Sarah and Jeremy Gagne locked eyes and grinned as the countdown began. At the call of “3, 2, 1…go!” they tore down the quiet Hamden, Connecticut, road, each eager to beat the other to the 400-m mark.
Sarah and Jeremy—married since 2006—are CrossFit athletes of two years and one year, respectively, and they are accustomed to competing against each other in class at CrossFit True. But from Sept. 20 until Oct. 2, they thought they’d change things up, joining forces to compete as a team in the 2017 CrossFit Team Series.
Their team name is “All I Do Is Gagne.” As it happens, the couple’s surname means “I win” in French.
“Can you hear DJ Khaled in the background?” Sarah joked.
It’s all part of a creative twist Monique Beauchamp, owner of CrossFit True, is adding to her affiliate’s rendition of the Team Series: a quest to find the gym’s fittest couple.
“It kind of started with me talking smack to different couples,” Beauchamp said, noting a plethora of married or dating couples frequenting the gym and her own tendency to egg them on toward friendly competition.
“It will turn into almost like a date night,” she said of her plans to pit couple against couple in the Team Series this year.
Though Sarah admitted she loves to beat her husband on the whiteboard, she said she hopes that teaming up with him will help her push even harder than usual. The couple also wants to set an example for their 3-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, who often cheer from the sidelines while their parents sweat.
“I always dig a little deeper when I have their little eyes on me,” Sarah said. “Having them see the struggle, the victory and the failure is important to us.”
Of course, you don’t have to be part of a couple to participate in the Team Series at CrossFit True. Beauchamp plans on adding the Team Series workouts into the gym’s regular class-time programming, hoping to incentivize those who might be hesitant to register on their own.
“They’ll see the workouts maybe are not as intimidating as they made them up to be in their head, and the next time around or even during the Open, they’ll be more interested in doing it,” she said.
Though she likes to “talk smack” with the more competitive members in her affiliate, she emphasized that the important part of competition is not in winning or losing, but rather the side effect: intensity.
“I think when people first start CrossFit, they’re coming outside of their comfort zone. They start to see good results, and then they get comfortable again and they stop really pushing themselves,” she explained. “Every Open, people surprise themselves with how much they can do, and I think the same thing will happen here—maybe even a little bit more because you’re relying on that partner to help you through.”
On the other side of the planet, athletes at CrossFit Collingwood in Victoria, Australia, will take a similar approach to the Team Series. Except instead of competing with a significant other, athletes find a Superman to go with their Wonder Woman, or a Mario to go with their Luigi. In other words, they must choose—or create—a “famous duo,” said Aleisha Brooke, studio manager at the affiliate.
“Costumes are an acceptable expression of said duo,” she added.
This season will mark the gym’s second year participating in the Team Series, and affiliate owner Joshua Hromis said registration has increased from six or seven teams of four last year, to 16 teams of two for the 2017 season so far.
“What I like about the CrossFit competitions as opposed to going down to local competitions is it's worldwide,” Hromis said. “You can see Rich (Froning) doing it and Katrin (Davidsdottir) doing it ... and you can see what their scores are and really compare yourself to them and go, ‘Holy shit, that's phenomenal.’”
Though most of the teams at CrossFit Collingwood are self-designed, Hromis or his staff will pair up anyone who wants to participate but doesn’t have a partner. Having a fun theme like “famous duos,” he said, can help break the ice between teammates who might be less familiar with each other.
“It creates a little bit of camaraderie together and (helps them) form a conversation,” he said.
Unlike at CrossFit True, where the Team Series workouts are worked into the class schedule, Hromis plans to schedule weekly events, similar to the “Friday Night Lights” style enjoyed by many during the Open.
Though that might mean performing several workouts back to back—last year, teams performed all four Week 1 workouts back to back in one giant heat, which Hromis described as “pretty epic”—he said it can be a good thing for the casual CrossFit athlete to experience that kind of prolonged intensity.
“It definitely pushed the boundaries of endurance,” Hromis said. “I think it comes down to why we love CrossFit so much, which is that constantly varied aspect of things … . We get the workouts released, we set up the gym, the next day they come in and they hit those workouts in a way that they've never experienced before.”
After, most of the teams walk—or waddle or limp, depending on the workouts—together to a local café to celebrate with brunch, where the team with the most spirit might be crowned.
“What we like to promote is sportsmanship as opposed to performance,” Hromis said. “So we don't do anything (for) the best team because really for us it's null and void; it's about everyone enjoying themselves.”
But back across the pond at CrossFit True, Sarah said she thinks a prize might be in order after all.
“The real bragging rights are the ones that you can use outside of the box at home,” she said. “I'd suggest winner gets a date night, loser babysits and buys the beer!”