“Greatness only comes before hustle in the dictionary.”- Ross Simmonds
Knoxville Gym Starts Man’s Club to Get Men Talking about Mental Health
On Wednesday nights between 7 and 9:30 p.m., a group of men gathers at CrossFit Bearden in Knoxville, TN, not to work out, but to talk. They are a part of the Knoxville Man’s Club, a safe space created by owner Joseph Townsend for men to talk about mental health.
“I have been working with a therapist for over two years and struggled with my mental health for five-six years prior,” Townsend said. “Once I began talking about [my mental health] I realized that it wasn’t something that men do often or do very well.”
“I wanted to start our men’s club to give men an opportunity to talk and listen. To see that we generally have the same thoughts and feelings and that no problems are too big or too small to work through,” he continued.
The club: The Knoxville Man’s Club started in early 2021, just with members of CrossFit Bearden. In September, they opened meetings up to the community.
The meetings, which have about five to six men who attend regularly, begin casually. Conversation starts naturally before being steered in the direction of set questions like, “How was your week, name two good things that occurred, what’s one thing you’re struggling with, and what [are you] doing about that one thing you’re struggling with,” said Chris Schmitz, a coach at CrossFit Bearden who is currently leading the club.
“The tone of each meeting is different. Sometimes we share more openly, and other times it may not come as easily. But over time, I do think we have come to share more and more,” Schmitz continued.
“I think when one person opens up it subconsciously gives permission for others to open up or relate to the issue at hand. We made it very clear that it is a safe space… but it still takes a while for people (especially men) to open up and talk about things going on in their lives,” Townsend said.
Currently, all men in the club take CrossFit classes at CrossFit Bearden. The two, both Townsend and Schmitz feel, are a natural pair.
“Within CrossFit, we spend so much time training the body, but I believe that we also must train the mind. The surrender needed to participate in a discipline like CrossFit also relates to the surrender we must give to our thoughts and feelings. The two cannot act in isolation,” Townsend said.
“Ego prevents us from improving physical health. Doing too much can lead to us getting hurt or overtraining.”
“The same can be said for mental health and fitness. The ego doesn’t allow us to dive deep… and so we can fail to make progress and deal with the things in our lives that we need to,” he continued.
Schmitz added: “CrossFitters tend to stick with their gyms for a long time and you get to know each other at a surface level, and sometimes a little deeper, in the classes. And this has been a great way to build on those relationships and get to know each other better.”
The bottom line: “Men communicate very well, but generally about surface things… diving deeper helps us reveal more about us and shows us we are all very similar,” Townsend said.
He continued: “The response we got [to the club] from our community, including partners, children, and friends is great, with many feeling such groups should be a necessity. If we can help someone through a rough time, or even help someone improve their day-to-day life, then the group is a success.”
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DISCUSSION POINT: Why did CrossFit Jääkarhu decide to re-affiliate? On the Best Hour of Their Day Podcast, co-owner Michael Winchester discusses the reasons why they disaffiliated in the first place and what brought them back:
“Everything I’ve seen from Home Office since all that went down has been nothing short of amazing, nothing short of awesome.”
“Eric Roza steps in, I like the way that he speaks…I like the way he interacts with affiliates and that’s really the key for us.”
Safety and Mindset: The Key Points of Emphasis for Coaching CrossFit During the Winter
The calendar has turned to December, and hundreds of affiliates in the northern hemisphere are dealing with the onset of winter weather. Snow, sleet, darkness, and other factors create potentially unsafe conditions and force coaches and affiliate owners to make significant adjustments to keep their athletes safe and motivated. It can also be a very, very good excuse to hit that snooze button and go back to dreamland rather than face a frozen barbell.
For a big bulk of our year we really don’t get to have running programmed in our workouts. – Keila Huelle, owner of CrossFit Anchorage
One big thing: The arrival of winter weather in the northern parts of the globe results in coaches making two significant adjustments. Many remove running from the WODs, especially in areas of Alaska or Canada where there are concerns about wind chill and bare skin. They also increase the length of warmups to ensure that the internal body temperature is up to an acceptable level.
“It’s probably more encountered with the early morning classes because they’re rolling out of bed and it’s generally much colder at 6 a.m. than it is by the time the sun comes out in the afternoon,” said Taryn Dubreuil, owner of CrossFit Function in Yorkton, Canada. “The warm-ups will be a little bit longer and they’ll be more basic just to get that blood going.”
“We’ll do some kind of general warm-up and then specific work for the WOD that day,” explained Ryan Avery, owner/coach at Hybrid Farm in St. Cloud, MN. “And I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s longer, but we may spend more time on the general warm-up, to get that core temperature up to get them moving and feeling good. You know, so we might shift some of that time towards the general warm-up more.”
“My warm ups are gonna be a little bit longer,” added Taylor Peterson, a coach at Detour Athletics in Rochester, MN. “They’re going to be a little more in-depth, they’re going to target muscle groups that we really need to hone in on because it does take an extra five to 10 minutes for those athletes to come from their desk and drive in the cold and get into the gym and get warmed up and then get going.”
The Dubai CrossFit Championship Returns With International Roster of CrossFit Stars
The second major off-season CrossFit competition kicks off this weekend, as the Dubai CrossFit Championship makes its return after a year hiatus. The elite individual competition will take place December 16-18 with over $250,000 worth of prize money on the line.
What’s on the line: The top five overall finishers will be paid out with additional money to be earned for top-3 finishes in events. Event payouts include $3,000 for wins, $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third place finishes.
Overall Finish Payouts
Don’t be surprised if the stakes are raised in one or more of the events as the Dubai CrossFit Championship organizers have been known to sweeten the pot for the sake of competition. In 2018, the organizers upped the ante to $30,000 for the final event winner.
Who to watch: The DCC has long been the proving grounds for athletes outside of North America. The organizers have taken pride in identifying and inviting athletes specifically from Europe to compete and prove themselves against the best CrossFit athletes in the world. This year’s roster is no exception as the organizers have assembled a 40-person athlete roster with 21 different countries represented.
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