VIENNA, Va. - CrossFit is a certifiable phenomenon with over 13,000 gyms worldwide. A lot of athletes use CrossFit workouts to get back into shape after injury.
But CrossFit Rubicon in Vienna is using the workouts to help some of their athletes regain their fitness after injuries sustained not on the playing field, but on the battlefield.
This gym is like all of the other CrossFit gyms across the globe, but what sets this place apart from the rest is the makeup of their membership.
“Rubicon is like family because there is such a diverse group of athletes here,” said retired Air Force Captain Sarah Evans, who has had her left leg amputated. “You see a little bit of everything.”
The gym has everyone from soccer moms to former college athletes to amputees, such as Rubicon coach and vice chairman Jason Sturm.
“They don’t know if I’m comfortable in my own skin or if they are able to ask me questions about it or if they should just ignore that I’m missing a leg, and here we can joke about it,” said Evans.
Sturm often jokes around with Evans.
“Just earlier, Jason was like, ‘So what are you going to do for your ground and overhead. Are you going to do a split jerk?’ A split jerk is where you split your legs,” Evans said. “I feel like some other people wouldn’t feel comfortable about making that joke with me because they feel that they would offend me or hurt my feelings and we don’t have that here.”
Sturm can joke about their injuries because he has lived it.
“Shrapnel about the size of a golf ball came through the back of my leg,” he said. “You have two bones in the lower part of your leg – you have your tibia and your fibula. It hit my fibula and acted like dynamite and blew my whole lower leg apart.”
He doesn't just preach to these athletes that they can achieve anything. He is proof. Strum has turned himself into a world-class bobsledder.
“It was an absolute rush,” he said.
In his first competition as a sled driver, he won the Parabobsled World Cup. But don't call him an inspiration.
“I personally don't like the word inspiration,” Sturm said. “I want to motivate you to do something and not inspire you to feel something.”
He has his days where he thinks he can't do another rep. But when his head is down, he has a permanent reminder to pick himself up – a tattoo that reads, “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
“It will remind me to stop doing it,” said Sturm. “Stand up, you’re not injured. Yeah, you are missing a limb, but you’re not injured. You're completely fine. Get up, do work.”
Anyone who questions the motivating power of this gym should talk to Evans.
“About four years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 bone cancer,” she told us. “It was in my pelvis. I finished up my cancer treatment, which involved chemotherapy and radiation, and then eventual amputation of my leg to get rid of the cancer."
She has trained with CrossFit since her amputation. She hates taking time off. Recently, she was away from the gym for three months, but it was all for a good reason.
“I'm currently pregnant, which is a huge surprise,” Evans said.
She is pregnant and had her left leg amputated up to the hip. Yet she is at the gym lifting.
What is your excuse for skipping the gym today?
“It takes away that hesitation of ‘I don’t really think I can do 75 snatches for time today,’” Sturm said. “Well, Jason did it and he did it with broken ribs and one leg. Really don’t have much of an excuse.”
CrossFit Rubicon has a non-profit called the Adaptive Athlete Alliance and they have a program through the Department of Veteran Affairs that gives six months free training to any wounded veteran. That is a $1,200 value and they are trying to get more veterans to join their gym.
The big thing is they don't separate. Everyone works out together and they are all part of the same community.