Real Fitness Sarasota
Atta Boy
Group Classes
Real Fitness Sarasota
31 Heroes at RFS CrossFit
Real Fitness Sarasota
Real Fitness Sarasota
Get Started at RFS CrossFit!
Get Started at RFS CrossFit!


Intro.Onramp Smartblock Small


r.vWe love hearing about the journey members have when they come to Real Fitness—the initial terror, the euphoria when they complete their first WOD, the confidence as they see improvement, and the satisfaction from friendships that grow within our great community. It’s a similar story told by many of our members. It’s the story of Russell Knight … and of his wife, Vangie.

Russell says he remembers reading a description of how a person feels going into the first WOD: two minutes before is nervous anticipation. Two minutes in, you’re convinced you’re going to die. Two minutes after, you’re asking to do it again. “That’s how I’ve felt since the first day I tried CrossFit in January, 2013,” says Russell.

His wife Vangie noticed Russell’s improvement from CrossFit and joined him at RFS in April 2013. Together, they attended the 6 pm class, encouraging each other to push through the WOD and make healthy choices outside the gym. In the fall of 2013, they completed the Paleo Challenge, and Russell took second place!

Vangie_cropIn October, 2013, they participated in GRACE, the benchmark workout of 30 Clean & Jerks that’s performed in CrossFit gyms throughout the world to raise money for the BARBELLS FOR BOOBS organization. Proceeds raised through Barbells for Boobs give women of any age and income level access to mammograms for the early detection of breast cancer.

Three months later, in January 2014, Vangie began to complain of pain. Thinking it was her form or technique, they asked the coaches—and eventually a physical therapist for advice to manage the pain. But after weeks of therapy, her pain continued. Then in March, Vangie noticed a lump on her breast.

“They said it was breast cancer, but they weren’t sure which strain it was,” explains Russell. “Still, they treated it immediately and as best they could.” Seeing Vangie’s response to the chemo, the Dr. recommended they withdraw treatment. “They told me no matter what they did, Vangie wouldn’t be here next week,” Russell explained. Two days later, on April 2, 2014, they transported Vangie from her hospital room to a hospice facility, with Russell following close behind. “When I walked into the room and saw her, I took her hand and said, I’m here. She opened her eyes, which she hadn’t been able to do, took a few breathes … and that was it,” says Russell. Vangie died of breast cancer at the age of 48.

Russell says he felt incredible support from the coaches at RFS. “Really, everyone showed concern, but the coaches—they were like family.” It’s been a hard, dark 6 months for Russell, both emotionally and physically. “I’m discouraged with the shape I let myself get into,” he says. “I’ve rearranged my schedule, and now I’m going to the morning class, but it’s still hard. I haven’t gotten my ‘LET’S KILL THIS WOD’ attitude back yet. I know it’s because I am really missing her companionship and encouragement during the WODs.”

rv“Sometimes I sit back and think about all that’s happened,” says Russell. “I know it’s cliché, but you just never think it’s going to happen to you. So, I guess if I could say just one thing, I’d tell women to go get tested. Go early—even if you’re scared it’ll hurt. And guys—encourage your women to go. We’ve all heard it in a Nike commercial, and in this case, it can save a life: Just do it.”

Real Fitness is participating in the BARBELLS for BOOBS fundraiser on Saturday, October 4. We will perform GRACE on the hour from 8a-12p. Russell will be there, in memory of Vangie. We encourage ALL our members to join him and to donate (and raise donations) at

Posted in | Leave a comment

katie1“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.”

IMG_0217Katie 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.”

Posted in | Leave a comment

Two important events are coming up in the next couple of weeks, and we wanted to give you plenty of time to put the dates in your calendars!


Click to enlarge image.

“The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan”
Monday, August 25, 11:30a-2p

Meet Jessica Buchanan and listen as she shares her story of being kidnapped by Somali pirates and rescued by NAVY SEALS.  This event at the Sarasota Yacht Club is a Benefit for the Brian Bill Foundation, an organization RFS members supported through our MURPH event last May. Grab some friends and reserve a seat (or a table). You won’t want to miss this! SEAL Richard Kaiser, Executive Director of the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, FL will also be there to talk about Navy Special Warfare. For tickets and more info, go to:

Monday, Sept. 1, 8a-Noon

The 31 Heroes Project was conceived in response to the Extortion 17 helicopter crash in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011 killing 30 military service members, as well as one military working dog. Many of the fallen were Special Operators from the Navy SEAL community.

The first 31 HEROES WOD was held four weeks after that tragic event, and now CrossFit gyms all across the country pay tribute to the 31 Heroes between August and September.

Real Fitness Sarasota will hold our 31 Heroes WOD on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1. We’ll be open 8a-noon, running heats on the hour. Our hope is that all our members participate in this grueling partner WOD and donate to the organization that supports the families of these fallen heroes. TO DONATE and to see the WOD, go to

Posted in | Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 3.06.23 PMThis weekend kicks off a string of CrossFit competitions for RFS members! Coach Matt heads to Miami for the Miami Soul Classic and Sophie, Tommy, Tanya, Katie and Cherisse will throw down in the Thunderdome in Estero. Every athlete looks forward to these events with anticipation, wondering how they’ll stack up against the competition, but for one of our members, this weekend is particularly meaningful.

photo 1-2Cherisse Kellemen has been a gymnast since she was 5. As a high school athlete, she was on track for college scholarships until her knee started to give her trouble. After her second ACL surgery, her doctor sidelined her. Cherisse tried finding a sport she loved as she did gymnastics: she considering trying out as a BUCS Cheerleader; she looked into competitive fitness competitions, and tried her hand at yoga and boxing. Nothing stuck, and she found herself gaining weight and losing her edge.

In January of 2012, a friend introduced her to CrossFit. “We went through the warm-up and then the coach said it was time for the workout,” says Cherisse. “I was shocked, because I thought that was the workout. Right there, I fell in love with it.” A month later the CrossFit Open started and Cherisse learned about the competitive culture within CrossFit. She came in 725th in that year’s open.The following year, she was 136th.

photo 2-3Cherisse placed herself under the coaching of Spencer Arnold and began training with intensity for the 2014 Open. But then her injury surfaced. “I was doing a burpee box jump, and I felt the pop I know so well,” she says. “I knew that was it.” In September of 2013, she had surgery, but four months into her recovery, she lifted a kettlebell and felt her other knee pop. This time, she opted for therapy over surgery. In April 2014, she was cleared to begin training again. (Anyone who knows Cherisse knows she never really stopped altogether! Spencer had her on an upper body, single-leg rehab program!)

throwdownsCherisse is training with a goal in mind: She wants to secure a spot in the Granite Games in Minnesota. Similar to the Open, WODs for the Granite Games are announced on Thursdays, and athletes have to complete them and submit their scores. The Top 70 athletes make it to the games in St. Cloud. (The final WOD is announced today! Cherisse will complete it before her rest day tomorrow as she heads into the weekend for the competition.)

We asked her expectations for the weekend and her first competition since her surgery. “Well, I’m really glad to be doing it with a team,” she said. “And, really, I just want to go and have fun, it doesn’t matter if we wi–” Wait. That’s not what she said. “My hope for the weekend? Well, I want us to stand on the podium, of course.” Ah. There it is. Love your fighting spirit, Cherisse.

We’re proud of you, Cherisse-and of all the RFS athletes who are willing to test themselves in these competitions! GOOD LUCK!

Posted in | Leave a comment

Client Success Stories

Michelle Pennie

I was lucky to find Mike, Chris and Tanya at Real Fitness Sarasota during a rough point in my career. I needed an outlet after many stressful days and looked forward to my daily WOD (workout of the day) at 5pm. I knew if I could get through my day, then I could get through Read More »


Steve Wieder

I have been working out at conventional gyms most of my life from bigbox/big name gyms to small individualized gyms and everything in between. The common link with all of them was the “this is the way we’ve always done it” attitude: cardio mixed with free weights and machine training; upper body one day… Read More »



Bottom Promo

Like Us on Facebook!