Rachael Mitchell has always been involved in sports.
The daughter of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn, Mitchell was a standout tennis player in high school and continued her playing career at Wheaton College in Minnesota, before beginning a family of her own.
But when the action on the court stopped, Mitchell soon realized the lack of competition left a void in her life that just jogging in her neighborhood could not fill.
“I felt like I was kind of floating a little bit,” Mitchell said. “After I had my second child, I needed to get back into it.”
While Mitchell knew finding an athletic outlet would not be easy with a pair of children and a career of her own, she had heard of a new regimen short on time commitment but huge on returns.
It was called CrossFit.
“It sounded intense,” she said. “But I knew the classes were short.”
Designed and used by police academies and military units for training, CrossFit is essentially a fitness regimen devoid of specialization. It involves lifting, jumping, running, climbing, pulling and various other forms of activity that are meant to increase and develop strength and endurance the human body was designed for.
After joining a local CrossFit gym, Mitchell was hooked. The scheduling worked with her personal life and the community the gym provided was encouraging, eventually leading her into coaching.
Two years later, she is in charge of member relations at Issaquah’s only public CrossFit gym, Gravity Jane’s.
While the popularity of CrossFit has exploded in recent years, with ESPN televising the sport’s largest competition, The Games, and gyms springing up in virtually every community around Greater Seattle, Mitchell said Gravity Jane’s is focused on developing strength rather than living up to the glorified version seen on television.
“We really believe in making people strong before we let them loose,” she said. “People are seeing the sexiness of CrossFit, but they are getting injured because they aren’t strong enough to operate that capacity.”
Mitchell said the approximately 250 members vary in age, with most falling in their mid-30s to early 40s. Most of them come to the gym looking for inspiration and a working plan to regain their fitness.
“We kind of pride ourselves on taking someone off the couch and back into an active lifestyle,” she said.
The gym offers clinics on technique, where lifts and exercises are broken down step-by-step for patrons and also has a “power sports” training program for youth athletes. That training is sport-specific for everything from football to tennis.
“I love that we’re trying to bring that broad base of fitness earlier in life,” she said.
Despite the hoards of career-athletes that have found a fitness niche with CrossFit, Mitchell said the sport is designed for accessibility, meaning the out-of-shape grandparent or stay-at-home mom are just as likely to see positive changes as an individual in his or her physical prime.
“CrossFit is for everyone,” Mitchell said. “We are all lifting groceries, playing with our kids, doing yard work. We all need this functional strength.”