Portrait of Emily Bridgers, a former UGA gymnast and co-owner of CrossFit Terminus, at CrossFit Terminus in Atlanta on Friday, July 6, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

How Emily Bridgers turned CrossFit into a career

Upon first glance, Emily Bridgers doesn’t look like a traditional businesswoman. Her work attire usually consists of a messy bun, a tank top and cross-training shoes supplied by Reebok.

But don’t let the absence of a blazer fool you. Bridgers, 31, opened CrossFit Terminus in Atlanta at 26 and has watched the gym grow since taking the entrepreneurial leap with her husband, Ben Benson, in 2013.

CrossFit, as defined by the official website, is “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” Bridgers was introduced to the style of exercise as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia where she was a member of the gymnastics team before a back injury forced her into an early retirement.

When she first tried the extreme exercise routines that CrossFit demands, she wasn’t quite at the level of the 40 women who compete in the annual CrossFit Games.

“My friend and I decided to start doing some CrossFit workouts in the UGA weight room, but we didn’t know exactly what we were doing,” she said, noting that they avoided any workouts that required a barbell.

After getting hooked on the ever-changing Workout of the Day, affectionately known as “WODs,” Bridgers committed fully to CrossFit. Her efforts and hours in the gym paid off as she finished sixth out of 40 competitors at the 2014 CrossFit Games and earned sponsorships from companies such as Reebok, PerformaSleep and FitAID.

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Bridgers is currently ranked first in Georgia, third in the Southeast region and eighth in the United States after a preliminary competition known as the Open.

A childhood dream of owning a gymnastics facility was reshaped into a vision of her own CrossFit gym after coaching at various different locations. She holds an exercise science degree from UGA, which fits her current career path perfectly, as she is the head coach at CrossFit Terminus and assists her clients in various aspects of fitness and nutrition.

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“It’s as much being good coaches as it is just knowing how to relate to humans and trying to make everyone happy all the time,” she said. “I love it. It’s a really cool profession to have.”

Bridgers seems to be succeeding in her attempts to satisfy customers. CrossFit Terminus houses around 175 members, and there are numerous testimonials on the gym’s website praising its comfortable environment that welcomes all ages, body types and skill levels. She points to being involved in “anything that makes a positive impact on (someone’s) life” as her favorite part of being a coach.

July 6, 2018 Atlanta - Emily Bridgers demonstrates at CrossFit Terminus in Atlanta on Friday, July 6, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

But beyond the barbells, kettlebells and competitions, Bridgers sees herself as an entrepreneur, and with that comes responsibilities like signing leases, handling parking arrangements and being confident that the services her staff provides are worth the price.

Additionally, as a woman business owner, she runs into situations that men counterparts in her field might not encounter.

“It’s not something I think about often,” she said when asked about her experiences as a businesswoman. “There have definitely been situations dealing with landlords (or) negotiating certain things … where you realize, as you’re dealing with people, that they might respond one way to you. Then if Ben sat down to that same meeting, they respond a completely different way, which is a little bit eye-opening.”

So far, Bridgers has conquered every bump in the road and still manages to “hang with the pack” of CrossFit athletes who solely train for competitions in favor of traditional employment. But she won’t be running with the herd much longer as she announced her retirement from competition May 31, meaning the 2018 CrossFit Games in August will be her last.

Many fans are skeptical that Bridgers will actually step away since she is still at the top of her game, but she has plans of starting a family and wants to go out on a high note while she is still capable. Those who will miss seeing her on the competition floor at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis. can find her leading classes at CrossFit Terminus for years to come.

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