Over the past four years, Phil Gothard has observed a noteworthy trend at his Dubuque CrossFit gym.
"Typically if someone can make it for three months here, then they are hooked," he said. "By that point they can see their lifts getting bigger, their times getting faster, their fitness profile getting more balanced."
Still, Gothard admits that making it that far isn't always easy. In CrossFit, after all, "easy" is a word that rarely applies.
Founded in 2000 in California, CrossFit, Inc. is a fitness company that incorporates elements of powerlifting, gymnastics, interval-training and multiple other disciplines across the sporting spectrum. The official CrossFit website sums up the company philosophy by noting that its "specialty is not specializing."
CrossFit's strength and conditioning programs have been utilized by police academies, military special operations units and elite athletes.
However, its mainstream popularity is a more recent phenomenon, Gothard said.
"It's really only caught on in the last eight years and it has grown more and more since then," he said.
Earning a Following
Gothard, 31, first learned about CrossFit when he was half a world away from Dubuque.
Gothard, whose special operations unit had been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2005, returned to Iraq in 2009 after landing a job with security provider Triple Canopy.
For three years, Gothard was part of a 12-man team that protected the highest-ranking U.S. official in Iraq. Gothard turned to the CrossFit methodology to stay in shape while working in Baghdad and brought those principles back to the U.S. in 2011.
Becoming a CrossFit affiliate is relatively easy. Members must complete a weekend training course and pay an up-front affiliation fee, Gothard said. Additional fees are due on an annual basis if an affiliate wants to continue using the CrossFit name.
Gothard opened his first CrossFit gym at 3188 Hughes Court in October 2011 and moved to his current location at 3080 Cedar Crest Ct. in February 2014
The new facility is approximately twice the size of his previous one, providing adequate space for a growing membership base that now sits at around 130 athletes.
Dubuque resident Julie Kieffer, 49, joined CrossFit Dubuque three years ago with her long-term health in mind.
"I want to be able to enjoy my kids' kids," she said.
Since becoming a member, Kieffer has benefited from the sense of camaraderie with others at the gym.
"Sometimes working out can be a task," she said. "Having a group of people that will support me and push me is an important thing."
Kieffer's husband, son and daughter also have embraced CrossFit as a way to improve their fitness.
"I think it has made be stronger physically and mentally," said Kieffer's 20-year-old daughter, Katie. "It has taught me more about what I am capable of."
While Gothard blazed the trail for CrossFit in the Dubuque area, others are beginning to expand on that example.
CrossFit Restoration, located at 340 E. 12th Street in Dubuque, opened its doors in November 2012 and CrossFit Galena followed suit in April.
Approximately four months after opening, CrossFit Galena co-owner Craig Ketelsen said the gym, located at 239 N Main. St., boasts just under 60 members.
Ketelsen, 41, said he has been involved with CrossFit for approximately three years now,
"At the time I joined, I was overweight and a little bit lazy and looking for some change in my life," Ketelsen said. "Now I am in the best shape I've been in since college." Ketelsen said some people can be wary of CrossFit. New members must embrace the proper perspective.
"I think some people see CrossFit on TV and it is a little intimidating," he said. "People need to understand that, when they come in, we go at their speed and their level. People often think 'I need to be in shape to do CrossFit.' I think it is the opposite. They need to do CrossFit so they can be in shape."
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