A number of people have recently asked me about some of the unique aspects of the gym—“What’s with the pirate stuff?” for example—so I thought I’d write a few posts about the history and philosophy of our gym.
The first deals with Dale’s Garage.
Some of the best bands have started in garages. So have some pretty amazing gyms.
CrossFit 204 unofficially started in 2009 at the Assiniboine Athletic Club as a nameless bootcamp held two or three times a week. We had lots of dumbbells and stairs but not a lot of barbells. And we certainly couldn’t drop any weights. I tried that one night after the gym was closed and the security guard shut it down pretty quickly.
“What are you doing?”
In order to do some Olympic lifting, we would sometimes go to U of W, where I once maxed out a snatch with the feet of a bench presser actually on the Oly platform in front of me. It was that crowded. U of W also banned the dropping of weights during certain hours, and it seemed the platforms were mostly coveted for skipping sessions.
Around that time we started dropping in and training Sunday mornings with A.J. at Focus Fitness. That was where we all did most of our lifting, though the front sidewalk on Spence Street worked at times, too. We had met Dale through Crystal’s friend Jenny, and when Focus moved to the Iceplex outside the Perimeter, Dale came through and offered up his large garage, which was heated and had been tricked out with a pull-up bar, a set of rings, a wooden squat rack, assorted other equipment, and a VCR so we could play Rocky IV while we trained. The music was limited exclusively to hair metal: Poison, Guns ’N Roses, Mötley Crüe, etc.
Just about every Sunday in 2010, we’d pack the car with gear and drive over. Dale and Kaylyn would have coffee waiting, and we’d do all sorts of lifting. Dale taught me important stuff, such as how to use a jigsaw and the proper meat-to-bun ratio when crafting the perfect burger. I got stuck under a giant tire once, and another time I almost dropped a barbell on Dale’s dog while doing overhead lunges through knee-deep snow in a Santa suit.
Soon enough, Brett and Will started joining Dale, Crystal and me, with Brett having been part of my original introduction to CrossFit in another garage—Todd’s—back in 2008 or so. Weppler came by too, mostly to flip Vader. And there were others, too.
By the end of the year, between the Sunday garage sessions, the classes at the AAC, and a rapidly growing collection of equipment, it just seemed like a good idea to open a gym. What was really important was maintaining the atmosphere of the original garage, as well as the rugged nature of swinging a kettlebell in the depths of a dark staircase in Fort Garry Place.
The gym originally started because a bunch of friends found they got fitter training together in a garage, supporting each other, encouraging each other and challenging each other. And having fun. Interestingly, amongst all the Crüe, shenanigans and burgers, we all got better at Fran, Grace and everything else. Some of our garage friends got so fit they were able to compete at the Regional level and stick with the top athletes in Western Canada. All that from a garage with a gnarly wooden squat cage, plenty of coffee and an old dog named Marty.
When the gym opened on Berry Street, it was founded on the same simple principles: good people having fun getting fit together. Nothing complicated, nothing too shiny, no style without substance. Just friends and grit. And coffee, of course. We even had dogs in the gym for a while until Jr.’s buddy Odin started looking aggressive as he dragged a 70-lb. kettlebell toward another beast.
Best of all, a lot of our old friends from the AAC and Dale’s garage came to join us, and many are still around today.
To remind us of where we came from, and to commemorate those great Sunday sessions, we installed an open-gym slot on Sunday morning and called it Dale’s Garage. Dale actually built about half the equipment in the gym, including the D1000, so it’s a pretty fitting handle.
While group classes are our main focus, Dale’s Garage and the other skill sessions are there so everyone can experience what we got to experience: the simple joy of showing up to test yourself, improve your skills, try something new and hang out with friends with no real agenda other than to lift something or breathe hard.
We have skill work programmed to keep you on track, but Dale’s Garage is really just legislated playtime in which people can get together and have fun while being fit. It’s one of the most important parts of 204.
Next time: The Origins of the Jolly Roger