The first time Amber King walked into a CrossFit gym almost eight years ago, she immediately saw people participating in ring “muscle-ups” — an advanced gymnastics move. Then she noticed someone else dead-lifting 400 pounds.
“I’m like, ‘eh, I think I’m in the wrong place,’” she recalled. “But as soon as I came in, the coach came over, he said ‘no, no, no — those people have been doing this for a long time; let’s just start with very basic stuff.’”
Nowadays, Amber and her husband, Thom King, have experienced the health benefits as a result of their personal progressions through CrossFit. They’re both coaches and along with Carlos Nuno, co-own Chiseled Spirit CrossFit in Philomath.
“Most people, once they come in for that first class and give it a little try, then they’re ‘OK, I can do this,’” Thom said. “And when they see the other people that are here and the different levels that people are at when they walk in the door, they don’t feel so intimidated.”
Early on, the coaches run members through a fundamentals class that provides an overview and introduction to the CrossFit methodology.
“If people call and say ‘hey, I want to try, I’m a little nervous, I haven’t really done anything for a long time other than sitting on the couch’ then we immediately go into everything that we do is scalable,” Thom said. “We have completely different levels of people that come in our doors and we change and modify whatever it is that they need to do to be at their level.”
Opened in January 2020
Chiseled Spirit CrossFit opened its doors in January 2020 at 1819 Main St., and the owners saw a promising start. Amber teaches physical education at Philomath High and will be entering her third year in the position this next school year. Thom works for the Community Health Centers of Benton and Linn Counties and this past June, he took over as the executive director.
“We met through CrossFit and we both really enjoyed it, loved the community aspect of it and wanted to bring something into Philomath,” Amber said. “We saw the need and the drive and wanted to make it kid friendly where families could come and get involved.”
Nuno, also a Philomath resident, previously owned a CrossFit gym in Utah and has a background as a former professional athlete. Nuno brought experience with the business side of the venture.
After the launch, Chiseled Spirit had various CrossFit classes going on, one example being the “Chiseled All-Stars” group that targeted preteens. But just six weeks after opening, the pandemic restrictions kicked in and that included the closing of gyms.
“We had just gotten going and people were thinking this is cool,” Amber said. “In the beginning it was starting to build up and then we were closed for two months.”
All of a sudden, the promising start turned into a scary situation. Bills still needed to be paid and the owners were afraid people wouldn’t come back upon reopening.
“There were so many nights that both of us are like, ‘what did we just get ourselves into?’” Amber said.
On top of the business, Amber’s teaching job transitioned into the challenges of online learning while Thom started his new position. As for the finances, the investment in the business went beyond the original amount that the owners wanted to put into it.
“We just had to keep dipping more into savings to keep it functioning, keep it running, keep it going,” Thom said.
COVID-19 reliefs grants came through, however, to provide much-needed relief.
“Without that, it would’ve been really tough at that point,” Thom said.
Exactly what is CrossFit?
CrossFit’s definition can be summed up in the company’s slogan — “constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.” Functional movements serve as a basis for the workouts with elements of gymnastics, weightlifting, cardio, running, rowing and more worked in.
“The cool part about it is that you’re constantly changing things, so you don’t get bored with it and your body doesn’t plateau. You’re always putting stresses upon it,” Amber said.
Thom added that a common expression found in the CrossFit world is the phrase, “health, happiness and performance.”
“With the health piece, people first started going to CrossFit because they wanted the health side,” he said. “They wanted to lower their blood pressure or get off diabetic medications if they had those. They want to get their cardiac health better, those kinds of things. Once they start going, they get the health side of it.”
The happiness piece follows.
“Then you start meeting people. Here we have members from 71 years old to 4 in the CrossFit kids class,” he added. “Once you’re in there, you have the happiness side. You get the benefit of your endorphins going and all kinds of stuff like that and you meet all these people so there’s a social aspect of it.”
Finally, the performance component becomes visible.
“Once you get the health and happiness, once you’ve been here probably a little longer, then you start to see the changes,” Thom said. “Let’s say when you first started, you couldn’t run 400 meters and back. It’s infinitely scalable, you can scale anything. … Maybe after a year, rather than you can’t run 400 meters, maybe you’re running a mile and two years from that, your mile time’s down more and you’re getting stronger and you’re able to do all kinds of other things.
“You start seeing that performance side of things,” he added. “You’re getting healthier, you’re getting happier, you’re getting the performance so it is all just kind of a cycle.”
Other programs related to health have found their way into programs at Chiseled Spirit, including a physical therapist who works people overcoming previous injuries or regaining movement. A certified nutritionist is also in the picture with plans for the business to host quarterly seminars that will be free for members.
Coming up with the name
Chiseled Spirit is an affiliate of CrossFit Inc., and the parent company did need to approve the business’s name.
“We tried something related to Warriors, something with Philomath Warriors and we tried every arrangement of words with that,” Thom said. “We just cannot use the word Warrior because somebody (another CrossFit gym) within 200 miles has that name.”
Warrior spirit evolved into Chiseled Spirit CrossFit and the new owners had their name.
Amber said she really wanted to make sure Chiseled Spirit maintains the family atmosphere. When opening, the gym featured a “kids’ corner,” although that’s been suspended with current COVID-19 restrictions in place.
“I really wanted it to be family friendly and the kids could be there while you are working out,” said Amber, the couple having three kids of their own. “It’s a good thing for the kids to see that you’re doing something healthy. They watch everything, so they want to learn that, too.”
After the initial shutdown, Thom started posting at-home workouts online for people to follow. The business went through a cycle of opening back up and then closing again.
“We could be inside with a mask, and then no you’re closed again, then we could be outside,” Thom said. “We were bobbing and weaving and ducking and diving as much as we could.”
The outside workouts even went on with chilly temperatures and snow on the ground. Amber said the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo graciously made a tent available for them to rent at a very affordable price.
“In the last three weeks, you could feel some of the momentum with new members coming and people getting punch cards and people trying us out, especially since we’re inside,” Thom said. “I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but I think the New Year’s resolution was delayed a little bit because everything was shut down everywhere. Maybe instead of Jan. 1 … it was delayed to Feb. 1.”
Chiseled Spirit may have moved indoors but fresh air still makes its way into the building with garage doors that can be opened.
The building that Chiseled Spirit rents had formerly housed a mechanic’s shop on one side and an electrician on the other. The building’s owner made some improvements, such as new bathrooms, and a shower went in for people who needed to freshen up after a workout before heading to work.
Chiseled Spirit’s staff currently includes five coaches — the three co-owners along with Kari Jaques and Bri Rockler, who is also a yoga instructor.
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