CrossFit either stirs up intense loyalty or controversy. It has passionate followers and naysayers. However, Michelle issued a challenge for the naysers in her interview: “Come to CrossFit Hyde Park and I will change your mind.”
We cover everything from moving better every day, injury prevention, recovery, rehabilitation, and the tools she’s used to engage and retain her clients.
Get ready! Here we go.
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Meet Michelle Richards, Owner CrossFit Hyde Park
Schimri Yoyo: I am Schimri Yoyo, writer for exercise.com, and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness experts. And today, we have here with us Michelle Richards, owner of CrossFit Hyde Park in Tampa, FL and educator at the University of Tampa. Thank you, Michelle, for joining us today.
Michelle Richards: Sure. Thanks for inviting me to do this. I am happy to help out.
Schimri Yoyo: How did you become passionate about fitness training? CrossFit in general?
Michelle Richards: When I was in my twenties, I was an intern at the University of Tampa working under a great mentor who taught me about fitness, strength and conditioning, but most of all, movement. I was inspired to learn more and I became very interested in restoring the movement mechanics of athletes and the general population.
Eventually, I became most interested in helping the general population because they were always so fun and grateful to see results and get out of pain because they had improved in mobility.
I found CrossFit about nine years ago. I thought it was awesome because it was competitive and I missed that part of my life—I played all sports growing up! I noticed that many CrossFit athletes were experiencing pain and I began coaching Mobility at two CrossFit gyms in the Tampa area.
I watched people move as they participated in WODs (a CrossFit term for the workout of the day) and I knew I could help people become more efficient at CrossFit if they gained the proper joint movement.
I decided to start a CrossFit gym in Tampa where the focus was on “moving better before moving often.” We always say “Better Every Day” in my gym, Tampa Movement Lab, and this gives meaning to not just improving fitness but improving overall movement, health and being good people giving back to the community.
Schimri Yoyo: What sports did you play growing up? What sports do you play now?
Michelle Richards: Softball, volleyball, basketball, dance, cheerleading, track—ALL OF IT—but I focused on softball and played at Black Hawk College in Moline, IL. I still play slow-pitch softball and participate in CrossFit competitions to do this day.
Schimri Yoyo: In what ways do you prepare yourself for competitions?
Michelle Richards: To be honest, I do not take myself too seriously in competitions—haha—so I do not change much. However, the two crucial ingredients, in my opinion, would be to eat well and get adequate sleep. I try to do [both of these things] ALWAYS!
Schimri Yoyo: You’re an adjunct professor at your alma mater, University of Tampa. Why did you pursue formal education and advanced degrees in Exercise Science and Exercise Kinesiology?
Michelle Richards: Simple answer. I believed in what I was doing as a practitioner and there were some practical application pieces I wanted to bring to the Human Performance Program at UT.
We learn so many great things, but I believed the program could benefit from learning, in more detail, about the Functional Movement Screen, a program designed for the general population and the idea that “humans are meant to move well first before they move with various loads and intensities.” I created a curriculum and applied my face off until they hired me. Hahaha!
Schimri Yoyo: Harder to stomach: Negative course evaluation or negative review about CrossFit Hyde Park?
Michelle Richards: Oh, I like this question! It is really making me think!
I think the context is everything. I got one negative review for CrossFit Hyde Park, but the review was not about the coaching staff, facility, or the program; it was actually about an interaction with another class participant, so that was fairly easy to get through.
I am going to have to say: when a student doesn’t like ME, it is harder because that means it is ME and not my gym which is filled with lots of other variables. I hope I never get one, but I am sure it will happen because I have a VERY comprehensive understanding at this point that you can not make everyone happy and not everyone likes the decisions I make.
I am criticized often—sometimes constructive feedback and sometimes not—and these days, I am more appreciative of people’s opinions. But it took a while to get to the place I am in with that!
Teaching Philosophy and Practice
Schimri Yoyo: What courses do you teach? What are some of your favorite projects to assign?
Michelle Richards: I teach Exercise Leadership Principles in Group Fitness and I have for five years now.
I have two favorite assignments:
- Complete the “Five Minute Journal” every class period and
- Watch the Ted Talk : “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown and review it.
I think both of these assignments were not only meaningful to the students, but extremely helpful to them during a weird time in their lives—college is not easy! The social aspect and the whole “adulting” thing is tough.
Schimri Yoyo: How do you keep students motivated about the course content?
Michelle Richards: I stay passionate. I am not perfect and I have off days—well many—but when you get me talking about movement, my eyes light up and it shows. People respond to that and I will stop teaching the minute that fire burns out! I do not want to put anyone to sleep!
Schimri Yoyo: What’s the relationship between injury prevention, recovery, and rehabilitation?
Michelle Richards: Great question! There is such a gap in the world of “rehab” and “injury prevention,” but I believe they are one and the same. The relationship these worlds have now and the relationship that they should and will have some day are different. People are generally waiting until they are “sick” to take “the pill.”
I look at this a lot like I look at nutrition. There needs to be the macronutrient intake and the micronutrient intake. Stomach the good stuff and then once you figure out what you are missing, supplement [it]. The same goes for movement: do strength and conditioning because you need it for various reasons, but always do injury prevention because you know you have limitations somewhere.
In my world, injury prevention is the corrective strategies you subscribe to in order to keep the body balanced. We need to have a proper assessment of mobility and stability in order to nail down the individualized drills that are right for each person. I like these analogies when I am thinking about training and injury prevention in relation to food and supplementation:
Workouts equal meals. Injury Prevention equals supplementation. And also another good way to think of it is: Bad movement patterns equal junk food. Good movement patterns equals nutrition.
People wait until they are injured to manage a joint dysfunction and that, to me, is like waiting until you have diabetes to kick the sugar. Don’t do it!
Schimri Yoyo: Would your students describe you as a hard grader or an easy grader?
Michelle Richards: Haha, I suppose I am an easy grader when it comes to daily assignments because I assign things that they should want to do. For example, a daily assignment might be “Tell me where you want to be in five years.” However, when it comes to midterm and final time, they have to lead the class through a workout and I always tell them, “I am going to be picky and give you as much feedback as possible so that you benefit from this class,” so I do not often give out perfect scores.
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Schimri Yoyo: What’s your favorite part about being an educator?
Michelle Richards: Every semester, I meet a couple of students who are truly inspired to help people move and feel better and they dig in hard into the material. Watching them take it and apply it is the best feeling.
Training and Business Management
Schimri Yoyo: What one word best describes your approach to training your clients? Running your business?
Michelle Richards: Execute is the first word that comes to mind. Rather than just talking about what I am going to do someday, I do it.
There are times that this mentality [gets me in trouble]. But more often than not, it has been a driving force in helping me accomplish my goals.
Schimri Yoyo: Is CrossFit for everybody?
Michelle Richards: Yep. It sure is.
Schimri Yoyo: Describe the kinds of people who have the most success under your tutelage. What are some common traits?
Michelle Richards: They want to make a change in the fitness industry. There are plenty of students/people I come across that choose fitness as a major because they love working out and have a burning desire to have an impact on the lives of others. They are going to be fine and typically do well in my classes.
There are others who choose fitness as a major because they love to exercise, but think it’s going to be an easy path, an easy A. Those people are not going to appreciate the attention to detail I am asking for in my class as a teacher and in my sessions as a trainer.
Michelle Richards: Come to CrossFit Hyde Park and I will change your mind.
Schimri Yoyo: How can you encourage clients to maximize their physical potential without succumbing to burnout or risking injury?
Michelle Richards: I suppose I haven’t talked about all the classes I offer at my gym. The umbrella name for my gym is the Tampa Movement Lab and inside resides CrossFit Hyde Park. We offer five class options in our unlimited membership so that we lessen, or even diminish the opportunity for chronic joint pain and movement dysfunction.
The five classes we offer are CrossFit, Gymnastics, Endurance, Primal Strength, which is a class to restore movement patterns and apply all unilateral strength to balance out any asymmetries in the body, and Stretch and Meditation.
Schimri Yoyo: What’s the best way to be proactive with your daily fitness?
Michelle Richards: You will be proactive if you take the approach of having fun with it and getting better at something. Do not let your fitness be an option, make it a lifestyle—cliche but true. And also, MAKE IT FUN!
One thing we incorporate at Tampa Movement Lab is PLAY. Structured play has various benefits that range from neurological benefits to physical benefits. It is silly to look at your daily fitness as a chore and hop on an elliptical for 45 minutes when you could do a variety of movement patterns and get better at something.
Schimri Yoyo: In what ways do you utilize social media and technology to promote your business?
Michelle Richards: We have the main platforms: Facebook and Instagram but we utilize our closed Facebook members group the most to keep people in touch. Our community is tight-knit and it is extremely important to keep in constant communication.
We also use an awesome software system called “Chat Matic” which allows me to share upcoming news, workouts for the week, and events with the members via Facebook Messenger. These tools are extremely important to me and have helped grow my business tremendously.
Schimri Yoyo: What’s next for you as an entrepreneur?
Michelle Richards: There are so many things that I want to do, but right now I am focused on expanding the classes that we offer at my gym.
I plan to offer more classes at Tampa Movement Lab that contribute more to the Movement Culture. This is an exciting time in fitness because people are more knowledgable about the importance of variety and the times of hopping on an elliptical for 30 minutes is dying. I want Tampa Movement Lab to be the place that people go to explore new things so you will see my class offerings expanding in the near future!
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