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Eric Peterson, Published April 29 2012

A new level: Non-traditional workout has area athlete on top of her game


Jenna Aanden climbed to the top of a rope that was connected to the rafters, and zipped back down to the ground. When she landed, she snapped off 15 pushups.

Aanden repeated that routine as many times as she could in 12 minutes, completing 12 repetitions.

“I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m having fun doing it,” said the soon-to-be 26-year-old Aanden.

Less than two years ago, Aanden said her workouts primarily consisted of cardio and abdominal exercises. These days, her workouts are radically different. She trains at CrossFit 701, one of five CrossFit affiliates in North Dakota.

She recently qualified for the CrossFit Games North Central regional in the women’s division. The regional championship is May 18-20 near Chicago.

Aanden ranked No. 38 in the North Central region after completing the five prescribed workouts. The region had more than 900 competitors in Aanden’s division, who completed all five workouts. The top 60 qualified for the regional.

“I thought that I would maybe make it in the top 100 or 200,” Aanden said. “Finishing 38th, I never thought I was going to be able to do that.”

Aanden first heard about CrossFit through a friend, who was posting status updates on Facebook about how she was having good workouts. That led to Aanden trying out the CrossFit program, which is based on varying and broad-ranging workouts.

Before CrossFit, Aanden regularly worked out, and spent most of that time on treadmills or elliptical machines with a little bit of strength training.

“I thought I was in very good shape, but this proved me wrong right away,” said Aanden. “Just my very first week, I was huffing and puffing.”

Those initials workouts, however, didn’t scare away Aanden.

“It was hard, but I’m really competitive and I like a challenge so I was hooked,” said Aanden, who was in track and was a cheerleader at Fertile-Beltrami (Minn.) High School.

She has been doing CrossFit workouts for more than a year and has lost about 15 pounds since she started. The 5-foot-1 Aanden is a lean and toned 120 pounds. The workout variety is one of the things Aanden enjoys. For example, one day a workout may feature Olympic-style lifting. The next day, Aanden may be doing handstand pushups.

“Or I could do them in the same day,” she said.

Ali Hennings is one of the owners of CrossFit 701 and a certified CrossFit coach. The gym, which opened in October 2010, looks more like an automotive repair shop from the outside, with a large overhead garage door as its front.

The inside isn’t filled with treadmills, elliptical and weight machines like most traditional gyms.

Instead, there are rings, pull-up bars, ropes, boxes, dumbbells and barbells.

“We do a little bit of everything,” Hennings said. “We teach the body to be the machine. It’s all functional movement.”

There are a couple of dusty treadmills in the corner of the facility, but those are usually only used during the winter months when the weather is bad outside. Hennings said the gym currently has 110 members, ranging in age from 16 to 64.

“It’s a family feel with the other gym members,” Aanden said. “The support I’ve gotten has been phenomenal.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com