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Wednesday, May 30,2012

New-style fitness ‘community’ attracts converts

By Stephanie Stark
Photo Credits: Photo by Dustin Franz.
Photo Caption: Participants of Cross Fit SEO warm up before their workout on Tuesday, May 22. Housed in a warehouse, participants perform group workouts together. “I love the group fitness atmosphere. Everyone cheers you on,” said Melissa Obert, who has been coming to CrossFit SEO for a few months.

CrossFit is more of a community than a workout program, its participants say. It happens "in a box," and a CrossFit center recently opened in a site on West Union Street in Athens.

CrossFit SEO, an affiliate of CrossFit Inc., is an alternative gym set in a warehouse, and after opening in November 2011, it moved earlier this month to 762 W. Union St.

A trio of Athens residents were so inspired by the technique and community that comes with CrossFit training that they decided to open a CrossFit gym in Athens. CrossFit is a training program that focuses on camaraderie and overall wellbeing, and instead of mirrors, they say, "we have trainers."

Kevin Smith, the interim assistant director of leadership in the Campus Involvement Center at Ohio University, started CrossFit SEO with Jolene Grant, a community fitness organizer, and graduate student Sam Venable. Grant and Venable both also work as trainers at the local facility, which is not connected with the university.

Smith said CrossFit gyms are called boxes because they're usually located in warehouse-type spaces devoid of exercise machines and mirrors.

"It's part of the nomenclature. We're the only CrossFit box in the area," Smith said. "What we do is one-hour classes. It's a small community ranging between 12 to 15 people and no more, and we keep it small because we want people to experience the community in that. And it's very important because everyone supports one another through this in different ways."

With less focus on equipment and more on camaraderie, members of CrossFit SEO swear by its approach.

OU senior Rebecca Koch said she found a CrossFit gym in Columbus over the summer and was happy to find the new CrossFit gym opening in Athens.

"It's different because it's really simple. CrossFit gyms are like big barns or big warehouse rooms with mats on the floor, weights, barbells and ropes. There's no machines, just you and the equipment," she said. "They have really terrific circuit training and a lot of different styles… You'll run, lift a certain amount of weight, do a bunch of Olympic lifts, and sometimes it's maximum strength for a short period of time or minimum for a long period of time."

Fellow OU senior Steve Kiesel said he has been a CrossFit SEO member since January after being dissatisfied with the environment at the university's Ping Recreational Center.

"I'd rather pay good money to get a workout in than pay for free and not be able to get on anything," he said. "I like the randomness of it, being pushed to work out instead of having to self-motivate."

The first CrossFit affiliate started in Seattle, Smith said, and over 3,000 gyms have started in the past 10 years.

Josh Buchanan said he has been a member for about a month, and comes back for "the camaraderie, everybody working together and pushing you."

For information about CrossFit SEO, check out the website, call 740-401-9348 or email


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