I went to a CrossFit sleep-away camp, and it was the best week of my adult life


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Photo: Gabrielle Kassel

“Best week of my adult life:” That’s how I’d sum up Power Monkey Camp, a seven-day, sweat-fueled CrossFit sleep away camp for adults who like to lift heavy things. Over the course of the week, I’d get to exercise with CrossFit superstar athletes like Lauren Fisher, Mat Fraser, Chyna Cho, Alec Smith, and Dani Speegle, who are the sport’s equivalent to Megan Rapinoe and the Williams sisters (or as those of us in the CrossFit training camp refer to them: some of the fittest humans on Earth).

Created by former USA gymnast Dave Durante and stuntman Shane Geraghty, Power Monkey Camp takes place in Crossville, Tennessee.  Durante describes it as a fitness retreat that marries a summer camp with the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s most elite fitness educators. “It’s a week packed with guest lectures, panel discussions, yoga classes, Olympian demos, and expert lead activities,” he says. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you sleep in cabins, eat in a cafeteria, and there are lake-activities galore.

“Throughout the week, participants rotate through twelve different two-hour long, expert-led sessions on things like rowing, squatting, the clean and jerk, endurance training, the rings, handstands, snatches, kettlebells, jump rope technique, and more,” explains Durante. CrossFit after all, is all about testing and improving the 10 main pillars of fitness (cardiovascular endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy) through movements like the ones taught at Power Monkey Camp.

Who is a good candidate for Power Monkey?

When I signed up for Power Monkey, I assumed the I assumed the bulk of the other participants would be CrossFit bros—and was fully prepared to let my inner bro self shine. But I was wayyy wrong.

The CrossFitters there were all either good-natured nerds who just really l-o-v-e the sport of functional fitness (like me!), or CrossFit coaches. But not all the participants even were CrossFitters. Some were kettlebell competitors. Some were bootcamp lovers. Some were marathoners. And some hadn’t been to the gym since before CrossFit was created in 2000 (seriously!).

The oldest athlete was 81, the youngest was 17, and the average age was 43. While these numbers will vary slightly camp-to-camp, they point to the fact that, “Power Monkey Camp is for anyone interested in all areas of fitness, who is open to becoming a better mover,” says Durante.

What to expect from Power Monkey Camp

Look, I’ve been a locally-competitive CrossFitter for three years, I’m a certified CrossFit trainer, and I write about fitness every single day, so while I expected to learn from camp (why else would I go?), nothing could have prepared me for how much I would learn or the quality of the coaches I would come into contact with. I can say with complete certainty that I’ve never been in a space with a group of experts who know their stuff like these coaches did.

Olympic weightlifter and world-class coach Chad Vaughn gave me hands-on coaching on my clean (a move where you squat with a bar and whip the weight up to chest height). Olympian Shane De Freitas hopped on a pull-up bar and did pull-ups with me, because I told him I was a visual learner. Mike Molly, founder of M2 Performance Nutrition, who frequently works with CrossFit Games athletes, reviewed my food log and told me I should probably be eating more carbs. Dave Tilley DPT ate dinner with me (like, just the two of us!) and helped me strategize ways to to stay level-headed during the CrossFit Open. And renowned row coach Rika Geyson completely picked apart my rowing form.

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In addition to all of this (and so many other #learningmoments), I got to do daily workout of the days (WODs) alongside the aforementioned fittest athletes on earth. As someone who stalks the leaderboards during the CrossFit competitive season and sees these athletes as role models, this opportunity was pretty f*cking cool.

And while this opportunity is one that will stay with me forever, I’d be amiss to talk about Power Monkey Camp and only talk about the quality coaches, clinics, seminars, and workouts. Power Monkey Camp is also about the bonding with the other like-minded campers. Think about it: It’s a really particular type of person, who chooses to spend a week off work learning about safe movement patterns, as opposed to, say, sipping Piña Coladas on a beach, and because of that, bonds are inevitable. “People make lifelong friends,” says Durante. Over my time at Power Monkey Camp, I did exactly that, and I can honestly say that my week in Tennessee will go down as one of the best and strongest weeks of my life to date.

If you’re looking for other fitness and wellness retreated to check out, click here. And if you’re thinking about giving CrossFit a whirl, read this

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