CrossFit West Yorkshire
KITBOX: Hey, guys! We know CrossFit West Yorkshire has been around since the early days. Could you start by telling us a bit more about the history of the box?
ANDRE: We opened back in 2010 as one of the originals; Stuart and I were lucky enough to be two of the first members here.
It was a slower take up in the brand back in 2010 but the core members and community were really special from day one.
STU: It started as part of a martial arts centre, and had numerous faces of ownership before Andre and myself took sole charge. We both have full time roles as officers within West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, so the bulk of the coaching is done by our head coaches Kevin Jackson & Kate Prosser.
KB: How did you first get involved with the sport, and what made you decide to invest in CFWY?
ANDRE: We both trained to supplement our fitness as firefighters and I was first introduced by Sam Briggs whilst in South Korea taking part in The Firefighter Games. Since then the box has developed and strengthened, and the product and service we provide has improved every year. We have great coaches and equally inspirational members now.
STU: I had the opportunity to become involved in an exciting venture in the early stages & felt I could make a difference. By nature I like to help people & have been involved in sport my whole life, running a CrossFit affiliate is a great way of doing that.
ANDRE: After my first year of training, and falling for the sport as people inadvertently do, I had an opportunity to make an investment and be a part of the management team. Times were more difficult back then, due to a smaller support network and less experience. I thought Stu and I would add huge positivity and needed investment to our brilliant box. There was a bit of a financial struggle in the early years, but I could see the potential to keep providing a great service whilst increasing membership numbers. After taking the plunge, we took up support roles doing behind the scenes work but also started to coach the classes which we both enjoyed.
KB: It's clear you've both worked hard to build one of the UK's most respected boxes. What is it that makes CrossFit West Yorkshire so special?
STU: We don't just take 18-30 year olds from other sports & turn them into competitive athletes - we have a very diverse mix of members, covering a huge age range. From the most basic beginner who has never done exercise before through to international athletes - we all train side by side.
We pride ourselves on correct form & movement, never encouraging anyone to forgo form in the search of that bigger weight or extra rep.
Despite our ever increasing numbers, as owners & coaches we make every effort to learn every single members name whilst encouraging friendships through holding parties & social events. All of this helps us to maintain a special environment & atmosphere, which no amount of marketing or money alone could achieve.
ANDRE: Walking through the door, the people and atmosphere really make it the best 90 minutes of your day. I'm always taken back with how much the members give to the coaching staff.
We aim to provide supportive, structured and fun coaching yet in return we receive friendships, high emotion, amazing characters and some good old fashioned work and commitment. I have learnt so much from so many members, and the stories of triumphs over individual adversity can bring a tear to your eye.
CrossFit West Yorkshire is special because we all love what we do!
KB: What have been the highlights since opening the box?STU: Helping people achieve things they never felt possible and becoming part of an awesome community, not just within our own little bubble but worldwide.
ANDRE: I would separate the highlights into fitness, competitive and community. The biggest highlight for me is fitness related, and slightly generic, but it's the reason I have such a passion for this sport... Progress!
I'm so pleased to see members grow, develop and achieve. My favourite part isn't physical; the physical benefits are measurable and impressive, but an individual's personal development isn't. For example, we've had people with confidence issues join the box, and through our crazy supportive network we've built happier, more confident people. So, through fitness classes, we can build people up to help them make the best out of life.
Competitively, I've witnessed some amazing achievements. From Stuart making the CrossFit Games Regionals, to young Callum Manchester getting to Carson in the Teen Gauntlet. We've had hugely positive experiences from most comps, but Tribal Clash, The Open, The Rainhill Trials and Scale The Heights have all provided our members with previously unimaginable experiences. Our annual in-house competition is another inspirational day, bringing together the morning and evening folk. The competitive side of the sport rocks - but I'm always eager to point out that competing is a bonus (and a big challenge), but it's not a must.
The community we have is ridiculous, from our crazy Halloween parties, to walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks together. The thing that really strikes me is the way the community is always willing to help to help each other, and ourselves. Whether it's lending a van, sharing trade skills, baking cakes for each other - or just being there when somebody needs a cuddle. It's an impressive extended family to be a part of.
KB: What’s your coaching philosophy?
ANDRE: Engage the audience, make it fun but challenging. Scale, scale and scale again..... This is fitness, not boot camp. We aim to build over time, and teach people not to expect everything right away. When I'm coaching, I like a light-hearted feel with an important message - but at the moment I've become the manager of admin!
STU: We encourage our members to play the long game - move correctly first before trying to break any world records. I cringe during competitions at some of the tekkers on display. My coaching philosophy revolves around integrity in every rep: learn the basics, learn to be efficient in movement & breathing, then take on the world.
ANDRE: Developing as coaches is critical, too: reading, challenging ideas, and observing others are all necessary for self-development. This is why we have a two coach system in our box, so all the coaches raise one another to grow and develop.
KB: We've already touched upon this, but how would you describe your members?
STU: Normal hard working everyday people who have made the choice to better themselves.
ANDRE: Absolutely amazing! We have such a diverse bunch of all ages, from all the corners of the world. We have students, stay at home mums, grandmothers, emergency service workers, doctors and physios. We literally seem to have one of everything, so if shit got real we could make a great arc that Noah would be proud of!
KB: What's a typical day like at CrossFit West Yorkshire?
ANDRE: We open the doors at 6am, when a stampede of crazy morning folk descend upon us. We made the decision early on to provide full accessibility, so we're open through until 9pm - with regular classes and open gym opportunities throughout the day.
STU: A class comprises of a warm-up, including specific mobility for that session, movement drills for beginners or a skill/strength element for the more seasoned member. We finish with a WOD that's been carefully selected to provide a specific response to our ongoing programming.
KB: What does the future hold for you? Where do you see the box in 10 years' time?
STU: In essence still doing the exact same things. Reaching out to everyone willing to take a chance, work hard & join us. It'd be nice to be doing it in a nice shiny new unit with all the top of the range equipment, but in truth it's the people that will make CFWY successful.
ANDRE: I'd like to have a fully coherent approach to strength and conditioning. A bigger space, with lots of subject matter experts all providing clear and current systems of work. Leeds is a university city, with many successful sporting clubs. I see CrossFit West Yorkshire as a central feature within this scene, whilst maintaining our community.
STU: Without giving too much away, the future is a very exciting prospect! Lots of hard work is going on behind the scenes so watch this space...
ANDRE: The future is strong!