Upon entering the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center, you are immediately struck by the impressive architectural design of the facility, complemented by an abundance of state-of-the-art fitness equipment. To the right of Mt. Weigand, our state-of-the-art fitness stairway, you will find yourself looking at an open floor space known as the Functional Training Zone. This area is home to the University of Nevada, Reno CrossFit program, the foundation of the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center.

The University CrossFit program was established in 2009 at Lombardi Recreation Center. Lombardi Recreation Center was where the Campus and Recreation Department was established at the University, currently known today as the Fitness and Recreational Sports Department. This year commemorates the fifteen-year milestone of the CrossFit program, an impressive journey of establishing a fitness culture.

When I arrived at the University in 2009, I was unaware of the existence of our recreation center, let alone the CrossFit program. Back then, CrossFit was still a novelty, and social media had not yet taken off, so its existence was not well known. Like so many students, I found myself adrift, searching for my connection on campus. The recreation center soon became my outlet, a place where I felt a sense of belonging and discovered the path to a healthy lifestyle. It is where I forged lasting friendships and meaningful connections.

As I was exiting the Lombardi Recreation Center, taking a sip of water from the hydration station, I caught a glimpse of the action unfolding in the center of the gymnasium. I will never forget what I saw; a pull-up rig positioned in the center of the floor, resting on mats atop a wooden surface, surrounded by a diverse group of students, faculty and staff throwing weight overhead urged on by their coach. That coach happened to be Jim Fitzsimmons, emeritus of the Fitness and Recreational Sports Department. In that moment, I did not know that my life was about to change.

A man holds a dumbell in one arm, brining it up past his shoulder, inside a fitness center.

At the time, Jim was noticing a trend in the fitness industry where students were getting more into the Olympic lifting movements, and, instead of resisting, he decided to get ahead of the trend and got his CrossFit Level 1 certification in 2007. From there, Jim started running classes in the middle of the gymnasium. In the first class, four people showed up, the next day that number doubled, and the following day sixteen people attended. The curiosity quickly grew, and the demand was quickly exceeding space. Jim knew the recreactional center was in trouble because they needed more space and equipment. This eventually led to the construction of the 108,000-square-foot E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center. I highly recommend checking out the video, “University of Nevada, Reno: Healthy Culture” on YouTube to gain a more in-depth understanding about the transition into the current facility.

A man smiles broadly on the row machine while a trainer tells him something close to his face.

The CrossFit prescription is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. When someone asks ‘what is CrossFit?’ the best way to grasp its ethos is to ask them, ‘What are you doing at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning?’ Experiencing it firsthand is truly the most effective explanation. It is more than just a fitness program, it is a lifestyle that challenges individuals to push their physical limits beyond what they thought possible. Through CrossFit, individuals not only build physical strength but also enhance cognitive abilities and strengthen the mind-body connection. It serves as a sanctuary for individuals seeking a pause from life’s external stressors, offering a structured outlet managed by dedicated coaches who guide them through detailed, planned sessions. The university CrossFit community cultivates camaraderie, fosters accountability and provides a sense of social belonging, creating an environment conducive to overall health.

At the foundation of the CrossFit community at the University, you will find an amazing group of coaches who have been with the program since it started back on the gymnasium wood floor or who have left and made an impact in the CrossFit world. The coaches are the ones who really make our program feel like home. Their passion for the CrossFit methodology is infectious and keeps the members “fired up.” You will often catch the coaches leading by example, jumping into each other’s classes to push themselves and members to be their best. And they do not clock out when class ends, they stick around, offering tips on nailing those tricky gymnastics movements or just chatting about life. They are not just coaches, they are friends and mentors who make our journey in fitness and beyond all the more rewarding.

A large group of people in workout clothes smile for the camera in the functional training area of the <a href=fitness center.” class=”img”/>

Day in and day out, I have lived and breathed this ethos for fifteen years. Students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds, past and present, have dedicated themselves to the CrossFit methodology and process. Fitness is not just a moment captured during an individual’s time at the University, it extends across their entire lifespan. That is an expression of true health, and that is precisely what the CrossFit program at the University of Nevada, Reno provides: a culture of fitness.

About the author

Alex Baker serves as the facilities coordinator at the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center, embracing a lifestyle dedicated to fitness and health while advocating for others to do the same. Currently pursuing his master’s degree in Kinesiology, Alex is on track to graduate in May 2024.

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