Emily Kain said CrossFit has had an immense impact on her daily life.
Kain, a former Century High School standout in field hockey, basketball, and softball, has been involved in CrossFit for about two years. She attends McDaniel College and plays softball for the Green Terror as well.
She started attending 5:30 a.m. classes at Blackbird CrossFit in Eldersburg every day before assuming her regular routine at Century. She would also go to the gym’s open hours on Saturday morning, and use Sunday as a rest day.
“It not only has helped me become physically fit and active and have a love for fitness and health,” Kain said. “It has also made me think about the way I eat and the way I plan my time because obviously I had to plan my time out so I could go at 5:30 in the morning. Since I am one of the youngest people that goes, I have developed skills with talking to adults and becoming comfortable with situations I wouldn’t normally have been.”
Kain said she always had an interest in weightlifting and took a weight training class in high school taught by Steve Weatherholt, a former Century assistant basketball coach. He introduced Kain to CrossFit and her interest expanded from there.
“The cool thing about CrossFit is it’s never the same day to day,” Kain said. “We’re always doing something different. When you go to the gym, there’s sort of the same thing going on but the workouts and movements are always different.”
Weatherholt has been coaching at Blackbird since the facility opened in 2014. He played sports growing up, but had never heard of CrossFit until he arrived at Century eight years ago to teach physical education. Another teacher invited him to a 5 a.m. workout before the school day started and it soon became his routine.
He eventually got certified to coach prior to Blackbird’s opening and was brought on to the staff shortly after.
Blackbird isn’t like a traditional gym, Weatherholt said. The classes are grouped together and led by coaches who not only instruct the individuals through their workouts, but teach them basic nutrition as well.
Kain said CrossFit is very community-based and Weatherholt was impressed with her work ethic from the start.
“She’s like a sled dog,” Weatherholt said. “If you tell her to do something, she’s just going to do it with a smile on her face. She embraces the difficulty of any task and it’s not easy. No physical activity is easy and that’s why so many people are inactive in this world. When you do it to a degree that she does, it’s really impressive.”
Kain qualified for the Age Group Online Qualifier, a worldwide online CrossFit competition, as one of the top 200 athletes in her age group last year. She said she also got her best friend, Emma Neiswender, involved in CrossFit after she suffered a foot injury.
Kain said Neiswender essentially learned to walk again and developed a more active lifestyle as a result.
Kain switched to a gym closer to McDaniel halfway through her first semester and said doing so helped her transition to an easier schedule. However, the coronavirus pandemic cancelled her softball season and the university moved to online learning in March to adhere to Gov. Larry Hogan’s social distancing order.
Blackbird gave its members permission to borrow equipment from the gym after it closed due to the pandemic. Coaches also started hosting three classes a day via Zoom in the morning, afternoon and evening so members could participate in home workouts.
“We created our workouts to basically have three or four different tiers of ways that people can do different things,” Weatherholt said. “With the utilization of our equipment, they’re able to sign into class and it’s almost like we’re at the gym. From a camaraderie perspective, it’s enough to keep people motivated. I think people need that accountability more than anything.”
Weatherholt said the response to the gym’s virtual workouts has been appreciated and they have helped people stay connected while quarantined in their homes.
“A lot of people are scared of CrossFit because they think it’s something you have to be super fit to do and that’s actually the opposite,” Kain said. “You can go to CrossFit and literally know nothing. They’ll teach you at the class and it’s such a welcoming community. Everybody is afraid of the judgment but that’s the opposite, everyone wants to see you succeed and help you.
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“I’ve never gone and met someone there that’s rude because that’s not the attitude that is allowed in the gym.”