A new Shaftesbury fitness facility opens next month. Ansty businessmen Chris Garrett became passionate about CrossFit after the exercise regime changed his life. He showed Alfred ‘the ropes’ at his new gym.
Friday was a red-letter day for Chris Garrett. He picked up the keys to a new unit on the Wincombe Business Park. Number 13D will soon become home to his venture, CrossFit Shaftesbury.
Chris had taken possession of this workspace for only an hour when I called in to see him. His dream becoming a reality was still sinking in. “It’s brilliant. I have waited a long time for this and now to open the doors is incredible,” he beamed.
It has taken a long time. Shaftesbury Town councillors voted to support Chris’ planning application in August. The proposal then went down to Dorchester for Dorset Council to offer its approval. “I just want it finished now. I want it done. I want to get it open and get everybody in,” said Chris.
In preparing the space for the first customers, Chris has borrowed a large, blue extendable platform – a scissor lift. He broke off from chatting to climb onto the footplate as it rose up, allowing him to reach the high ceiling of the industrial unit. Chris had to place an important piece of CrossFit workout kit. “The cherry picker isn’t part of the gym. We have been hanging the ropes ready for climbing and different types of intense exercise,” said Chris. “So when you walk in the door, please don’t feel intimidated if somebody is at the top of a 16ft rope.”
I pointed out that the prospect of climbing a 16ft rope was intimidating to me. “You’ll get there. It’s going to be fine,” says Chris. “Everybody is going to be able to climb a rope eventually,’ he added.
The rope will be well used. “Many workouts involve climbing ropes or progressions to climb the rope,” Chris continued. “With CrossFit, it’s constantly varied. You will never do the same workout each day. It’ll always be different.”
Once he was lowered back down to the floor, Chris demonstrated his level of fitness. He grabbed the rope and hauled himself up to the top where he touched the ceiling, to prove that he could, and quickly descended again. It all seemed effortless.
Chris, an electrician by trade, has run the inflatable hire company Jumparoo for the last nine years, from the village of Ansty. We joked that CrossFit recruits will soon be able to scale to the top of the village’s famous Maypole.
Obviously, as Chris has just taken ownership of this industrial space, it’s fairly empty. I asked how different the unit will appear when the first customers come in on 2nd March. “When the doors open, there’s going to be a 30ft long ‘rig’ which will be full of pull-up bars and squat stations for the barbells to sit on, so we can do front squats and back squats. There will be medicine balls to throw at targets within workouts. There will kettle bells, skipping ropes, every bit of cardio equipment including rowing machines. It’s going to be very high intensity, and very quick. It’s going to be good,” smiled Chris
He is keen to get the doors open. “Now the fun begins. Building the gym, building the community. High-intensity exercise is the main aim, to get people stronger and fitter and healthier.”
I was interested that Chris spoke of building a community. Individuals achieving fitness goals together is the ethos of this international fitness regimen, which started in the United States. “Within CrossFit, there is a big community where everybody can go to each other’s CrossFit gyms, not only in England but worldwide,” he explained. It means that if you go on holiday to Cornwall, you can pop into the local classes. “It’s what we call a drop-in facility,” said Chris.
As part of this reciprocal arrangement, CrossFit affiliates are expected to achieve a level of competency, which Chris has. “My wife and I are both Level One qualified CrossFit coaches. We have to meet a certain standard.”
Chris is a good ambassador for the CrossFit concept. The high-intensity exercise programme has changed his life. Chris appeared trim and worked out, and looked the part of a fitness instructor in has black tracksuit. Chris stands around 5’10” tall and says his appearance five years ago was very different. “I was nearly seventeen stone. I was about four stone overweight. I’m now roughly about 13 stone. I feel stronger, healthier and fitter. Even though I am middle-aged at thirty-eight, I feel like eighteen,” said Chris, as he reflected on his former self.
“I felt very lethargic. I had no energy,” he continued. “I went to a friend of mine who is a nutritionist and a personal trainer. I asked for help because I felt I would end up with loads of health issues and probably be on medication for the rest of my life. I told her what I ate, and she said she wouldn’t detox me because I’d probably end up in hospital. She told me to follow her plan for four weeks. The weight fell off. I just kept going with a balanced diet of protein, fats and carbs and I started training regularly.”
Chris says he would never go back to his old dietary habits and lifestyle. Now, when he has a CrossFit session, he focuses on indulgent treats to get him through the workout, which can be intense. “Your arms are aching. Your muscles are aching. But I think, ‘If I can finish, I might be able to have some ice cream tonight or a nice pint of lager’. It is a reward. I never used to watch what I was eating or drinking but now, I don’t want to worry about what I will be eating if I go out. I will never be overweight again. Never,” insisted Chris.
CrossFit Shaftesbury opens next month, with the first classes scheduled for 2nd March. Chris says CrossFit is arranged around the classes. “Always coach-led, group classes. In between those sessions, there is an open gym, where you can come in and practice any sort of CrossFit skill that you want to brush up on.”
He says that the classes concept differs from most gyms, where you come and go as you please. He thinks that Shaftesbury’s other new gym, Wincombe Lane, offers something different so he doesn’t view it as direct competition. “CrossFit fit is very structured. As soon as you are through the door, the coaches are there to motivate you and help you to get the best out of that one hour session. It’s not a commercial gym where you just come in and use your leg press. That’s not how it’s run.”
Chris will have some long days, initially. “The first class will run from 6.30am in the morning. Then we will have ones at 9.30am, 12.30pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm in the evening. We are trying to cater to everybody.”
Chris has been part of the CrossFit community in Wiltshire. Now he wants to create the same group experience in Shaftesbury. “I just want to build my own, to be part of something where you walk through the door and, for that one hour, nothing else matters. The stresses of life all go. That’s a big thing. It will mean the world to them,” he says.
Chris has shown that motivation can pay off with his weight loss and fitness success. And if he applies the same determination to the business, CrossFit Shaftesbury is bound to be a success. “This new venture, for me, means the world,” said Chris. “And it will succeed. I’ve always worked hard and I will never be beaten at anything.”