BRADENTON -- Watch out mall walkers, there's a new fitness crew ready to rumble at the DeSoto Square mall.
CrossFit Havoc is set to move into an 11,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Boater's World next week.
"It's kind of like gym class for grown-ups," said CrossFit affiliate owner and trainer Jim Denofa. "It's a chance for adults to do fun things and step out of their comfort zone."
The addition of the gym marks a bit of a revival for DeSoto Square Mall, filling one of its largest empty spaces.
"CrossFit adds to the exciting mix of tenants we have onsite, and places DeSoto Square as the only significant retail shopping center with such an expansive health and fitness tenant," said Richard Bedford, general manager for DeSoto Square Mall.
Denofa is excited to be part of a turnaround for the mall.
"It's really exciting. We're really new to the area, and when we got here people talked about DeSoto and said you can't go in there, but when I came in here I thought that it's a nice mall," he said.
Denofa praised Bedford for keeping an active presence at the mall, picking up litter, seeing if everyone has what they need.
"This guy cares about this place, and that makes me want to be here," he said. "He was very accommodating when we presented the idea to him."
The gym has a temporary space set up across from it at the Sears entrance near the food court, where it hosts classes throughout the day while it readies for the new space.
CrossFit gyms have gained popularity over the last five years, since being founded by Greg Glassman in 2000, with the first affiliate in Seattle. The workouts are known for their intensity and competitiveness, and many involved don't consider CrossFit a workout or gym as much as they do a sport thanks to the numerous competitive events.
"With CrossFit, what I love about it is you can still be a competitor. You can still be an athlete at a later age," said Denofa, an Army veteran. "There's still a chance to compete everyday when you come
to a CrossFit gym. Either you're competing against yourself against a previous PR, a personal record, or compete against the clock to see how fast you can do the workout of the day or compete against other people."
CrossFit typically features a wide-open floor space design with Olympic weightlifting equipment and gymnastic rings on the perimeter, climbing ropes and pull-up stations. Much of that is already in the gym's temporary space and will be expanded in the new space, which will also have a kid area, Denofa said.
Once it is in the new space, the gym will be accessible with its own entrance, which will allow for early morning hours, he said, likely meaning the addition of a 6 a.m. class and gym hours. The current space opens at 9 a.m.
While the workouts are intense, Denofa stresses that anyone at any ability can join, and trainers will focus on teaching the correct form for each person to do the best they can and work them up to do better each session.
"If you think you are too out of shape to do CrossFit, that's like saying my car is way too dirty, I can't wash my car," he said. "You don't do CrossFit because you're in shape. You do CrossFit to get in shape."
Denofa, who moved to Ellenton with his wife after operating a CrossFit in Lawton, Okla., got his first glimpse of CrossFit in 2006 while watching someone else "running around the gym." After the man told him it was CrossFit, he saw a YouTube video of a pregnant woman doing 25 pull-ups and knew he had to challenge himself with a new workout.
"That turned me onto it, that I found this activity later in life that really challenged me," he said.
Each CrossFit is a little different from another, he said. CrossFit Havoc will accommodate both athletes who want to use equipment for their own workout regimen without a coach or do CrossFit exercises with instructors.
The workouts aren't cheap, but part of the philosophy is that if you're paying a lot for a workout, you'll care enough to show up, he said. They cost from $80 to $120 a month depending on the number of workouts a week. They offer a drop-in rate of $12 per-workout, but does not offer contracts. Denofa will help entice folks with a free trial.
"I don't like people to sign up for the gym unless they try it out," he said. "The first time you come here, it's always free."
While Denofa welcomes people to visit the gym's temporary space, a family emergency will keep the CrossFit closed Friday, but he expects to pull off the opening Monday.
For more information, visit CrossFitHavoc.com.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.