CrossFit challenged

Students seek approval for burgeoning fitness program

Storm Patterson
Image by: Alex Choi
Storm Patterson

CrossFit Queen’s is searching for a permanent home.

Callum Owen and Storm Patterson have been trying to establish a sanctioned CrossFit club at Queen’s since the start of the school year. They’ve organized group workout sessions at the ARC, expanding the CrossFit Queen’s Facebook group to over 550 members.

CrossFit is a comprehensive workout program scalable to any level of strength. It targets overall fitness by combining basic functional movements with weight training.

The issue, according to the organizers, is Athletics and Recreation’s refusal to cooperate.

Owen, PheKin ’15, said ARC staff members have begun breaking up their group workouts over the past month, following a series of meetings with Athletics and Recreation management.

According to Owen, they took issue with the workouts’ instructional aspect.

Owen said he and Patterson sought to understand their restrictions, but weren’t given any guidelines.

“There’s no clear line written out for what the allowances are for this style of thing,” Owen said.

He and Patterson have been told continuing with organized CrossFit workouts could result in the loss of their ARC memberships.

“It’s almost like CrossFit has been labeled as this negative, intrusive thing at the ARC, when in reality, it’s this incredibly positive and beneficial thing,” he said.

Owen and Patterson initially approached Athletics and Recreation in September after being referred as a potential fitness club by the AMS. According to Owen, they were quickly rebuffed.

“[Athletics and Recreation] couldn’t see how other students would want to participate in this, so they basically wiped it off the table,” Owen said. “We were just a little bit shocked that they were so dismissive of the idea.”

Owen and Patterson soon joined forces with two other Queen’s students — Alex Wilson and Cameron Catsburg. According to Owen, the four met with Athletics and Recreation coordinators again in October.

Owen said the group was taken aback by the counteroffer they received: running CrossFit as a for-profit Athletics and Recreation Fitness and Wellness program.

“[Running] it that way would completely detract from our original vision,” Owen said. “We would have hoped that the centre of health and wellness on campus would be supportive of an initiative that puts the health and wellness of students first, and not their financial interests.”

Despite the lack of a formal agreement, the four began spearheading organized CrossFit sessions at the start of January, performing most exercises in a hallway outside an ARC lifting zone.

As membership grew larger, Owen said ARC staff members started inhibiting the group sessions. According to Owen, the group was accused over email of endangering the health and safety of participants.

“It’s just become a hostile territory, not just for me personally, but for the other people wanting to do CrossFit,” Owen said. “Every time we go in the gym now, we’re being watched.”

After meeting again with Athletics and Recreation this past Tuesday, the group decided to put all organized training sessions on hold until they can secure permanent workout space.

They’ve begun pursuing other options in the meantime, including reopening talks with the AMS to become a sanctioned club.

According to Jeff Downie, Associate Director of Business Development and Facilities with Queen’s Athletics & Recreation, their initial concerns were related to facility management and the lack of regulations in place.

Downie said CrossFit could likely function as either a recreation club or a Fitness and Wellness program under Athletics and Recreation.

“It could probably fit under either model,” he said. “The bottom line for either one is that there has to be appropriate processes and safety and risk management pieces involved.”

One such process would be to ensure all instructors are properly certified to teach CrossFit. According to Downie, Athletics and Recreation consults applicable provincial or national sporting bodies for direction on the certification process in all sports.

Downie said ARC members aren’t allowed to provide formal instruction to others while working out — a common rule in many gyms due to liability reasons.

“We have a responsibility to our members,” Downie said. “That responsibility extends to ensuring the instruction they’re receiving is coming through a qualified source.”

Though he hasn’t been involved in any formal talks with the CrossFit group, Downie said Athletics and Recreation regularly suggests the option of creating a formal Fitness and Wellness program for higher-risk activities.

“[Let’s say] people come into our facility, they grab a corner of space, they say ‘I’m running a CrossFit class’ — and somebody drops, collapses,” Downie said. “We want to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“It shouldn’t be implied that the activity can’t take place — it just has to be done in the right way.”


ARC, Athletics, Callum Owen, CrossFit, Recreation, Storm Patterson

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