Visit to CrossFit Amundson

CrossFitters who are fans of the culture and history of CrossFit have a new item to put on their proverbial life list: a visit to CrossFit Amundson in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Close to being in business now for three months, Greg Amundson opened his new box as a way to honor the past from which he was (and is) a huge part. Spend a night surfing around and you’ll come across a wide range of articles written either by Amundson or about Greg Amundson (aka the original “Firebreather”–for a great sample from the archives check out this video of Amundson talking about the mechanics of goal setting and how they’ve meshed with CrossFit and the exploration of the question, can someone keep improving within a decade of CrossFitting?). Amundson, with elite-level police credentials, has also served throughout a spectrum of duties in law enforcement, at both state and federal levels.

In 2011, Amundson stepped down from full-time work in law enforcement. He is now a Reserve Peace Officer in Santa Cruz. “I’ve flipped things around,” he told me last week. “I’m now working full-time on my passion, CrossFit, and part-time at my career.” Additionally, Amundson is meshing both his passion for CrossFit and his dedication to fellow officers CrossFit’s liaison with the law enforcement community. Part of this commitment includes developing and teaching a new CrossFit Law Enforcement Seminar, introducing CrossFit to police departments.

Again, this is all part of the DNA of CrossFit. Founder Greg Glassman designed his definition of fitness around the concept of preparing clients, like a local Sheriff named Greg Amundson, for “the unknown and the unknowable”–the fact that when either a soldier, a firefighter or a police officer responds to a situation he/she has to be prepared for whatever physical variables or mixture of variables might be thrown their way (e.g., climbing a ladder with a 100-pound load, a quarter mile sprint, swimming to save some one, jumping a barrier, dealing with extreme heat or cold, etc.)

I asked Amundson about the new box he’s opened. Simply by the way it’s structured he’s made it clear his intent is not to make a financial killing the way some of the larger more established gyms in the country are. He’s limiting it to 100 members and the monthly membership is $99 per month for unlimited classes, well below the customary price you typically see in a city CrossFit box. CrossFit Amundson also has significant discounts for those in military/public safety jobs.

“The Crew” at CrossFit Amundson.

“I’ve accomplished every goal I’ve ever set for myself,” Amundson said. “What I want to do now is dedicate myself to helping others realize their goals.”

Amundson also wants to rekindle the fire of the original CrossFit box that was located on 2851 Research Park Drive (Amundson wrote a story about the original gym for the CrossFit Journal—to this day he still recalls the phone number he was given to call and how Coach Glassman answered and told him to come in the next morning for a workout).

In 2007, Coach Glassman “gifted” ownership of the original gym, which at the time Amundson didn’t have time to operate (he was working on the southern border for as a DEA officer). Another reason Amundson says he has opened the new box is to rekindle the spirit of the original CrossFit HQ.

I watched Amundson work with his new coaches and with his noon class of four people (including me). There has never been a better advertisement for the mix of CrossFit and the Zone diet, I thought: Amundson seems to have an unlimited abundance of positive energy at his disposal. And there’s nothing erratic about it: it’s all very focused and steady.

I asked David Millar, one of Amundson’s coaching staff and a top-level CrossFit athlete, what impressed him about Amundson’s coaching skills.

“What’s great about Greg is that he can look at an athlete of any level and see what they’re doing, and how they can improve, and he’ll give them the most valuable thing for them to work on. One thing at a time. He could probably give them 20 things because he knows this stuff so well, but he knows the most effective approach is to break things down into the simple most important steps.”

I’d mentioned this in a previous blog post but it’s worth saying again. When Amundson took the group through the warm-up there was nothing throw-away about it. He was giving this group, most who have probably done the warmup dozens of times with him, 100% concentration and effort, talking the group through the each step of the warm-up with clear guidelines and pointers.

Amundson is not just out to recreate the spirit of the original CrossFit gym: there’s also a physical element.

“Some of this is equipment from the Coach Glassman’s gym,” he said. He pointed to an ergometer that was set out for the upcoming met-con. “Like that rower,” Amundson said with a smile.

He then pointed to the whiteboard that had the workout written on it:

For time:

800 meter Row
20 pound Wallball, 25 shots
25 Toes to Bar
20 pound Wallball, 25 shots
25 Push-Ups
20 pound Wallball, 25 shots
25 Pull-Ups
800 Meter Run

“When I first started with CrossFit, Coach Glassman told me that I should write down everything in a journal. So one thing I’m doing is looking through my journal and pulling out some of the workouts from the early days. Like today’s. This was one of Coach’s workouts.”

The four of us did the workout. During the Toes to Bar, Amundson watched my technique and gave me a tip on how to more efficiently raise my legs using more power from the core muscles. It instantly made the movement smoother and easier to do.

During the run, Amundson stood outside as we did two laps around the El Rancho shopping center where the gym is staked out in front. Amundson cheered everyone on. I imagined that that’s just the way Coach Glassman use to do it on Research Park Drive.

For those into the history of CrossFit the way I am, a visit to CrossFit Amundson is a must.

In Inside the Box, veteran journalist and marathoner T.J. Murphy goes all in to expose the gritty, high-intensity sport of CrossFit®. From staggering newcomer to evangelist, Murphy finds out how it feels, why it’s so popular, and whether CrossFit can fix his broken body.