain what you have. Don’t be disappointed, don’t train alone. Having someone around makes you work better. Also try not to get very distracted gossiping or with the cell phone. Also, forget about surgeries.. sometimes more money is spent on an operation, and you end up with flabby muscles and deteriorated health, not to mention the problems of recovery.

So what is that healthy cheap diet?
I can’t say that offhand. As in the case of the supplements, it’s important that you don’t do diets you hear about at the neighbor’s house because they might work for them but not for you. Indeed, sometimes they can really affect your health because they often are not complete. As long as you don’t overeat, and you train regularly, you don’t have to worry much about your health. Don’t wait until you get coronary heart disease to go running to the gym, and start eating less sodium.. be responsible and become aware of that right now.

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Fran graduated from Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires, Argentina in Journalism and Sports Journalism. Before returning to his native Barranquilla, he traveled extensively throughout Europe and North America. When he’s not busy writing or reporting on a game, he’s probably watching whatever sports news is on TV. He also enjoys dancing, learning new languages and cultures.


  1. buen articulo y me alegra que mi trabajo fotográfico este en este portal web, para que sepas que soy el que tomó la foto.