Muncie Origins: Crossfit White River builds fitness, community

<p>(Left to right) Michael Harless, Shannon Fouce, Joy Wegener, Tisha Stone, Melissa Bjerke and (not pictured Zeke Bautista) are part of Crossfit White River's coaching staff. A sense of community is one of the reasons people like coming to the Crossfit in the Village. <strong>Tisha Stone, Photo Provided</strong></p>

(Left to right) Michael Harless, Shannon Fouce, Joy Wegener, Tisha Stone, Melissa Bjerke and (not pictured Zeke Bautista) are part of Crossfit White River's coaching staff. A sense of community is one of the reasons people like coming to the Crossfit in the Village. Tisha Stone, Photo Provided

The 9 a.m. sunshine beat down on several Crossfitters running from the corner of Dicks and North Streets to University and Dicks Streets for their first of three warm up sets.

It was already over 70 degrees in the Village, but the Crossfitters ran outside then returned indoors to do their scaled push presses with a smile, fist bumping each other during their rests between each set.

There are Crossfit gyms closer to where Michelle and Ted Stichler live in Anderson, Indiana, but they chose to come to Crossfit White River for the people.

“[It’s] the community of it, really. This is different than any other gym. It’s not just about working out for us,” Michelle said. “It’s the people and it’s the fellowship of all of it, really. It’s body, mind and spirit.”

Crossfit White River was originally planted in the Village Promenade in November 2014 as an idea for a ministry by Brandon and Sadie Lowe to reach out to Ball State students. The Lowes own Crossfit White River and operated it from Muncie, until they became pregnant with their fourth child. 

The couple from Seattle, Washington decided they needed to be closer to home with number four on the way. The Lowes passed on the managing duties to Tisha and Todd Stone May 2018, and the Stones have co-managed the business since.

Tisha came into the gym two years ago an empty nester. Sitting on her couch, unsure of what came next for her, she saw a Facebook post about Crossfit White River’s six week challenge.

When she first stepped into Crossfit White River, she had doubts about her own personal abilities.

“When I first walked in the doors and I was meeting Brandon to join the gym, I looked in here and I saw them working out and I said ‘Woah, I can’t do this. This won’t be for me,’” Tisha said. 

Crossfit White River keeps track of the inches members have lost of their waist on a pillar in the gym May 25, 2019. Managers Tisha and Todd Stone say the gym is focused on community. Demi Lawrence, DN

Now, Tisha said she knows anyone can do Crossfit. She describes Crossfit as “constantly varied functional movement” at a high intensity.

“When it says that it is constantly varied, it means that it is a different workout everyday,” Tisha said. “It teaches you how to function in life. It’s going to help you pick up a bag of dog food and throw it in the back of the truck.”

While the gym is about fitness and losing inches off your waist line – they have a chalk board pillar in the middle of the gym dedicated to keeping track of those inches for their members – Tisha and Todd stressed that it was really focused on the community.

Member Kaleb Peters has been commuting an hour from Huntington, Indiana two or three times a week to Crossfit White River for the last month. He makes the drive because of the community he has been able to build with the people there. 

“It’s very team oriented and goal oriented and it feels like a family. That’s what draws me to it,” Peters said. “I didn’t know anybody when I first came here, and now that I do it feels like you’ve known them forever.”

For Tisha and Todd, Crossfit White River is more than just a gym: it is a place to build relationships and bonds with people.

“It’s important for us to connect with people, the connection is what keeps us healthy,” Todd said. “Fitness is part of that connection, but it's just about connecting and being involved with folks.”

Tisha said the gym also gives her a sense of fulfillment. 

“It gives me joy. It gives me a sense of purpose," she said. “The workouts are tough. They are intense, but I finish them, I do them and I love it.”

During the morning workout, Tisha cheers on the members – including Todd – as Coach Zeke Bautista leads them through their first set of workouts. After each round of push presses and sit ups, members go around and fist bump each other on a job well done. 

“Everybody is supportive of everybody no matter what level you are at, beginner to super experienced,” Ted said. “It doesn’t matter, it’s all part of the family.” 

Crossfit White River offers four membership types, from one day a week to unlimited times a week. They offer discounts to college students and married couples, and are dedicated to a personalized workout for everyone’s limitations and abilities.

“We offer a different kind of life, it’s to be the better us,” Tisha said. “Not because we are better than everybody else, but we want to strive to be better everyday at fitness, life, health, community and friendships.”

Members of Crossfit White River do push presses May 25, 2019. Crossfit White River opened over three years ago as a ministry to reach out to Ball State students. Demi Lawrence, DN

Contact Demi Lawrence with any comments at or on Twitter at @demiilawrencee.


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