Profiles February 28, 2017

CrossFit ChalkBox—CrossFit With a Mother’s Touch


Owner and coach Agnes Vanblarcum started CrossFit in 2013. When she went in search of a CrossFit box near her family’s home in Kent, England and couldn’t find one, she and her husband decided to build one in their garage. As she grew in her fitness abilities and understanding of CrossFit, she became aware of the opportunity that CrossFit offered her community for better health, especially among the children.
As a mom, she is sensitive to kids well-being and became concerned with the obesity she saw among the young people in her area. She wanted to find a way to create positive change in the habits and futures of the kids in her area. So, she started a local CrossFit kids program with the goal of getting kids fit and strong and providing them with education about food and healthy eating.
After kicking the program off, she soon had over 25 kids signed up. What she found was that the kids who were attracted to CrossFit weren’t your traditional childhood athletes. Instead, they were the kids who didn’t participate in team sports and were seeking their own individual fitness outlet. Once they started CrossFit, they found their outlet. As Agnes describes, “the kids became so confident. They could each find something that they were good at. That made them feel really good about themselves.”
10397098_321018961381062_793966210252381529_oAgnes watched her CrossFit kids get stronger, healthier, and happier. She saw the improvements they were experiencing outside of the gym, ”I had teachers and parents approach me and tell me that their kids were performing better in school.” The word spread, parents and the community saw the impacts, and interest increased.
What started out as a hobby, grew into a growing business. With a successful kids program under her belt, parents began to inquire about CrossFit and in 2014, Agnes started coaching a group of women.
When their husbands wanted to join in the fun, she couldn’t hold out any longer and decided to open her own, official gym. Within one year of opening, Agnes added 100 new members. Today, with 120 members (not including the members of the kids program) she is planning to move to a new facility that is twice the size of the current gym.

She attributes the success of the gym to a focus on community and quality.

First and foremost, Agnes and her coaches teach mobility and movement. They make sure that their athletes move well before they introduce intensity. They also limit class sizes to no more than 10 and monitor the progress their athletes make through SugarWOD.
CrossFit ChalkBox started using SugarWOD because they had grown so fast and it was becoming difficult to monitor the progress of each athlete. Agnes describes herself as “a little too much like a mum”—using SugarWOD, she spends time checking on her athletes every night, observing the improvements they make and delighting in the gains they realize. She closely monitors how strong her members become and is able to work with athletes when she sees that they aren’t improving as quickly as she might expect.

Owner of CrossFit ChalkBox Agnes Vanblarcum

Owner of CrossFit ChalkBox Agnes Vanblarcum

This care and motherly attention makes CrossFit ChalkBox a special place for its members. One of the many testimonials on their site is a testament to this, “I was new to CrossFit when I first joined ChalkBox a couple of months ago, but I now feel like I have been going forever thanks to the support and encouragement from the wonderful instructors and fellow CrossFitters! No matter what your ability or fitness level, every workout is tailored to your capability and no one is made to feel uncomfortable because they can’t do the same as everyone else.”
Since she seems to be doing such a great job building her box, I asked Agnes what recommendation she has for other gyms who are just starting to use SugarWOD she suggested two main things:

  1. Roll out SugarWOD during a test week. Agnes was strategic in her adoption of SugarWOD. She encouraged athletes to start using it during a week when they do all of their benchmarks. This way they are incentivized to monitor their progress in the coming weeks and months in SugarWOD.
  2. Send follow up messages. The gym encouraged adoption by sending an automated email when members booked their class. The email included a link to SugarWOD and an explanation of why ChalkBox was using the tool.

These two things resulted in almost 90% of her members joining SugarWOD in the first week!
She was surprised at the fast adoption and in the beginning, was nervous that people wouldn’t want to use the tool. Agnes shared her experience with me—”SugarWOD is great for building community. We always used to have members write down scores in logbooks which was kept very personal. Now all scores are visible to everyone and the community start messaging each other with great comments. In the beginning, I was a bit scared that people didn’t want their score visible in case their score wasn’t as good as others but after they got some great feedback from others on SugarWOD that barrier was gone!”
Agnes and her team at CrossFit ChalkBox have done an incredible job creating a gym that focuses on community and quality. The fast growth of CrossFit ChalkBox is a testament to Agnes and her team’s commitment to health and the success of their athletes.