Building a Community at Your Yoga Studio or Gym


Brittney Rau is owner of CrossFit Sheboygan. She began lifting weights in 2006 and started CrossFit in 2009. She is also a professional Arm Wrestler who has been to three World Events and has a World Title in WristWrestling. After competing at the 2012 Arm Wrestling Nationals in Reno, she decided to pursue the CrossFit lifestyle and open a gym, or “Box,” in May 2013. She has been a Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist since 2010.  Brittney is head coach of only three coaches at this up-and-coming Box, which means she is at the Box more than her house (even her dogs join her at work!). CrossFit Sheboygan has been offering yoga classes for the past seven months and also implements aspects of CrossFit Mobility to help members improve their workouts on a daily basis.


Even though CrossFit is a unique fitness regime, camaraderie within it’s members is something all gym or studio owners strive for.  Yoga Travel Tree Editor Rachel Wiegand chatted with Brittney about her perspective on gym culture and ways to create a great group vibe.

Q: Before owning a gym, did you have any experiences that influenced how you wanted to shape the environment of CrossFit Sheboygan?

A: Being someone that went to the average “globo gym” for many years, I know and saw how intimidating it can be to start working out for the average person.  I wanted to make sure that our Box wasn't intimidating.  That everyone is welcome.  We really enforce in our new members that they are VERY welcome. We have high standards for our members and how they should act when they see a new face.


Q: Many people consider CrossFit to be team-oriented, but drop-in CrossFitters often comment on the unique camaraderie at CrossFit Sheboygan. What kind of things did you consciously implement to build a communal type of group?

A: I believe having everyone know each others’ names is the biggest key.  I think its important for me to know everyone and get to know their lives outside of CrossFit.  If I make the effort and do it, everyone else will.  We know what’s going on in each others’ lives.  Also, we try to keep everything fun.  Not always being so serious and joking around with the group is a way to bring everyone together.


Q: Sometimes, forming a tight-knit group comes with its drawbacks. How do you avoid alienating some members?

A: I know our shy members and our outgoing members.  I really enjoy doing partner WODs (workout of the day) where I pair the outgoing with the shy. Getting the shy people who would typically be alienated because it's hard for them to join in on conversations and make the first move with people is hard; attempting to draw them into the conversations before class, and cheering them on during workouts really helps with this! And I always say goodbye to people when they leave, too; I like to let them know that I look forward to seeing them again.


Q: What "extracurricular" activities have you sponsored as a gym? Which were your favorite? What were the drawbacks?

A: We have done several food challenges and workout competitions at the Box.  My favorite was the OGARSTRONG event.  Raising money ($1,100) for a fellow CrossFitter who suffered a traumatic spinal injury has been a highlight for CrossFit Sheboygan.  I don't think I've ever been so proud of a group of people in my life.

As far as drawbacks, the only thing that comes to mind is when we do food challenges, getting people to change eating habits is very hard.  Some people give up entirely if they fall off the wagon for a day or two.  It is very hard to get people to understand that one day doesn't control the rest of your life.  You just have to pick up where you left off and forget about your mistakes.


Q: What has been your greatest struggle as a gym owner?

A: The biggest struggle is being a new business in town and attempting to get the word out in the community about CrossFit.  If the town doesn't understand what CrossFit is, it is hard for them to come and check us out.  The more we get the word out in the community, the stronger our membership will be.  It is hard to explain to the average person that CrossFit is for EVERYONE and can be modified to everyone's athletic ability.


Q: You began offering yoga just shy of 6 months after opening and this was your first exposure to yoga. What has it added to the gym culture so far?

A: I think its added an awareness that CrossFit, although amazing, needs to be paired with some sort of mobility and stretching. It has given our members a foundation after classes to stretch and so many look forward to Yoga Saturdays.


Q: What's next for the Box?

A: We will be forever evolving to meet the needs of our members.  I love learning.  I see many more certifications in my future and different classes being offered that aren't just CrossFit. In the near future we will offer CrossFit Kids!



Rachel Wiegand has been an athlete her whole life but yoga has been the only constant throughout moves and life changes. A former personal trainer, she is now a practicing chiropractor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and enjoys helping patients find a physical activity that fits their lifestyle best. In addition to yoga, she practices Pilates and is an avid Crossfitter. On her weekends you can find her teaching yoga at CrossFit Sheboygan, with her hubby at Lake Michigan on her paddleboard, or at the dog park with her boxers, Dug and Rosco.

Images via: @catfityoga