CrossFit Brings Normalcy to College Students

October 19, 2020 by
Credit courtesy CF Aggieland
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The struggle is real for college students across the United States.

It’s no wonder the mental health crisis in college and university students has worsened.

  • According to a Boston University study in July, depression among college students had risen significantly during the pandemic.

Why it matters: With such upheaval to their daily lives, college students need a sense of normalcy, and CrossFit owners are looking to deliver.

CrossFit Aggieland is located approximately four miles from Texas A&M University. Owner Seth McKinney said they are one of the nearest Affiliates to campus, which explains why their membership is 60% college students.

A silver lining: When the gyms reopened in mid-May, McKinney was surprised to find many of the college students had stayed on campus, due to year-long rent agreements they could not cancel. Business has been good. And besides social distancing, he said you don’t notice much of a difference in how they are operating.

  • “I think they were all just chomping at the bit and everything to get back in the gym,” said McKinney.
  • “As much as I’d love to have more people, I just don’t think we can work them in.”
  • “It just speaks volumes for what CrossFit is all about and the program that is out there that we’ve put together — by we I mean all of us CrossFit gyms.”

At CrossFit Lion Heart, located one-tenth of a mile from the edge of Penn State University’s campus. Keith Becker, one of the owners, said the reopening process was slow over the summer as people gradually came back.

That all changed when Penn State’s semester started.

  • “Surprisingly, once the students came back to town for the beginning of the semester we found ourselves in the opposite situation,” said Becker.  
  • “The university didn’t open their campus gyms to the students, so our gym was one of the few options close to the university for the students to use.”
  • “Our CrossFit box is located within a larger commercial gym facility. We found ourselves with almost more business than we could take on.”

Safety measures in place: Both gyms have had to accommodate the influx of students while maintaining COVID requirements.

  • CrossFit Lionheart added additional classes to maintain safe numbers per session. But Becker said they were thankful: the boost was needed after a slow spring and summer.
  • CrossFit Aggieland added a few one-hour gym slots to make sure everyone has an opportunity to come into the box.

However, not every college-town CrossFit is experiencing similar effects. CougStrong is a part of University Recreation at Washington State University. Prior to the Glassman debacle, it was a full-fledged Affiliate.

  • “We have less students in town, and so our numbers are reduced a lot,” said Joanne Greene, the programming director. “We also have capacity limits for classes so our costs per participant have increased.”
  • It’s also impacted staffing with less students in town to coach.

Even with lower numbers, Greene has noticed the positive effect of the program.

  • It has been really nice to be able to be offering classes again though, as athletes who attend, both online and in person, are so grateful to be back with their CougStrong community again,” she said.

The bottom line: Students at universities are facing unbelievable challenges due to COVID-19’s impact on the higher ed industry. However, CrossFit and its Affiliates can be a safe-haven as these young adults head into the unknown and unknowable of their college career.

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