The couple started a CrossFit Kodiak Island “box” in their garage and moved into a larger retail space some 60 days later.
“We started the business in February of this year in our house in a 1,000 square foot garage and within two months had outgrown capacity,” Shanna Rockenbach said. They moved into 1,400 square feet next to GCI. Its membership has increased to 94 — astronomical growth for a gym that barely just got started.
CrossFit sees itself as an “alternative to the prevailing commercial gym establishment and its signature ‘big-box,’ machine-based, bodybuilding approach to fitness,” its website says. Its detractors write it off as a fad, and some even as dangerous because of the intensity of the workouts.
Its quick success happened for a number of reasons, Rockenbach maintains.
One is the large number of military and Coast Guard and Navy personnel on the island. There are numerous links between CrossFit and military fitness training. The second one is the growth of the CrossFit program itself. CrossFit was begun in 2000 and claims to have 9,000 gyms nationally.
Its third and fourth success factors are interlinked: community and suffering.
“You’re got a personal trainer, all the time, who is programming for you in a group atmosphere. When you’ve suffered together there’s the community that you can’t always get when you walk into your ordinary gym. You’ve got all those people that are looking to help cheer you on, help motivate you, keep you going when it gets really tough,” Rockenbach said.
CrossFit differs from standard gyms because its workouts use less equipment but occur faster and with greater intensity.
A workout consists of constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity. They have names like “Diane,” “Fran,” “Murph” and “Fight Gone Bad.”
“Murph” requires a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 300 squats, ending with another one-mile run, optional with a weighted vest or body armor. It was named in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, NY, killed in Afghanistan in 2005. This workout, then called “Body Armor,” was one of his favorites. CrossFit will offer the Murph Challenge and a free trial of their gym over Memorial Day weekend.
Shanna, 45, and Tim, 44, see it as something akin to a community service. “I had two kids, and found myself very overweight – I was 225 pounds – and managed to shed 75 of that and get back in shape and I kind of use this as a pay-it-forward,” she said.
They owned a successful sign manufacturing business in Los Angeles before coming home to Kodiak. Shanna is a braille signs expert.
“I’ve been here till I was 25, and went down to Los Angeles for the last 20 years and came back. We had a very successful business down there that we sold and we’re just looking to do something that we enjoy now,” she said.
The cost of membership in a CrossFit gym runs steep. An unlimited monthly pass to CrossFit Kodiak Island goes for $125. Their crosstown rival, Archipelago CrossFit, located downtown under Subway, costs $90 a month unlimited and has less-expensive membership options.
Yes, Kodiak actually has two CrossFit boxes. The other, Archipelago CrossFit, is located downtown. Its owner/operator is Lisa Frick, 37, a former basketball and volleyball player in college. Her box has 15 members and has fewer of the standard pieces of CrossFit gear. But “we’re able to do almost all of the same workouts besides rowing,” she said.
Still, Frick sees the competitive nature of CrossFit to have huge allure.
“For me it’s almost addicting,” Frick said. “You want to go back and see what you’re doing the next day. It has that little bit of competitive edge where you’re competing against yourself each day or you’re competing against the white board.”