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Sandy Fleck celebrated her 61st birthday in December 2014 by doing something she had never done before.

The Sioux City woman was able to perform a pull-up in her CrossFit class.

"I can do most things in CrossFit but the chin-up bar has always been my downfall," Fleck admitted. "I was finally able to pull myself up and it felt incredible!"

Fleck is one of the students participating in trainer Paxton Ubbinga's morning CrossFit class at Four Seasons Health Club.

Growing up in Homer, Neb., Ubbinga, 29, attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, on a baseball scholarship.

Always interested in sports and fitness, he's been participating in CrossFit and has been a trainer for more than a year.

"I love CrossFit because it is so adaptable," Ubbinga said. "You can be an experienced athlete or a newcomer and still find benefit in CrossFit."

Founded by Greg Glassman in 1996, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that incorporates elements of high-intensity interval training, weightlifting, calisthenics and gymnastics while incorporating the Workout of the Day (or "WOD").

"The 'WOD' can be anything from a set number of lifts to a run around the track," Ubbinga explained. "That's the key because nobody gets bored with their training. We try to keep things varied so your body doesn't know what to expect."

That's good news for Liz Schermerhorn, since she always likes a challenge.

"I've never really been involved in a weight-training program prior to CrossFit, mainly because I was afraid I'd bulk up," the Sioux City woman explained. "But I've noticed (the program) is giving me lean muscle mass, which I like a lot."

According to Ubbinga, that's because each of the workouts are designed to mimic movements a person could perform in their day-to-day life.

"Instead of using weight machines, we use kettlebells and barbells," he said. "Plus we have plenty of space for squatting, running and jumping. In other words, moving our bodies the way they were designed to move."

Yet there are modified moves that newcomers can do in place of more strenuous workouts.

"CrossFit is completely customized to a person's ability and fitness level," Ubbinga said. "Since we program each workout, it takes the guesswork away from our members."

Which will come in handy for Liz Noltze, a Sioux City woman who is a stepmom to an 8-year-old, a mom to a 3-year-old, and expecting another child in June.

"CrossFit works in my schedule because I can finish it in one hour," she said. "Then I have the rest of the day to do everything that needs to be done."

Sometimes that includes hanging out with fellow CrossFit members.

"I have my regular friends plus my CrossFit friends," Fleck said. "We've developed a nice little community around here, so it's not unusual for me to see my CrossFit friends outside of the health club."

This is an aspect that Ubbinga enjoys most of all.

"In some fitness classes, there's a sense of competitiveness," he said. "Here, we strive to keep a positive and encouraging environment to develop all of our fitness goals."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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