March 4, 2014
Coast-to-Coast Party
By Chris Cooper
"When you turn in your scorecard, you'll get a cocktail." ~Danielle Edmundson, CrossFit Santa Cruz
"When you turn in your scorecard, you'll get a cocktail." ~Danielle Edmundson, CrossFit Santa Cruz

"When you turn in your scorecard, you'll get a cocktail."
~Danielle Edmundson, CrossFit Santa Cruz

At CrossFit Trinium, athletes will celebrate finishing a workout with pizza and beer.

Athletes at CrossFit Santa Cruz hit Open Workout 14.1, then grab a glass of wine.

At CrossFit Hilton Head, there is always someone to cheer you on.

If your regional team missed a trip to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games by one spot, what would you do differently in 2014? Would you tighten up nutrition? Increase workload? Bring in outside experts? Tighten up, squeeze harder, ratchet down?

Danielle Edmundson of CrossFit Santa Cruz is doing the opposite. In 2013, her gym roped off competition lanes, set firm heat assignments and ultimately rose to fourth at the NorCal Regional. This year, she’s handing out booze.

“I try to take an emotional pulse of our community every year, and this year people seem a little more fun; a little less serious,” she said. “When you turn in your scorecard, you’ll get a cocktail.”

She’ll pair thrusters and tequila, bourbon and burpees, creating a theme around each event. She’s still hoping for a great team in 2014, but wants to accommodate her community of CrossFit athletes better.

“The tighter you squeeze something, the more likely it is to slip out of your fingers,” she said. “The regional isn’t until May. We don’t want people to stress out for four months.”

With a continent between them, CrossFit Hilton Head is planning the same party atmosphere as CrossFit Santa Cruz. Seventy of 200 members have registered for the Open, and owner Craig Hysell believes he can leverage the experience to bring his box family closer. He’s split his box into intramural “teams” to mix athletes who attend different class times and perform at different levels.

On the first weekend of the Open, Hysell said he wants the environment to be explosive with many spectators. To get them there, CrossFit Hilton Head will host a cookout after the workout.

“I hope people have to wait outside and watch through the windows,” Hysell said. “The in-house team who brings the most people (to watch) will get some extra points toward their intramural team score.”

He’s encouraged beginners to enter the Open and measure their baseline. The heavy emphasis on participation will lead to improved performance, Hysell said.

“There's things you learn in the ring that you can't learn on the training ground,” he explained. “We've gently persuaded people to get in the ring. You have to get in there and get dirty.”

Further north along the Eastern seaboard, CrossFit Trinium is ready for a five-week party. Every Thursday night, the Pennsylvania gym will stream the Open announcement live for their members.

“We’ll have pizza and beer, watch the big guys go at it, and then some of us will do a run-through,” said owner Chad Hake. “Newbies can come and watch us hit it at 80 percent speed. Hopefully it’s a fun way to make the Open less scary for them.”

Like Edmundson and Hysell, Hake will be serving alcohol to ease the tension.

“We’d like to sample a different beer every week,” Hake said. “People are excited; they’re taking time off work to come, even if they’re not doing the workout that night.”

Hysell and Hake haven’t yet reached the competitive level of CrossFit Santa Cruz, but both have competitors with regional hopes. CrossFit 7 Mile, on Grand Cayman, has won the team competition at the Latin America Regional two years in a row. This year, owner Wanda Brenton hopes to qualify as an individual. The box knows how to win competitions, but they still take care to keep the Open fun.

Though they schedule the weekly Open workout for their Saturday classes, members are also allowed to perform each event on Friday night after the last class has finished. Owner Carl Brenton believes the informality creates a party-like environment.

“We call it ‘Friday Night Lights,’” Brenton said. “It’s pretty high energy and usually people bring in friends to cheer for them.”

West to East, top to bottom, CrossFit affiliates are gearing up for a five-week riot. From the outside, it looks like a battle. Inside, it feels like a party. As the CrossFit Games come of age, our gyms are celebrating the process as much as the outcome.