The building housing CrossFit Galveston, 1227 Ave. L, is nothing fancy. The walls of the gym, which was a bakery in a former life, are painted orange and blue. A black metal frame, looking something like an incomplete swing set, is pushed against the back wall. The front office is a leather couch and desk set up in a corner.
And the air-conditioning system? A pair of garage doors opened wide to let in the island breeze, coupled with a very loud industrial fan.
There are no treadmills or weight machines. No elliptical machines to while away the afternoon. This is a Spartan room, built for a Spartan workout.
CrossFit, most basically, is a fitness program that mashes gymnastics, weight lifting, running and jumping into a series of fast-paced workouts. As part of its marketing, CrossFit gyms boast that no two workouts are the same and participants brag getting through particularly challenging “WODs” (Workouts of the Day).
The workouts combine classic gym class fare — pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups — with the art of lifting heavy things — like massive dumbbells, or sometimes, tractor tires. Participants are pushed to move quickly from one exercise to the next.
“You’re able to push yourself and do these Olympic movements that most people wouldn’t even imagine doing,” said Tyler Morrison, a CrossFit Galveston trainer. “We provide that opportunity for these people to push themselves to their limits.”
CrossFit Galveston is one of two CrossFit gyms to open on the island in the past year. Their arrival signals the island’s inclusion into the undeniable CrossFit craze. The growth began in 2010, when CrossFit Inc., signed a contract with Reebok. Since then, the number of gyms affiliated with the program has grown from 1,500 to more than 7,000 today.
This year, the movement gained even more exposure with the first national airing of the CrossFit Game on ESPN. In something akin to World’s Strongest Man competitions that were previously a fixture on the network, CrossFit Game competitors vie to be named the “Fittest Person in the World.”
The competitive aspect of CrossFit does attract some people — particularly people who were athletic in their youth, local trainers say. But the workout is more about fostering a positive fitness lifestyle, and not building a team to beat local competitors.
“We try to be a supportive community,” said Shaun McCrary, the owner of Galveston’s CrossFit Tidal Wave, a gym that opened in the bottom floor of a downtown island building, 2324 Market St., earlier this year.
“Because of the popularity of CrossFit, you’re getting a lot of people that are hopping on because of the trend,” McCrary said.
CrossFit generates an enthusiastic following.
“I love CrossFit for so many reasons,” said Kara Mullins, who is a member of CrossFit Tidal Wave. “It constantly challenges me physically and mentally. Just when I think I can’t push myself anymore, someone in the class or the coach cheers me on. It feels great to push yourself further than you thought you could go.”
Despite the different looks of the gyms, there are constants. In particular one has a white board featuring gym members’ personal achievements and a trainer that seems to revel in a tough workout.
At Dickinson’s, Third Coast CrossFit, which has been open three years, a group of six set up equipment during a late afternoon session inside a converted metal storage facility, 1314 FM 646. The workout that day would include three rounds of runs around the parking lot, a series of squat thrusts and an Olympic-style weight lift all within about 30 minutes.
Jesse Ryholt, the trainer that evening, chided his charges as they began their stretching for the evening’s workout and predicted what they would be like in the next hour.
“They’re laid out, they’re crying, they’re screaming, and then they’re happy and it’s on to the next class,” he said.