By Sarah Smith
“More bend in the knees, good, now push from the hips when you stand,” encouraged Brandy Wann, head trainer at the Utah Valley CrossFit facility.
The group of 11 exercisers had already performed upward of 80 kettle bell swings and box jumps, but the large digital clock on the wall was ticking and everyone was determined to beat their last performance time. Ben Hogen was the first to finish in just under five minutes, a personal record.
Hogen, 21, a BYU student, has been a member of CrossFit for five months, and said he will never go to any other gym. “I used to go to 24 Hour Fitness, but when I found CrossFit I immediately loved it,” Hogen said between sets. “Instead of isolating specific muscles in different workouts, you’re working your body as a system so it’s more functional.”
A combination of strength training and conditioning, CrossFit offers its members nearly one-on-one guidance at every group session, which usually has between five and 15 members at a time.
Clients can perform exercises at CrossFit facilities other gyms don’t offer, like the rope climb, gymnastic rings and Olympic weight sets.
CrossFit was established as an exercise program in 1995, but has seen the most growth in the last half of the decade, the number of affiliated gyms growing from just 18 in 2005 to 1,700 in 2010.
While CrossFit’s popularity is on the rise, many BYU students belong to one of two gym chain giants: Gold’s Gym and 24 Hour Fitness.
Members of both camps harbor strong feelings toward their gym’s nemesis.
“I think Gold’s Gym is a tool academy,” said Josh Smith, 25, from South Jordan. “I feel like the girls can only have blond hair and wear swimming suits to work out in, and that it’s just one giant social gathering. It’s basically an offshoot of APX.”
Beyond its members, recent BYU graduate Marianne Jurgensmeier, from Brambleton, Va., said Gold’s management dissuaded her from joining.
“I went to Gold’s for a free trial and they were extremely rude to me about signing a contract,” Jurgensmeier said. “I decided to try 24 instead. They gave me a longer free trial and were really nice. I will never go to Gold’s again.”
Paul Reynolds, 26, from Toppenish, Wash., agreed.
“Any Gold’s Gym trainer I’ve talked to has felt more like a salesman than a fitness trainer,” Reynolds said. “There was high pressure and they constantly asked me to sign up while I was on my free trial period.”
Reynolds, like Smith, noted the dissonance between those attracted to Gold’s versus 24 Hour Fitness.
“I feel like the average guy that goes to 24 Hour Fitness is going there for overall health and athleticism, whereas Gold’s members are more about bodybuilding and whatever gets their muscles bigger,” Reynolds said.
But Justin Mann, 22, majoring in business, said those differences are what helped him make the recent decision to join Gold’s Gym.
“I just got a super cheap membership for 10 bucks,” Mann said.
Utah Valley’s CrossFit facility may be just the breath of fresh, sweat-distilled air students are looking for.
“The longer I’m here at CrossFit the more I realize it’s just a big family,” Hogen said. “You’re always cheering on other people, and they’re always cheering you on, too. I’ve made so many friends here, even though we’re all so different and on totally different fitness levels.”
Wann finished recording the exercise group’s fitness times on a whiteboard.
“This lets everyone measure their fitness against themselves and set goals for next time,” Wann said. “Ben has only been with us a short time but has shown impressive progress. We’re really proud of him. There’s just a great community of people here.”
CrossFit has about 2,000 established affiliates on every continent except Antarctica. CrossFit exercises can be accessed on crossfit.com.