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Published August 18, 2013, 10:00 PM

CrossFans: Fitness trend spreading in F-M

FARGO - Shouts of “Get it!” and “Beast mode!” followed by high-fives fill the gym as members push themselves to finish the day’s basic-training-like exercises. This is CrossFit.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

F-M CrossFit affiliates

CrossFit 701, 3309 Fiechtner Drive, Unit 4, Fargo, www.crossfit701.com, (701) 430-1987.

Wild Knights CrossFit, 3343 S. University Drive, Fargo, www.wildknightscrossfit.com, (701) 566-8413.

CrossFit Fargo, 3955 40th Ave. S., Suite C, Fargo, www.crossfitfargo.com, (701) 219-5036.

CrossFit Northern Cut, 2111 E. Main Ave. #2, West Fargo, www.crossfitnortherncut.com, (701) 541-1497.

FARGO - Shouts of “Get it!” and “Beast mode!” followed by high-fives fill the gym as members push themselves to finish the day’s basic-training-like exercises.

This is CrossFit.

The fitness craze that focuses on personal goals and community support is garnering legions of hard-core followers internationally.

Ali Keller’s membership has grown to about 200 since she and her husband opened Fargo’s first CrossFit gym three years ago.

Dustin Knight followed in January 2011 with Wild Knights CrossFit, and two more “boxes” (garage-like gyms) have opened in the past few months.

Knight, an Army veteran, says this is only the beginning for Fargo-Moorhead.

“I bet within the next two years, there’ll be at least 10,” he says.

An increasing number CrossFitters are posting their “PRs” (personal records) from their “WODs” (workouts of the day) on social media, but with that popularity comes skepticism and criticism from some.

Internet memes make fun of members for being too obsessive and accuse them of being in a “cult.”

Keller, of CrossFit 701, laughs it off.

“It’s not culty by any means. We don’t serve Kool-Aid,” she says, adding that most of the complaints come from people who haven’t tried it.

Plus, Knight says it’s natural to want to share your successes, whether it’s in CrossFit or any other sport.

“I think it’s human nature. You get into something, you get real pumped about it,” he says.

So what is it about the sport defined as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity” that’s so addicting?

If you talk to anyone who does it, two main reasons emerge: the variety and the community.

Workouts include exercises in 10 “domains” – cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.

Each exercise involves functional movements that apply to daily life. For example, dead lifting is like picking up keys off the ground.

“We do a little bit of everything,” including weight lifting, plyometrics, gymnastics and running, Keller says.

That constant change keeps the body guessing and fitness plateaus at bay.

Knight hasn’t plateaued yet and doesn’t think he will.

“I’ve been doing it for three years, and I still see gains,” he says.

But personal achievement is only part of CrossFit.

“The community that we’ve created is just phenomenal,” Keller says.

The camaraderie extends outside the gym, too.

Members work together on fundraisers, compete in fun runs, and make new friends.

CrossFit 701 has made a few love connections, too, including a couple who recently got married.

“If you miss a workout, it might not be your trainer that gives you grief; it might be the person that you see every day at that same time that’s like, ‘Hey, where’ve you been?’ ” Keller says.

Big gains

Lindsay Vettleson joined Wild Knights after doing a WOD with her boyfriend in Nebraska. The 33-year-old Fargo woman’s goal was to increase strength and muscle mass.

“That’s definitely what I’ve done, and I’ve only been doing this for three and a half months,” she says.

This weekend she took the next step and received certification to become a coach.

Knight, however, says she’s in the 1 percent.

“She came in in great shape,” he says. “One of the misconceptions about CrossFit is that you have to be in shape to do it.”

Keller, Knight and Vettleson say with the proper training, instruction and attitude, anyone can do CrossFit.

Keller’s members range in age from 11 to 65-plus. Knight is certified in CrossFit Kids. CrossFit Northern Cut focuses on rehabbing after injuries.

In this sport, everyone’s an athlete. Everyone does the same workout, but any exercise can be modified for any level.

“We make sure as coaches we know each individual’s skill level and kind of guide them in that direction. And then when they’re ready to progress, then we progress them at a rate that’s good for them,” Keller says.

Despite what critics say, both Keller and Knight say CrossFit itself isn’t dangerous.

“We never compromise form and technique for a certain weight or a certain time on the clock,” Keller says.

She doesn’t want anyone to be intimidated by it but says it does require hard work and dedication.

“Some people get frustrated, but you don’t learn overnight,” she says.

CrossFit is used with police academies, tactical operations teams, military special operations units, martial artists and elite athletes.

Knight first heard about it while on deployment in Afghanistan.

“I didn’t know it was called CrossFit. It was just guys working out hard, trying to better themselves so they could be better at their jobs and survive on the battlefield,” he says.

The bases he was stationed at didn’t have all the equipment you’ll find in a weight room, so the back-to-basics exercises used in CrossFit made sense.

The countless combinations of exercises keep members on their toes.

“If you go to 10 different CrossFit gyms, you’re going to get 10 different philosophies in training and 10 different programmings,” he says.

During his active-duty years, Knight used CrossFit to help overweight soldiers get in shape.

“I helped people make tremendous gains in the Army, so I thought I could do this for the civilian population,” he says.

Members encourage each other, but CrossFit brings out their competitive nature.

“It’s motivating to see what you can do. Yeah, you’re competing with yourself, but you kind of see where you stack up against other people, too,” he says.

Keller says the results are undeniable.

She challenged a runner to give up her running routine for CrossFit for the four months before a race. She only ran when it was part of a WOD.

Come race day, “She PR’d her run, just because we had added the strength, we had added the mobility, we had added the mental gains,” Keller says.

Vettleson’s biggest CrossFit accomplishment was dead lifting her body weight 100 times.

“I will never go back to what I used to do,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590