Sarasota CrossFit Gym Finds a New Home in Historic Rosemary District Building
Since 2014, downtown Sarasota's Seaward CrossFit has been reminding the community that fitness, even extreme fitness, can be accessible to everyone.
CrossFit consists of lifting really heavy things, like weights and truck tires, climbing ropes, jumping onto tall boxes and much more. Professionals compete once a year at the national CrossFit Games—but if you're just starting out, there's plenty of opportunity for you, too.
Seaward CrossFit used to be located in Gillespie Park, in a rented warehouse on a dead-end street. In June, the gym moved to a new location on Lemon Avenue in the Rosemary District.
The building itself is hard to miss. It's a historic structure from 1946 that was originally a lumber yard. Then it became an African American fish market for 30 years. Now, the white exterior is decorated with a vibrant blue octopus mural, representing the pillars of core values Seaward's owners hold: personal achievement, "relentless optimism," inclusivity, courage and solidarity.
Owners Tim Riesen, Ben Gallaher and Olivia Hardwick have restored the interior to its former glory, opening up to the space like it was in 1946.
"We bought all new equipment for the space, and moved our old equipment outdoors," says Riesen. "For a while, we were only holding classes outside while renovating. So now it's like we have an indoor and outdoor gym."
To add to the convenience factor, Gallaher says showers and locker rooms were installed so members can freshen up and return to work after class. This also pleases tourists looking for a CrossFit "box"—the term the CrossFit community uses for gym—to drop-in, break a sweat and continue sightseeing.
"This is a really friendly box," says Hardwick. "We get a lot of people visiting and some want to move here just because of our environment and culture. We want to get to know everyone and welcome them, whether they are dropping by or here to stay."
If you're beginner, there's room in the box for you. Seaward CrossFit holds a foundations course, three hour-long sessions that teach the basic movements new members can expect in class. Personal trainers will also help new members determine fitness goals and even give nutrition advice. Members up to 70 years old and older have joined and flourished.
"We like to encourage each other and cheer each other on, while also fostering a healthy sense of competition," says Gallaher. "We only compare ourselves to our own workout times and metrics, not against someone 20 years younger than you or stronger than you. We adapt and adjust the classes to wherever members are at."
The gym's motto is, "you're stronger than you know," and was born out of the owners' CrossFit origin stories. Riesen never thought he'd get into CrossFit, but joined a class in 2018 and was hooked. He bought Seaward from its previous owners, who moved out of state. Hardwick joined shortly after. She'd discovered CrossFit in 2016 while in New Zealand. Gallaher, who moved to Sarasota from Australia in 2014 with his wife, joined because she was a CrossFit fanatic and begged him to join.
"I fell in love with it," he says. "I trained to become a coach a year later." Now, all three are certified CrossFit instructors.
Even though the gym's been open since June, the owners are hosting a grand opening event on Saturday, Sept. 3, where guests can join in free classes, look around and meet one another. Until then, those who are interested can attend a class Monday-Friday anywhere from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., or Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
During the month of September, the gym will be hosting free Saturday classes at 10 a.m. for anyone looking to try it out. If you buy the foundations course for $95 and then the unlimited pass for $195 per month, you'll get your second month free.
"Our goal is to have the gym open as much as possible," says Gallaher. "We want to continue to expand our services and continue to grow as an inclusive and supportive resource for our community."
Seaward CrossFit is located at 423 N. Lemon Ave., Sarasota. For more information, click here or call (941) 867-0808.