comscore A passion became a business | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

A passion became a business

    Members work out on the rowing machine at Elyse Umeda's CrossFit gym on Puuhale Road. Above right, Umeda instructs a member in a workout.<

Photo gallery: Elyse Umeda, trainer

A hobby became a passion. A dream became a business.

Elyse Umeda’s leap of faith when changing careers — from coaching basketball to starting her own CrossFit affiliate gym — has been the right move. And, given the demand at her space on Puuhale Road, it’s already proven to be a successful one.

The 2003 Punahou School graduate rolled up the door of her "box" Feb. 22. Before the end of the 12-hour day, the 26-year-old Umeda had run out of membership applications and waivers.

"The support I’ve had from friends and family has been unbelievable," said Umeda, who helped Punahou to a state basketball championship and Princeton to an Ivy League title during her four seasons with the Tigers. "But we won’t get too big. We’ll cap membership at 200 and we can take 15 to 20 per class.


» 220 Puuhale Road #A3
» Honolulu
» 848-1555
» M-F from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat: 9 a.m.-noon
» Adult (13-over) hour classes
» Keiki (6-12) half-hour classes
» $150 per month, unlimited
» $75 per month, 2 classes a week

"We never want to lose the personal touch."

CrossFit is a fitness program that is the main strength and conditioning program for many military units, police academies and elite athletes internationally. The program’s specialty is not specializing, with universal workouts scaled to individuals regardless of athletic ability or fitness level.

What makes it attractive to many is the varied routines. There’s an element of surprise when coming to the facility, with the WOD (workout of the day) posted on the board.

"I needed a change from my regular gym," Peedi-Jean Saldana said. "I had lost interest in what I was doing. I had hit a lull and wanted to love working out again.

"I saw a such big change in my friend that I used to work out with that I asked her what she was doing. She told me (CrossFit) and that she loved it."

The friend was Rome Stein, whose doctor had told her to lose 30 pounds because of high blood pressure.

"I had tried a lot of different things like soccer, tennis and running, but I couldn’t do it on my own," she said. "I found CrossFit and it’s changed my life and my family’s life. My 6-year-old does CrossFit twice a week and he’d do it every day if he could.

"Everything is modifiable. Before you know it, you’re doing things you never thought you would. There’s a nutrition component that, hand in hand with the workout, equals an incredible body change."

Stein worked out at another CrossFit facility on Oahu, dropping 30 pounds in the past nine months. It reinforced what she was preaching as the operations manager of the Hawaii Initiative for Childhood Obesity Research and Education at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Stein followed Umeda, a certified CrossFit trainer who had been at Hardass Fitness, to 808CrossFit. So did Josh Akiona, one of the four coaches on staff.

"I like that it addresses everything that needs to addressed in a workout," said Akiona, who wrestled, paddled and played football at Kamehameha. "It’s fun to challenge yourself when doing new things.

"Even though it’s a group class, you’re still getting that one-on-one coaching. It’s tailored to the individual."

CrossFit is also a sport, with 50 men and 50 women qualifying for the CrossFit Games through international sectional and regional competition. Umeda qualified for the 2009 Games but was unable to compete due to a family illness. She placed 11th in the three-day competition last year at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

It was the ultimate WOD. Contestants didn’t know what the third workout would be until they walked into the arena.

"They kept us in a holding room so we were completely in the dark," Umeda said "We walked out and the announcer said, ‘This is the workout you’re going to do … 3, 2, 1 … go.’

"You don’t know what you’re going to get, so you have to be adaptable."

That’s been Umeda’s career path as well. Two years ago, she was an assistant basketball coach at Samford in Alabama.

"I loved coaching basketball, but I also fell in love with CrossFit," she said. "It seemed like the dream I wanted to pursue and it’s starting to become real.

"Finding a space was probably the hardest, but I’m so happy with our location. It’s convenient for our members either on their way home or on their way to work. It was an investment, but I know it’s worth it every day I come to work, open the gate and see our members who love doing what I love to do."

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