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Fondness for fitness: Parkston native brings CrossFit to Mitchell

Amber Sperlich stands in front of the gym of CrossFit Tempest, which she opened on May 1. Sperlich, 34, is a Parkston native. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)1 / 2
Amber Sperlich stands in the gym of CrossFit Tempest, which she opened on May 1. Sperlich, 34, is a Parkston native. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)2 / 2

Relaxing before her next class, Amber Sperlich sits at her makeshift desk in a large, open gym.

Filled with various fitness equipment and bleachers, the gym was the original home for Mitchell Christian School, but now houses CrossFit Tempest, the newest fitness business in Mitchell.

Each morning, Monday through Friday, Sperlich teaches four classes at 5:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and each afternoon offers a 3 p.m. open gym option along with a 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. class.

And the 34-year-old Parkston native loves her work, but it took a long time and a lot of miles before she found herself back in her home state of South Dakota.

Sperlich graduated from Parkston in 2001, and attended South Dakota State University in Brookings for dairy manufacturing. After earning her degree in 2005, she lived in Iowa, Minnesota and Virginia before landing herself in Orlando, Florida, for seven years.

It was in Florida that she joined CrossFit, and she's never looked back.

"That was a really big part of my life in Orlando and how I found a lot of friends. I met a lot of cool and different people all because we were at the same gym at the same time," she said.

It was an instant hit for Sperlich, and in December she moved back to Mitchell to start her own CrossFit affiliation. By May 1, she had earned a coaching certificate, become officially affiliated with CrossFit and opened her own business. But it wasn't until July 1, that she found a gym space that wasn't her garage.

CrossFit Tempest is located at 723 E. Ash Ave. in the old Mitchell Christian School, where Sperlich rents the gymnasium portion of the building.

And with approximately 25 members, Sperlich is excited for more people to become involved in an activity she loves.

"It doesn't matter what you do, it doesn't matter what your athletic background is, you're all here doing the same thing and achieve the same goal," she said.

A sense of community

There's something about sweating.

Sperlich said each class is an hour long, and is completed in a group setting. Each day is different, she added, with a new workout each day to "keep your body guessing."

And with three main focus points of using functional everyday movements, varying the routine and performing at a high intensity, Sperlich said a sense of community is often formed.

"Because it is a group class, you get to know everybody that comes. You start to become friends with people and there's something about that shared suffering that afterward it just kind of bonds people," Sperlich said.

That was the case for Sheri Morris, who was Sperlich's first member at CrossFit Tempest. The 50-year-old had tried a CrossFit class in Watertown and immediately fell in love, she said, and when she heard of Sperlich's startup in May, she knew she had to join.

"I loved the group aspect and the variation of activities. I was so excited Mitchell was getting one back in May. I couldn't believe it," Morris said. "CrossFit is a workout program you can continue throughout your whole lifetime. It's not something just for the young people."

Morris said the high intensity, challenge of weightlifting, increased mobility and flexibility is what has kept her in CrossFit. And now with a new coach, Sperlich, she enjoys it even more.

Morris describes Sperlich as an "amazing instructor" who acts like a personal trainer offering individualized attention.

And opening CrossFit in Mitchell was perfect timing in Morris' opinion.

"I just have to say she's in the right place in the right time for a lot of people in Mitchell. And I would like to see a lot more people to get on board with it," Morris said. "You're doing something for yourself."

People of all ages and skill levels can join CrossFit, Sperlich said, which can range from people who've never worked out in their life to some who hope to compete at a high-level competition of CrossFit.

But whatever level they may be at, Sperlich wants everyone to know it's a welcoming and friendly space, despite the often intimidating name and image CrossFit bears.

"That's the biggest hurdle or obstacle that I see people have is that they don't know about CrossFit ..." she said. "They say it's super intimidating."

Keeping everyone moving

Sperlich's CrossFit Tempest is the 15th location in South Dakota, with the nearest facility to Mitchell being Sioux Falls.

But the goal of each location, she said, is to teach basic movements and the correct way to move the body. She added that it's more important to have correct movement patterns and learn how to move well before adding intensity.

"The point is to do functional stuff," Sperlich said. "We do the stuff in here, to make our lives better out there. It's not to make gym rats, but to literally keep us moving, agile and helping us age well wherever we are out in our fitness journey."

Sperlich earned her level one coaching certificate through CrossFit, along with a gymnastics specialty. But she hopes in the future she can earn her certification for children classes and add a CrossFit Kids program to her facility.

Sperlich has everyone who joins CrossFit Tempest define their goals, both short- and long-term. This, she said, helps on those days people don't have the motivation to work out.

And other than eating more vegetables, she has one other piece of advice.

"Just show up consistently, and you'll make progress wherever you're at," Sperlich said.

For those who are interested in joining CrossFit, call Sperlich at (804) 467-3711 or message the Facebook page at "CrossFit Tempest."