March 24, 2012
Part of a Larger World: CrossFit Muskoka
By Chris Cooper

Muskoka, Ontario is famous for its thousand lakes. David Marshall, owner of CrossFit Muskoka, is out to show his members their gym is not an island.

“I want them to know that they're part of a larger world,” says Marshall. “I think it's important that they know they're not alone.”

Marshall brought CrossFit to the small town of Muskoka in 2009, after taking an Agatsu kettlebell course at CrossFit Toronto. “They had a pair of rings hung up, and they were teaching a kid to kip. John [Vivian, owner of CrossFit Toronto] gave me the ‘What Is Fitness?’ handout. It sat in my bag for six months, and when I finally read it, I started to get interested,” he says. “I went to the site; my first WOD was Cindy. I got 12 to 13 rounds, and thought I was a badass  … until I read the comments. Then, I realized I wasn't in great shape at all.”

Heavily involved in Martial Arts, Marshall found himself teaching karate classes almost nightly. Being the instructor forced him to continually improve his skills so he could better teach them to others. “I'm not a natural athlete,” he says. “That makes you better, because you have to find ways to improve.”

He quit his job and started CrossFit Muskoka with that attitude in mind.

"Everyone knows how it feels to be scared about a workout. But everyone also knows how it feels to win."

Though a smaller affiliate, Muskoka has nearly 50 percent of his entire roster enrolled in the Open. It's an extremely tight community because it's a small town. “Everyone knows everyone. They have connections outside of the gym – family, business, or social,” he says. “For that reason, it's very encouraging.”

Everyone at CrossFit Muskoka has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, Marshall says. “Everyone knows how it feels to be scared about a workout. But everyone also knows how it feels to win. They know both the humility and success that CrossFit brings.”

A good example of CrossFit Muskoka's philosophy is Don Spring, who owns a photography shop. “He's mild-mannered and friendly,” says Marshall, “but he's doing Fran in 7:00 at 56 years old and only two years of CrossFit experience. He came in as a cyclist, and he back squats 245 and deadlifts 285 now.”

Another is Lindsay Fay. Only eight weeks into CrossFit, she literally went straight from On Ramp to the Open. “She really gets it,” Marshall praises. “She started a tough 30-day nutritional challenge on her third day in the program. She missed the nutrition seminar, but trusted her coaches and dropped a bunch of weight. Now it's the same with the Open. She had never done toes-to-bar before 12.3 required them. She played with them the day before – another member (Steph Salmon) came in to give her some extra help, and she got six of them.”

This atmosphere – athletes helping athletes – helps bring out the crowds when the competitors attempt the Open events. Thursdays are “Test Day,” when Muskoka members try out the workout and play with it a little. Saturday is the last-chance qualifier each week, and “the environment is really charged. Last week we had more people watching than we have participants in the Open, ready to cheer, count, hang out and get the energy going,” Marshall says.

Whatever the outcome, whatever their score, CrossFit Muskoka is winning the CrossFit Games Open.