“My only friends are from CrossFit,” laughs Katie Sparks, a member at Real Fitness since last August. “I’ve been in school for 3.5 months and haven’t met anyone who I see socially, but within just a few weeks, I was already being invited to dinner and house parties from my friends at RFS.”
After moving to Sarasota from Miami, Katie found herself back in her hometown. She felt disconnected since so many of her childhood friends no longer live here. “I walked into lululemon and met Jess. I told her I was looking for something to do, and I was hoping to meet people,” says Katie. “Jess told me I needed to go to Real Fitness.”
Katie was intimated by CrossFit’s reputation, but she signed up for the OnRamp anyway. “I felt comfortable within 30 minutes!” she says, “All the coaches are so welcoming! Even the Poppas are so friendly, which surprised me because they’re the owners. But they are all so approachable!” She says she hasn’t missed a scheduled workout day since she started. “I even stay longer than the hour, sitting around and chatting with people. Sometimes when I come early, I’m late for my class because I can’t stop talking,” she says.
Beyond being perceived as a difficult, intense workout, CrossFit has the reputation of being a third place-a meeting spot and community of like-minded people. Katie says that’s definitely been her experience, thanks to authentic and welcoming RFS members like Ashley, Kat, Mary, Becky, and Jess. “The women aren’t catty; nobody cares about how you look,” laughs Katie. “We’re all more interested if our squat looks good than if our hair looks good.” She says she loves how encouraging everyone is. When she rode horses competitively, she loved the competition, but it was definitely a solo sport. “I love the community of CrossFit,” she says. “It’s great to hear good job and you can do this.”
Along with the warm acceptance, another reason Katie says she feels so comfortable is because she trusts the coaches. “One day I felt some pain and I talked with Matt about it,” she says. “Matt asked a couple of questions, figured out what was happening and scaled the workout so I didn’t feel left out. But what really impressed me is he gave me exercises to do at home and then kept asking me how I was doing. He didn’t just forget that it happened.”
Like so many other people who come to RFS, CrossFit offers more than a a stronger body from the workouts. Meeting the challenge of the WOD empowers us, and we begin to believe in and trust ourselves. The community validates us, and the atmosphere of support and acceptance gives us a sense of place where we can grow, fail and try again.
“I just love it,” she says. “It’s my thing. I talk about CrossFit all the time, trying to get people to try it … except that I don’t talk about it to everyone; I only want to tell the fun people.”