"For me, a 47-year-old, married, full-time working mom to be able to be part of this global competition in my teeny little garage, I love that."
Though the temperature was only 30 degrees in West Lafayette, Ind., Erika Ugianskis cracked the window in her garage late Sunday morning. About to take on the brutish chipper of the fourth Open workout, she knew she’d be sweating soon enough.
She placed her iPod on its stand, flicking to her favorite Pandora station—a mix of Armin van Buuren, Deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia.
There was no caution tape to hold back a throbbing crowd; indeed, there was no crowd at all as she pushed off for her first pull on the erg. A garage CrossFitter of six years, Ugianskis is used being her own cheerleader.
“I’m a very self-motivated individual,” she said. “I am my own fiercest competitor.”
The 47-year-old started CrossFit in a Chicago globo gym after watching her husband lose 40 lb. from following CrossFit.com. In 2010, the pair moved to the Indiana suburbs when Ugianskis became Chief Interventional Radiologist at Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital.
Her long hours and unpredictable schedule made it impossible to attend regular classes at a local affiliate. So she brought the gym to her garage.
“I really enjoy CrossFitting, and this was the best way to make it accessible to me,” she said.
You won’t find any moth-eaten boxes of Christmas decorations in the Ugianskis’ garage. Nestled in the corner against the bare plywood walls are an erg and a GHD machine. In another corner, a squat rack sits atop a lone Olympic lifting platform. The beams supporting the ceiling double as anchors for a pull-up bar and a set of gymnastics rings.
The rest of the 18-by-15-foot space is peppered with an assortment of bars, kettlebells, dumbbells and Pendlay weights.
“It’s what you would see at any affiliate, but on a smaller scale,” Ugianskis said.
Though she trains alone, she said it’s not for lack of love for the community. It’s simply the best way she can get her workout in before the sun rises and still have time for her family.
“This way, when I work out in the morning out of my own house, I can be at home while my kids and husband are at home,” she said. “The garage is really a place of solace.”
In fact, it was the Ugianskis’ passion for the CrossFit community that drove them to affiliate their garage in 2013, christening it “Red Bar CrossFit.” Today, the pair provides remote coaching and programming to other solo CrossFitters across the country, a virtual box home for those who have none.
“We figured we could do the same thing for those folks who are passionate about CrossFit and want to improve upon their skills with some more structure,” she said.
Some of those folks even drop in at the garage to get judged for the Open.
“So we do have that camaraderie, but on a smaller scale,” Ugianskis said.
Doing the Open workouts in the familiarity of her garage with her husband as judge, she said, helped fight the nerves she still feels before each workout.
“It does diminish the anxiety to some degree,” she said. “What I really like about doing the Open in my garage is that this is the space I train in. I know how the rower feels. I know my bar.”
The toes-to-bars were the toughest part of the chipper, she said. She repped them out in sets of seven until she reached rep 29.
“That’s where I hit a wall,” she said.
She finished the toes-to-bars in sets of singles and doubles, and then stepped a few feet over to her wall-ball station. Her target was a wooden rafter beam, marked at nine feet.
After two sets of 10 she broke the shots into sets of five. The clock ran out just four reps shy of advancing to the 95-lb. cleans.
“When I was done, I went straight outside,” she said. “I didn’t care how cold it was. I felt pretty beat up after that.”
Red Bar CrossFit may lack large crowds, but according to Ugianskis, the little garage in West Lafayette is brimming with the spirit of the CrossFit Games Open.
“For me, a 47-year-old, married, full-time working mom to be able to be part of this global competition in my teeny little garage, I love that,” she said. “We’re a part of this larger community, and that is awesome.”