Crossfit at Monroe Mill owners

Heather Smith, left, and Laura Harrell, right, are the new owners of Crossfit at the Mill.

After 6 years of working for Anytime Fitness as personal trainers, Heather Smith and Laura Harrell decided it was time to own their own gym.

Today, that dream becomes a reality.

The pair takes over joint ownership of Crossfit at the Mill, Monroe’s home for lung-busting fitness craze.

“We had been looking for a place to call our own for a while, when this became an option, it was just perfect,” Smith said.

The pair is hoping to revamp and revitalize the gym, which sits in the old Cotton Mill next to various antique stores and a church.

Since the previous owners all had other jobs and were not able to devote all their energies toward the gym, hours were scarce and the clientele base had dropped. Plus, the former owners had only offered Crossfit classes, which the gym’s new owners had attended.

Smith and Harrell will be changing both those aspects of the gym. They will be working full time to offer more hours to their clients.

On top of that, they will be adding more dumbbells, mirrors and treadmills, all in an effort to make the establishment more than a Crossfit gym.

“We’re going to have Crossfit classes, of course,” Smith said, “But we will also be offering one-on-one personal training and open gym hours where any member and come get some exercise in. “

They will also be adding an area where kids can play while their parents work out.

“It won’t be a daycare, but it will be a place where older kids can hang out and entertain themselves while their parents exercise,” Harrell said.

Crossfit combines Olympic lifts like deadlifts and snatches with running and body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats. It has grown astronomically in the past five or so years. By one analysis from CNBC, there were 13,000 Crossfit gyms in 120 countries in 2016.

On one level, it’s just a way to burn more calories than jogging or Zumba.

On another level, for true devotees like Smith and Harrell, it’s something much more.

There’s a tight-knit culture and community among the sport’s thousands of devotees, who bond over shared pain and struggle.

“No one does Crossfit alone,” Smith said. “It’s a group effort to get everyone through the workout. When you are done, you go encourage other people who are still working.”

Another aspect of the Crossfit culture is the ways people come to be involved, which often sound like religious conversion stories.

For Harrell, it was a way out of the rut she found herself in after having her second child.  

“I had no energy or motivation, but working out here (at Crossfit at the Mill), I got it back,” she said. “It’s just so intense, and you don’t have an endpoint. You just keep working and keeping doing different workouts.”

Smith credits Harrell for getting her into Crossfit as well. She echoed Harrell’s sentiments.

“It’s nothing like just doing some bicep curls. It works everything,” she said.”And when you are done, it just feels so good.”

The pair is hoping to spread to their message throughout the area. They recognize that some are afraid of Crossfit, which they are both hoping to change. Both of them have Level 1 Crossfit certifications, as well as personal training degrees; making them more than capable teachers of anything a new Crossfitter would need to learn.

“Anyone can do it,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to want to take it to the next level.

Andrew Kenneson was a staff writer for The Walton Tribune from 2018-20.

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