May 29, 2013
Breaking the Third Place Barrier: CrossFit The Club
By Andrea Sutherland

"We've battled that third spot the last few years. We used to have to hide people due to weaknesses. This is the first year we don't have to do that."

Photos by Lindsay Hassell

Lindsay Hassell says his team is ready for Regionals. They’ve pushed their training, they’ve gained new, strong team members and they’re tired of coming in third.

“We’ve battled for that third spot the last few years,” says Hassell, owner of CrossFit The Club. “We used to have to hide people (in competition events) due to weaknesses. This is the first year we don’t have to do that.”

Hassell says for the past year, the team has amped up weightlifting and perfecting technique.

“We’ve been hammering them,” he says. “Our (women) have gotten so much stronger. Weights that used to be heavy for them, now they’re throwing around like it’s nothing.”

Sheena Hammer, new to the CrossFit The Club team, says she has become much stronger.

“When I first tried an overhead squat, all I could do was 95 lb.,” she says. “Now, I’m lifting 155 lb.”

A former gymnast, Hammer says the competitive nature inherent in CrossFit attracted her to the program. And since joining the affiliate, she says she’s found a new family.

“We’re like brothers and sisters. We’re competitive with each other, but in a good way,” she says. “The boys push us to be better. There’s no scaling just because you’re female. Our personalities click.”

It’s this chemistry that will launch the team to the top of the Leaderboard, Hammer says.

“I feel like we’re there,” she says. “We’re all strong everywhere. There are no weak links.”

Autumn Hawkins, a three-year veteran of the team, says being close with her teammates has helped them push each other to the next level. Hawkins said she grew up with three of her teammates, works with another and began CrossFit with others.

“Our team is 100 percent homegrown,” she says. “We spend hours a day, five days a week working out together.”

Hawkins said this, coupled with more focus on lifting will lead the team to success.

“We basically do whatever (Hassell) tells us to do,” she laughs. “He’s a teammate and a coach. We’ve trained harder, focusing on the Olympic lifts.”

The dedication to lifting has had an impact on other CrossFit members, Hassell says.

“We’ve seen (members) improve by leaps and bounds. They move so much more efficiently. Their technique is better. They’re stronger and faster,” he says. “Our level is getting pushed higher and higher. Everybody around us is getting awesome.”

Located in South Ogden, Utah, Hassell opened CrossFit The Club in 2008. A former strength and conditioning coach for an arena football league, Hassell took up CrossFit full time after the league disbanded.

“I first heard of CrossFit at a Gold’s Gym,” he says. “My first workout was a Filthy Fifty. After (the workout), I was laying on the gym floor white as a ghost. I remember thinking, ‘This is pretty awesome.’”

To open his gym, Hassell took over empty space in a health club that features tennis courts, a swimming pool and an indoor track.

“Sometimes I don’t feel like a true CrossFit owner because we’re not a warehouse gym,” he says. “But we take total advantage of the (40,000-square foot) athletic center, especially in winter.”

Beginning training with just four members, nearly five years later, Hassell says his gym is home to almost 300 members.

He credits the inviting atmosphere with his gym’s growth and his team’s camaraderie.

“We had to overcome the typical myths — the ‘I’ll get hurt,’ or women thinking they’ll bulk up. In the beginning, the tennis players watched us thinking we were nuts. Once they try a workout, we hook them.”

Convincing other athletes, specifically weightlifters, proved more challenging.

“We have this group of followers and the haters,” Hassell says. “We invite them to try our workouts. Most of them enjoy it and we rub it in and tease them. It’s all for fun. They’re dedicated athletes. But we make fun of the ‘pose and look in the mirror’ all the time.”

Blake Bastian, a team member known as a “converted meathead,” says his favorite events include Olympic lifts. First joining CrossFit in October 2011, Bastian says he loves the competitive nature of the program.

“Every day it’s competitive,” he says. “It’s better than going to the gym and not caring.”

Bastian says he’s happy to be a part of such a strong team.

As the Regional competition approaches, Hassell says the team will continue pushing each other to the next level.

“It’s a tough region,” he says. “It’s taking yourself to that dark place, and keep conquering.”