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Courtesy photo. The Suntheimers. A family who CrossFits together.

By Dustin Suntheimer

I had never really given much thought to the different ways that families come together and grow through shared experience.

It was, I’m sure, a chapter in that parenting manual I never received. As our children were born and got older we did some typical family outings –

we watched our kids romp around the woods while we were camping, splash in the waters of Lake Michigan, roast marshmallows in preparation of a big ole S’more over an open fire. These were truly magical moments we shared with them and memories that my wife, Mimi, and I will cherish.

But as all children do, they started to grow up and the things of their ‘youth’ no longer held the same level of charm they once did. It became harder to convince them to go without their iPhones for a week in the woods, although we did it; the lake didn’t really call to them the same way it did in the past, and the idea of spending isolated time with their parents gave way to wanting to pass time with friends. We both knew this would happen, but it didn’t lessen the absence of being with our children in a special place and time.

We still do dinner together several nights a week and we try and get some game nights in between shuttling our girls to volleyball practices, to watch their classmates play hockey, or just to a friend’s house so they can hang out. As we have already sent one of our children off to MSU, we know that this is a natural progression, and we are happy to see our kids making their way to adulthood. But there is still that desire to get quality time with our kids, to have a place where cell phones don’t matter, a place we can do something together that we can look back on in the years to come.

For me and my family, we found it at ClockTower Crossfit.

I had started going to ClockTower Crossfit shortly after its grand opening on Memorial Day in 2016. They introduced to me a new way to improve my fitness in an instructive, non-competitive, and safe environment. The coaches there were very accommodating to my level of fitness and taught me the best way to do the movements and exercises. Sure, many of you may have heard about CrossFit and that it is only for the elite athlete or the big, burly weightlifter types; but it is, in fact, a way to incrementally improve your fitness though a wide variety of movements and weightlifting techniques done at a pace that will challenge you.

Anyone can do it. From the day I began until today, there is every possible person in that gym, or ‘Box’ if you use the CrossFit lingo. I have worked out next to kids half my age (probably more than half my age), seniors who want more mobility and flexibility, college athletes, and stay-at-home moms. I regularly see high school kids come in for specialized training for their particular sport and those who have never lifted a weight in the lives.

This is what pushed me to ask my wife to attend with me.

She, like many others, thought that CrossFit was for those crazy folks who wanted big muscles, to slam their weights on the floor, and beat their chests. But with a bit of persistence on my part, I was able to convince her to come and try one of the cardio classes. She loved it and quickly moved on to the weightlifting classes, too.

Within a couple of months, both of my girls – Grace and Sierra, noticed that their mom was looking a bit different, had a lot more energy, and saw that she was in an overall better mood. Kinda like dad, so they asked about going to the gym, too.

Pretty soon the entire family was at the gym working out together and having an absolute blast. Even our son, Sebastian, goes when he is home from MSU. We now have a common activity to talk about and something that we all look forward to doing several times a week.

As a parent, it is very satisfying to see your child do something like their first pull up, their first deadlift, or to see them interact in a healthy way with others from their community. My youngest daughter, and one of the youngest CrossFitters at the gym, Sierra says, “it’s like a big family there”- and she’s right.

It was a couple of weeks after my whole family started going to ClockTower Crossfit when I realized that we were doing that which we had been missing –

building more memories with our kids that would last a lifetime.

We have found a place where we can go together and enjoy ourselves while being with our kids and watching them develop valuable life skills all while exercising in a safe environment and socializing at a place where they have a true sense of community.

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