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‘Tis the season to be WOD-ing: Denver-area CrossFit events this holiday season.

If incoming Christmas cookies, candy canes, and other holiday treats have you concerned about getting out of shape this holiday season, don’t worry.

These holiday-themed events are enough to keep you busy (and sore) all season long, while giving back to the community—and they’re only a selection of the CrossFit events happening this December. (See more here.)

Toys for Tots 2WOD for Toys for Tots

When: Saturday, December 2 Where: CrossFit Salvo
Registration: Closed November 20—but you can still come and watch!

Help spread holiday cheer by participating in CrossFit Salvo’s sixth annual WOD 4 Toys for Tots—or if you missed registration, just show up at CrossFit Salvo on December 2 to donate a new toy and watch the action.

The competition pits four-person teams (two males, two females) against each other. Each team receives holiday-themed T-shirts, and a sled to represent Santa’s sleigh is incorporated into the workout. A portion of the proceeds are used to buy new toys that are donated to Toys for Tots.

Who it benefits: Toys for Tots, a program run by the Marine Corps that distributes toys to children whose parents can’t afford Christmas gifts.

Learn more at wodfortoys4tots.com.

Jingle all the Weights 4Jingle All the Weights 2017

When: Saturday, December 9 Where: Fort Collins CrossFit
Registration: $110 per team. Sign up at jinglealltheweights.com.

Fort Collins CrossFit’s second annual Jingle All the Weights competition is an all-day event for two-person teams (one male, one female) in Rx and Scaled divisions. Participants are asked to bring new toys, nonperishable food items, or gently used winter gear to donate to Realities for Children’s Santa’s Workshop.

All workouts except one have already been announced on the event website.

Who it benefits: Realities for Children’s Santa’s Workshop is a Larimer County toy and winter gear distribution event. It is currently the largest distribution of toys to children in Northern Colorado who have been abused or neglected. In 2016, donations were distributed to more than 1,000 children in Larimer County.

Learn more at jinglealltheweights.com.

Holiday weightlifting meet2017 Alpine CrossFit Holiday Weightlifting Meet

When: Saturday, December 9 Where: Alpine CrossFit
Registration: Open until just before the event. $36.98 per competitor. Sign up here.

If you’ve always dreamed of having your lifts judged by someone in a Santa hat, here’s your chance. The seventh annual Alpine CrossFit Holiday Weightlifting Meet is a fun-filled competition for the heavy-lifting Christmas-lover. Expect Christmas decorations, holiday-themed apparel, and your favorite Christmas tunes.

All experience levels are welcome—and vendors will be on site, so you can do some Christmas shopping between lifts.

Who it benefits: The (Christmas) spirit of competition.

Learn more.

12-days-of-christmas-wod.jpg12 Days of Christmas Charity WOD

When: Saturday, December 16. 9 & 10:30 a.m. Where: CrossFit LoDo
Registration: No registration necessary. Just show up 10 minutes early to sign CrossFit LoDo’s waiver.

Don your holiday gear (think: elf shoes, jingle bell caps, and candy cane-striped anything) and show up at CrossFit LoDo for a charity WOD benefiting Urban Peak. The workout is the classic (dreaded) 12 Days of Christmas, but with holiday music and decorations setting the tone, it won’t be downright torture.

All fitness levels are welcome (including spectators). There’s no cost to participate, but donations are encouraged—as are plates of Christmas cookies.

Who it benefits: 100% of the proceeds raised through this event will be given to Urban Peak, an organization that serves youth in Denver and Colorado Springs who are experiencing homelessness.

Note: The workout pictured is from 2016 and not necessarily the 12 Days of Christmas WOD that will be used this year.

Learn more.

naughty-or-nice.jpgFaith Rx’ds Naughty or Nice

When & Where: Various dates and locations (below)
Registration: Register by December 5th to order an iconic Naughty or Nice shirt. Otherwise, just show up.

Give a gift. Get a lift. Sponsored by FaithRx’d, Naughty or Nice is a worldwide Christmas charity WOD. CrossFit boxes choose a local charity to benefit. FaithRx’d provides the workouts: Naughty is the harder workout; Nice is the scaled version.

Worldwide, more than 100 gyms are participating in Naughty or Nice. So far, 13 of those gyms are in the Denver area.

“We don’t actually require that [the gyms] do toys for kids, although that tends to be the approach this time of year,” said Sarah Almquist, the service coordinator for Faith Rx’d’s Denver chapter. “It’s really about each gym opening themself up to the community.”

Past Naughty or Nice events have involved potlucks and Christmas parties. Reach out to your gym of choice to find out what they’re doing.

Who it benefits: Each gym partners with a charity of their choice. Proceeds from shirt sales benefit Faith Rx’d.

Learn more at naughtyornice.events.

Naughty or Nice Dates and Locations

Saturday, December 2
CrossFit Ken Caryl
CrossFit Loop
CrossFit Omnia

Tuesday, December 5
CrossFit LTP

Wednesday, December 6
Sloans Lake CrossFit

Saturday, December 9
Backcountry CrossFit
CrossFit South Aurora
Mountainside CrossFit
Redstone CrossFit

Friday, December 15
CrossFit Arvada

Saturday, December 16
CrossFit Cherry Creek
CrossFit Encounter
CrossFit KADA

Photo credit: Alpine CrossFit

Steve’s Club Denver brings CrossFit (and more) to at-risk youth

On a Wednesday morning at 25th and Geneva in Aurora, Steve’s Club volunteer coaches are welcoming a busload of middle schoolers at a cream-colored two-story building that resembles a dumpy motel. A good chunk of the kids are wearing Adidas soccer pants and Arsenal jerseys. A few in bright orange rep the Broncos.

As they come inside, they line up for bananas—which may be the first thing they’ve eaten all day—before heading into the makeshift locker rooms and getting ready for today’s session of Steve’s Club, a CrossFit program for at-risk youth.

The story of Steve’s Club Denver starts in 2007 on the East Coast in Camden, N.J., where Steve Liberati established the club’s original chapter in the community center of a public housing complex. The whole idea was to provide CrossFit training to high school athletes who couldn’t afford an affiliate membership.

A few years later, Duncan Seawell, who grew up in Denver, was living in West Hartford, Conn., and just starting his own CrossFit journey. His garage was his gym. YouTube and the CrossFit Journal were his teachers. Increasing speed, energy, and strength were his goals.

He learned about Steve’s Club through a CrossFit Journal article and, as a child and adolescent psychologist, thought the program was awesome.

He knew, before moving back to Denver with his family in 2012, that Steve’s Club didn’t exist here. Almost as soon as he plugged into the local CrossFit community—first with Bladium CrossFit, then with Project Rise Fitness—he started working to bring a Denver chapter into existence.

“It’s a kind of perfect match for what I like to do personally, in terms of CrossFit, [and] what I do professionally in terms of the mental needs of adolescents,” he said. “I was honestly a little psyched that no one had beat me to it in the Denver area.”

With his new friends from Bladium CrossFit, he formed Steve’s Club Denver’s first board of directors and began the process of becoming a local chapter aimed at serving Denver’s at-risk youth through CrossFit training and mentorship. Spring of 2015, Steve’s Club Denver gained its official status within the national organization. May 9 of that year, it officially launched.

Steve’s Club holds mid-week classes at the building at 25th and Geneva, in a unit where Project Rise Fitness formerly had its Stapleton location. The property is under eminent domain with Aurora Public Schools, which is why Project Rise left, and the landlord is letting Steve’s Club meet there for free while its fate is in limbo. According to Duncan, the building could be gone, demolished, by December.

The space is a shell of what it used to be. The only equipment still there for Steve’s Club are a lone pull-up rig with rings hanging from one side, a couple rowers, and a bucket of PVC pipes. A dry erase goals board hangs on one wall, but there aren’t any goals on it. A Steve’s Club banner hangs on the opposite wall, alone.

Believe it or not, Duncan describes this location as one of Steve’s Club’s “biggest strokes of luck.”

When Steve’s Club started, the building also housed a learning center for Hope Online Learning Academy, a K-12 charter school that provides students a combination of face-to-face and online instruction. The proximity led to a partnership between Hope and Steve’s Club: Every Wednesday, throughout the school year, the school sends about 40 middle school students and 30 high school students to the club.

This is just one location. Steve’s Club also holds classes for Third Way Center, both in their locked residential treatment facility on Lowry and at CrossFit Broadway, where their unlocked residents are bused from Joan Farley Academy, just five blocks away. CrossFit Watchtower is the club’s newest location (shout-out Kevin Ogar), and CrossFit Stapleton is the club’s functional home base. Steve’s Club varsity athletes—kids who demonstrate interest in being involved outside of their school’s requirements—are granted membership to CrossFit Stapleton and have special classes there on Saturday mornings where they work on Olympic lifts and run through a typical CrossFit MetCon. When the club no longer has access to the old Project Rise location, the Hope students will most likely be bused to CrossFit Stapleton for their Wednesday sessions.

Luiz Sandoval, a varsity athlete from Aurora, first got involved with Steve’s Club so he could play for Hope’s soccer team. Fall 2015, with the partnership newly formed, the school required that high school students interested in being part of their soccer, basketball, or volleyball teams work out with Steve’s Club every Wednesday.

It didn’t take long for Luiz, a junior at the time, to get hooked.

It wasn’t just the exercise, though he saw the benefits of CrossFit on the soccer field. It was the community, the care the coaches had for each other and for the kids, how everyone felt welcome and seemed to have a good time.

Summer 2016, Luiz became the first Denver varsity athlete to go to Steve’s Club’s Leadership Camp, a weeklong camp held at a National Guard base in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., where kids from Steve’s Clubs all over the country come, work out four times a day, eat clean, and stay in a rural setting much different from their hometowns.

Every night at camp, athletes and coaches gather for a sharing circle.

“We’ve never videotaped it,” Duncan said, “but true believers in CrossFit would be amazed at what these kids have gone through and what they credit CrossFit for helping them to get through.”

“They really opened up without any hesitation,” Luiz said. “For people to know each other enough for them to feel safe and to trust somebody enough to open up about their home lives … that’s pretty big.”

Luiz is Duncan’s mentee, and you can tell from talking to both of them that there’s something special there, a sense of comfort that’s usually found with family. Duncan was there at camp that first year. When Luiz has been randomly absent over the last couple of years, Duncan has reached out to see what’s up.

“Duncan, he was probably my biggest support,” Luiz said, “because last year, I was having trouble with getting through high school and he just stuck with me until I got it done.”

Luiz graduated high school this past spring. His girlfriend and Duncan were the ones cheering him on at Commencement.

Steve's Club 3

Luiz (left bottom photo: in stripes; right bottom photo: in purple) graduated high school this past spring, along with another Steve’s Club athlete, Jorge.

Consistency. That’s the main thing Duncan and the rest of the Steve’s Club volunteers seek to provide to their students. It’s the main thing their students have in common, in terms of what they lack. If the adults in their lives are consistent, it’s often consistency in disappointing them or not keeping promises or just not showing up.

Go back to that Wednesday morning at the former Project Rise location. After a warmup and a game involving too many yellow cones to count, the kids are walked through the day’s workout: three rounds of 15 PVC thrusters, 15 bent-over rows, and 15 V-ups. It’s one step on the way to Fran.

As the coaches hand out PVC pipes, they offer various warnings and directions:

“This is a tool. It’s not used to hurt anybody.”

“On the ground next to you, please.”

“They’re not for sword fighting. They’re not for hitting each other. They’re not for pole vaulting.”

Every movement in the WOD is demonstrated and practiced, and then the workout begins. Most kids scale down from V-ups to sit-ups. When his coach isn’t looking, one boy in a Broncos jersey changes his thrusters to some sort of PVC push press air ballet, until another coach comes along and does thrusters right next to him.

Toward the end, coaches keep working alongside the few who still have reps to go. The last girl to finish in Trisha Hussian’s group stands after her last sit-ups, crying.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry. Did I push you too hard?’” Trisha recalled. “And she said, ‘No, it just means so much to me that you care and that when I come here, everybody cares, and I just love coming here.’”

Steve's Club 7

Trisha Hussian cheers on a Steve’s Club athlete.

Every session brings some sort of story. Sometimes they’re emotional; sometimes they’re transformational; sometimes they’re physical breakthroughs or realizations of some strength the students didn’t know they had before. A high school boy deadlifting more than 400 pounds. A high school girl walking with a new confidence and rocking exercise gear, asking how the female coaches got their legs so big. Another high school boy discovering his natural ability on the pull-up bar and ignoring the tears on his palms to keep pounding out reps.

Duncan describes Steve’s Club as a bottomless pit that will take everything he gives and still need more. Often, kids show up to Steve’s Club on empty stomachs. You never know what sort of sleep they got the night before or what trauma they’re walking around with. Coaches have to be sensitive and careful. This isn’t the freewheeling, no f****s given of your typical CrossFit gym. You have to care about the reactions that could come from a careless word or action. You have to care about the possible misinterpretations of what you do or say.

“If we’re going to mentor these kids, if we’re going to have that close bond, if we’re going to be a consistent adult in their lives each and every week, then we have to treat that relationship very carefully,” Duncan said.

That’s how you earn trust and gain rapport and build a healthy mentoring relationship. And once you’ve built it, don’t screw it up. Be someone they can count on. Sometimes, showing up is all that it takes.

Steve's Club 1

2016-2017 high school athletes at Project Rise facility. Photo credit: Laura Mahoney Photography

Learn more about Steve’s Club Denver and give a donation at their Facebook page.


Know a Denver-area CrossFit story that needs to be told? Tell us about it.