Easy to find if a bit out of the way, ample parking and very large, professional and effectively used space
An abundance of equipment befitting its size
Dave was excellent, attending to every athlete throughout the workout and scaling the workout carefully for the breadth of experience in the class
The energy level was great, aided by the partner portion of the workout
A pretty complete warm up of chained KB deadlifts, Russian KBS, goblet squats and squat holds
Strength component was an EMOM chaining 1 TTB to a Kipping pull-up to a bar muscle up. For those without a muscle up, this was scaled to a kipping chest to bar. For those without a pull-up this was scaled to a ring row. And for those without TTB, this was scaled to knee ups.
30 minute partner AMRAP. Each partner doing:
- 5 burpees
- 10 box jumps
- 15 sit-ups
- 20 DU (scale to 40 SU)
Joseph and I finished 13 rounds + 8 reps
The first thing that strikes you upon entering Blended Athletics is the professional atmosphere coupled with the sheer size of the space. You come into a foyer area with some nice leather chairs opposite a counter/staff desk with a post mounted iPad for athlete checkin and some cubbies off to the side for stashing your gear.
The main level is split into two areas. To the right of the main desk is the Olympic lifting area. There are change rooms and showers on the main level on the same side as the Olympic lifting floor. The left side is the expansive Crossfit training area. It’s a very large long space with a very high ceiling (2 stories) with rubber mat floor and a strip of indoor/outdoor green carpeting along the long walk underneath the rig. The rig runs at least half the length of the wall with a dozen or more stations, including ring stations. At various positions at the ends of this long space are the addition equipment storage areas for items like rowers, wall balls, bars, plates, kettle bells and airdyne bikes – a pretty strong assortment of each. The space is certainly large enough to hold a fairly large Crossfit class, and so the volume of equipment makes sense. A large rolling bay door – seemingly a staple of every Crossfit facility – is on the back side of the Crossfit space.
The upstairs area above the foyer and Olympic lifting area hosts another training space – more of a typical “globo gym” setup with some isolation equipment, free weights, etc.
All areas are painted to fit Blended’s well-integrated brand, with brand colours and accents throughout in addition to logo’d areas throughout the space.
When I arrived, a class had just finished and a couple of athletes were arriving for the next class. I spotted owner David Rafuse as he walked in to chat with some of the athletes while grabbing a bit to eat. I went over and introduced myself and Dave too me over to the main desk so I could fill out the guest athlete waiver. With the paperwork done, Dave took me into the Crossfit space and gave me a peek at the workout and asked me a couple of questions about my knee (spotting the support brace I wear) and we chatted about the upcoming Under the Lights competition between Blended, Crossfit Ironstone and Rocky Lake Crossfit. Dave made it clear that if I needed to scale anything in the workout, I shouldn’t hesitate.
When we were ready to get started, Dave had us go around the room and introduce ourselves coupled with an answer to a question – which would we rather b,e a superstar or a pro athlete. Simple enough.
First up was the warmup. We started with some lunges and Spider-Man stretches, high knees and heel kicks for the length of the floor. Then we did 4 rounds of a simple chaining exercise – 30 seconds on each component, switching between KB deadlifts, Russian KBS, goblet squats and squat sits.
And finally we did a series of wall walks up from a plank position and back again.
Throughout the warm up, Dave reminded us when to switch movements and called out subtle adjustments if he saw form that was of any concern.
WOD Part A – 10 Minute EMOM – Strength/Technical
We then moved on to a strength and technical component – chaining together TTB, killing pull-up and bar muscle-up, every minute on the minute for 10 rounds. That left ample recovery time and it also allowed Dave to move down the line of athletes (there was roughly 10 of us in the group) and watch and provide tips. He pointed out some things I needed to think about to chain my movements together more effectively. I knew intuitively what he was going to tell me – but knowing what to do and actually doing it are often very different things. But I gave it a shot, succeeding only in part. I’ll just need a bit more coordination and timing to get those movements chained together.
When we finished all ten rounds of the strength component, we were ready to get started on the AMRAP. Dave paired us up rather than leave it to us. I was paired with a really tall guy (easily a full foot taller than me) maybe a little younger than me named Joseph. We reintroduced ourselves to each other (just in case the intro at the start of class didn’t stick) and we grabbed what we needed for the workout – a box, ab mats and jumpy ropes. The partner WOD was setup as an AMRAP with each partner completing the work on the board, and we would count each round as complete when both partners had finished the prescribed sets. We were told the class before us topped out at 12.5 rounds.
WOD Part B – 30 Minute AMRAP – MetCon
We grabbed the gear and got set while Dave set the clock. I volunteered to start us off. While we were told we could divide it up any way we wanted, I chatted with Joseph briefly and we both agreed that just splitting down the middle and alternating between is from movement to movement made sense.
We went through the first handful of rounds pretty smoothly, losing very little time transitioning between the two of us. Somewhere not long after that, Joseph needed a breather so I kept going. And let him know he could jump back in as soon as he was ready. He didn’t rest for too long and was back in the mix again. We continued on line this for a bit and Joseph needed another break and so I again kept going to give him a rest. Like last time, he got back into the mix after he recovered a bit.
I’m sensing that time of day affects my workout substantially
I was able to keep going, I think, for three reasons. First, the workout movements themselves were fairly forgiving to my current level of fitness. No one of the movements in the volume prescribed winded me much. I could move through them pretty easily. I find I can recover a little during box jumps, sit-ups and even while jumping rope (once I get double unders in my arsenal I doubt I’ll be able to say that). Second was time of day. Since I normally work out at 6am, when I do a WOD at another time of day, it actually does feel different. It’s just unusual enough for me to notice and it’s also happened often enough that I don’t feel I’m imagining it. I was just more energetic and felt more capable. And third is a smidge of pride. Dave knew I was from Rocky Lake and the other athletes in the room had a sense I was a guest (I hadn’t mentioned it in our intros) so I wanted to make sure I represented myself and my home gym well. And in partner WODS you want to do your part well so you push a little. And I find this is perhaps even more urgent when you are paired with someone you don’t know.
Anyway, I was feeling pretty good. If Joseph needed more recovery time, I was up for it. Just before we got to the end, Joseph needed another break. I was ready to continue.
When time expired we had finished 8 reps past the 13th round. Not bad I thought – I even thought we could have gone faster and therefore finished with a little more.
Post Workout – recover, stretch and mingle
As usual, everyone went around high fiving the other athletes. Then Dave gave us a final assignment – couch stretch for 2 minutes each side. Perfect. My legs could use it.
Dave also checked in with me at the end of class to find out what I though and how my knee was feeling. I felt pretty good, though the burpees had certainly irritated my knee. Dave had reminded me that landing in a wide stance would limit how much stress my knee would absorb in coming up from the floor in the burpees – but I only managed to implement this shift about half the time – muscle memory can get in the way at times.
There was 15 minutes break scheduled before the next class so Dave took a moment to give me a tour, taking me upstairs to see the additional training area I mentioned to him that I hadn’t seen. Dave had to get ready to coach the next crew and get them started on the warmup so I thanked him and told him I’d see him next weekend for the Under the Lights competition (a 3-box throw-down, somewhat like what we did with Bardown, but bigger and Rx only).
As I went into the foyer area to grab my bag and jacket I chatted with some of the other athletes from class. That when I was able to tell them where I was from and what I was doing – not just in for a class but also to check it out and write this article about it. I ran into Joseph as well. He thanked me for being his partner and when referring to the workout we had just completed, my continuing when he needed to take some breaks, he called me “a machine”. He told me he had just finished the onramp program and that this was his first regular Crossfit class. I told him that he did great and that was a tough workout for any athlete let alone a beginner. We said our goodbyes and headed out.
Final Thoughts – memories of my start at Rocky Lake
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I immediately started thinking about how I would recount the experience in my article. What was the takeaway from my experience at Blended. Dave and the athletes were very friendly, and I was impressed with the professional atmosphere and scale of the box. The workout was fun but challenging and I felt I had performed pretty well. But what stuck with me was Joseph’s “machine” comment. Not because I actually think of myself that way at all, but because it helped me zero in on something memorable about my visit: Joseph is where I was at this time last year.