Barb Hembree excitedly awaits the "Workout of the Day" that will be listed on the chalkboard to begin her high intensity workouts at Crossfit Retribution in Westminster.

Barb Hembree excitedly awaits the “Workout of the Day” that will be listed on the chalkboard to begin her high intensity workouts at Crossfit Retribution in Westminster.

by Rebekah Cartwright, photography by Amy McIntyre Devilbiss

What do an army veteran, a stay-at-home mom, a former college football star, a hairstylist, and a teacher all have in common? The answer: their workout routines. With thousands of affiliates, CrossFit has taken this country – including Carroll County – by storm, attracting people from all different walks of life.

While most workouts are not one-size-fits-all, CrossFit has managed to bridge the gaps between people of varying abilities and skill levels. Founded in 2000, CrossFit combines strength training with high intensity workouts, all while promoting an overall healthy lifestyle. According to the company’s official website, the goal of CrossFit is to prepare its “athletes” for any physical challenges that they may face.

CrossFit is a brand and in order for gyms to use the official CrossFit name, the gym must pay a fee to be considered an affiliate. Cross training is a general term for a workout program combining strength training with high intensity workouts.

For Barb Hembree, who trains at CrossFit Retribution in Westminster, that’s the main draw of CrossFit. She trains at least three times a week, and each time, she said she excitedly waits for her trainer to reveal the Workout of the Day (WOD).

Crossfit Retribution's "Workout of the Day" challengers tackle the rowing, kettleball and wall ball. Barb Hembree motivates her team to push hard.

Crossfit Retribution’s “Workout of the Day” challengers tackle the rowing, kettleball and wall ball. Barb Hembree motivates her team to push hard.

“Once you start participating in the WODs, it literally becomes addictive. You want to work out, you want to be with your friends, and you want to finish the WOD as fast as your body allows you and push a bit further when your brain tells you to stop – because you can always go further and faster,” she said.

Hembree became involved in CrossFit with her husband Sean, who is a former CrossFit trainer. According to him, while the element of surprise keeps participants on their toes, it’s the results that keep them coming back for more.

“However out-of-shape we become, all of us are physical beings who benefit from activity – the evidence is absolutely irrefutable. So, by calling the gym members athletes, we hope to instill the confidence, desire and willpower necessary to regain and develop physical capacity, however it was lost – age, illness, injury, laziness, etc.,” Sean explained.

He believes that is one of the reasons that CrossFit appeals to such a wide range of people, as it meets the needs of people who are looking to get in shape and those who are trying to stay in shape, as well as those recovering from injury.

Sam Bogage, a CrossFit certified coach at LFC Barbell Club in Westminster (not currently a CrossFit affiliate), credits cross training with helping him recover from a serious back injury. Bogage, who has a degree in exercise science and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, became a certified CrossFit coach in 2012 after discovering just how well the methodologies of CrossFit work. Just as cross training helped him to better himself, he believes that that is why others are so drawn to it.

“Participants have fun and enjoy coming to the gym,” Bogage said. “They get excited at lifting heavier weights and finishing workouts faster than before. As a result, their goals switch from aesthetic to performance based and they not only become happier with how they look, but excited about how they perform and feel.”

In spite of its increasing popularity, not everyone agrees that CrossFit is a healthy exercise option for the masses. Some fitness enthusiasts believe that the CrossFit program, which encourages high-volume, high-intensity workouts, can lead to serious injury. According to a 2014 article on, some complaints against CrossFit include that not all CrossFit certified coaches are qualified to be training athletes, weightlifting technique is sacrificed for speed and volume and CrossFit pushes people beyond their physical limits.

Aush Chatman, a CrossFit gym owner and trainer, acknowledges in the same article that there are some bad CrossFit trainers and some poorly run gyms, just like there are some bad insurance companies and some poorly run car dealerships. Chatman said that CrossFit was originally designed for elite athletes, but as it gains popularity, it is evolving to be more scale-able to people’s limits and talents.

People should seek out trainers and coaches who are knowledgeable about exercise and who are willing and able to scale programs to meet their abilities and needs.

Lasting about an hour, a typical CrossFit class includes a warm-up, a few weightlifting exercises, conditioning, and the workout of the day. Most participants train between three and six times a week.

With six official CrossFit affiliates in Carroll County, and a growing number of gyms that are integrating cross training techniques into their workouts, CrossFit has continued to gain recognition and attract participants. The classes have become so popular that some have an attendance rate of over 50 people.

So what sets a CrossFit gym apart from other gyms? According to Beau Bryant, the owner of CrossFit Retribution, it’s the relationships that form between the participants.

“The community aspect of CrossFit helps its popularity also. Many other gyms offer low monthly memberships, but provide little-to-no instruction on what to do, and the members are not personally invested in each other’s success. Conversely, CrossFit gyms are built on a strong community of like-minded individuals, people who have chosen the difficult path and are willing to work hard to achieve their goals,” Bryant said.

Not only do CrossFit participants encourage each other during classes, but they also spend time together outside of the gym. From barbeques to monthly Friday night meetings, the participants are able to form close bonds with one another and their trainers.

This sense of community also leads to results, both physical and mental. Sean Hembree notes that this might be the reason that CrossFit has become increasingly popular.

“Doing anything difficult within a supportive environment elevates self-esteem, enthusiasm and confidence, and that’s probably the most addictive quality of all,” Sean said.

Some may say that addictions are unhealthy, but for hundreds of Carroll County residents, their addiction to CrossFit has made them healthier – in more ways than one.

Crossfit Gyms in Carroll County
Crossfit Retribution
61 John St, Westminster
Blackbird Crossfit
5320 Enterprise St, Eldersburg
Crossfit Execution
1332 Londontown Blvd, Eldersburg
Crossfit RSC
2950 Dede Rd, Finksburg
Crossfit Caduceus
2710 Hampstead Mexico Rd, Hampstead
TFL Crossfit
2902 Back Acre Circle, Mount Airy