You Can’t Fake Great Community

10633346_810790855628544_2336186242867414296_o-1Every morning is the same. My alarm buzzes me awake at 6:45 a.m., I get ready for work, grab my morning coffee and head into the office.

Working at a publishing company, our office environment is open. Everyone shares a common space in order to foster collaboration and creativity. I spend the day chatting, laughing and bouncing ideas off my co-workers. Once 5 p.m. rolls around, a few of us change into our workout clothes and head to CrossFit. Post workout, we might grab a drink or a bite to eat, then I will head home, fall into bed and repeat this routine every day of the week.

When the weekend rolls around, I find myself constantly grabbing dinner, heading to the zoo or even on occasion going out dancing with these same people. We work together, workout together and then hangout together.

But sometimes I find myself wondering, is this necessarily a good thing? Should there be greater separation between my social life and my work life?

Recently I had the same conversation with one of my CrossFit Coaches, Andrew Mittel, owner and operator at Derby City CrossFit in Louisville, Kentucky. Mittel eats, sleeps and breaths CrossFit.

He fell in love with weightlifting in high school, but as an adult, Mittel pursued other careers until 2009 when a friend opened Derby City CrossFit. “When they opened I was looking for something else,” explained Mittel. “I wanted to flip tires, lift atlas stones and all of that fun stuff. Not really knowing what CrossFit was, I just hopped in full force.”

Now he Coaches various classes throughout the day, socializes with members outside of the gym and even lives with another Coach and two members from the Box. “I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. Those guys are fantastic. I genuinely like these people, so when we go out on the weekend it is like I am going out with my buddies,” he said.

With his warm smile, welcoming demeanor and slow southern accent, it is easy to see why everyone wants to be around him. But does it ever get overwhelming? Is there ever a point when your work and social life get too intertwined?

According to Mittel, the answer is no.

“I love everyone here. They have become family to me,” he said. “I come from a hospitality background and worked in hotels for a long time so I want to make sure everyone is happy and it means a lot to know everyone is happy. These people are friends and they know I want the best for them.”

Meeting amazing people whom you connect with and don’t mind spending all of your time with might just be an added perk of the job.

It definitely has been for me. I moved to Louisville seven months ago, not knowing a soul farther south than Chicago and west of Washington D.C. Finding great friends at work made the transition seamless. It is much easier to get through the day when you are surrounded by people you enjoy.

While this sense of camaraderie might not be the same for every work environment, it is essential for CrossFit Boxes. “In order to excel in this business you need to have a great community,” added Mittel. “The great thing is, it can’t be fake because everyone will sense it. It has to be a genuine community, there has to be love present. You sweat with these people, grow with them and share in each other’s accomplishments. I think that is why we are strong.”

Emily Harbourne is a writer for Peake Media and is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. Contact her at