When I talk to people who do Crossfit, almost everyone, at some point in the conversation, says, “Crossfit makes you better at life.” They’re not spouting an empty philosophy. You can hear the sincerity in their voices. It seems that if you do Crossfit, then you love it. And there are several reasons why.
“Crossfit gets you in the best shape of your life,” says Dale King, founder and current owner of PSKC Crossfit on 3rd Street in Portsmouth. “It’s functional movements. No machines. You practice movements you use in everyday life. When you sit down, you’re doing a squat. When you pick something off the ground, you’re doing a dead lift. It’s always varied. You’re not going to do the same thing on Tuesday that you did on Monday. It’s high intensity and scaled to your individual level. In one class, you can have a sixteen year old and a sixty five year old doing the same workout, but scaled to their individual level.”
King discovered Crossfit in 2007 when he was still on active duty in the military. “The guys in my unit got me involved in this crazy thing called Crossfit,” King explains. The workout was being adapted early on in special operations units because it is very military friendly. Workouts are done in a team and camaraderie is involved.
“I loved it,” King said. When he left the military in 2007, he moved home to Ohio, where there was only one Crossfit gym in the entire state at the time. He went to the gym and tried to do what Crossfit practices he could – even bringing his own kettlebells to the facility. In 2009, he started teaching a kettlebell class at Fitness Plus 24, which had recently opened in the area. Six months later, he had 15 to 20 students attending every class and they outgrew the space.
A friend of a friend had some warehouse space, and King launched the Portsmouth Spartan Kettlebell Club, even though it had never been his goal to open a gym. The warehouse had no heat or air conditioning and it flooded when it rained, but he had forty members willing to come work out with him during his spare time. When he started the Portsmouth Spartan Kettlebell Club, he was working full-time for the Department of Engery.
As the number of members grew, King purchased more equipment. He took out a loan on his 401k to buy a pull-up rig and “a bunch of kettlebells,” he said.
At the time, his only goal was to make enough money from classes to cover the rent of the warehouse. He charged people per class because he was still traveling extensively for work, but more people kept showing up. When his one class a day flooded with people, he opened a second time slot in the evening.
By 2012, he was investing heavily in the gym. “Every cent I made went back into the gym,” King said. That’s the year that the Portsmouth Spartan KettlebellClub became a full-fledged Crossfit facility, as well. King had trained at the oneCrossfit gym in Ohio, but didn’t use the name with his own gym until he couldafford it. The name “Crossfit” is an affiliate name, and although King was using equipment typically used in the Crossfit method, he didn’t add the affiliate name until 2012.
One of the reasons that people tend to like Crossfit is the way it uses measurable data. “We don’t weigh,” King explained. “We don’t care about the weight that you are. What you weigh is just one marker of your overall health. We want you to track and be aware of performance data.”
King defines “performance data” as your personal best. How many air squats can you do in a defined amount of time? That’s measurable data. After coming toCrossfit for a few weeks, test yourself again. Did you do more? That’s progress.
“There’s no better or faster way to health than Crossfit two to three times a week,” King said, “and eating properly.”
Another reason Crossfit is popular, according to King, is that it provides a release for the competitive spirit in folks. “A lot of people did sports in high school and college,” said King. “Then, they’re 22 years old and have no competitive outlet in their lives.” It provides a competitive element because Crossfit is technically a sport. Members of PSKC Crossfit travel regionally to compete in events.
But the main determinant of its popularity is its community aspect. “It grows because the essence is from the military,” King said. “It makes people feel like they’re a part of a unit. Any obstacles and challenges you face, you overcome together.”