The ‘Rocky’ Mentality / CrossFit athletes continue to train despite devastating fire

Jase Robinson, Audra McNear and 15 of their Deathproof CrossFit gym members stood outside Jan. 24 as they watched the building that their gym called home for nearly three years go up in flames. 

Carpet Mania, another building in the complex located at the intersection of 10th Street and Michigan Avenue, caught on fire and spread to Deathproof CrossFit while it was in the middle of a lunchtime workout session. All of the members were evacuated safely, but Deathproof no longer had a home. 

“You hear people talk about the devastation of going through a fire, but you never really know until you actually live through one,” said Robinson, the owner of Deathproof CrossFit.  

Despite not having a gym, members of Deathproof continued to compete in the Lurong Resolution Challenge after the fire. The Lurong Resolution Challenge is a multiple-week competition that includes the nutrition, exercise and lifestyle categories. Athletes from across the nation can compete in this remote competition that requires participants to send in videos of their workouts and progress. 

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Deathproof used other CrossFit gyms in Bloomington, Madison and Bargersville to complete the challenges and managed to win the small-teams competition. Robinson also won the overall Men’s Masters Title.

However, driving multiple miles just for a workout began to take its toll. 

Robinson and McNear, the director of operations, decided to turn part of their front lawn into a workout station to make it easier to complete their workouts. They laid down a concrete surface in the front yard, which they covered with a $500 rubber mat. They acquired a few barbells, rubber bumper plates, kettle bells, dumbbells and paddle boards to create a home workout station. 

Robinson explained that working out in one’s garage using equipment that was affordable is how the CrossFit movement originally got started. Now, Robinson and McNear have come full circle from having access to top-notch equipment to being back to what Robinson described as the brass tacks. 

“We’re coming back to kind of the grass roots,” he said. “You get any worse than this and you’re like Rocky (Balboa) — you’re cutting down tree limbs and throwing those to each other.” 

To make matters even worse, Robinson ruptured his bicep when using a shovel to try to move a large rock out of the dirt when trying to make room for the cement surface, so McNear had to shovel nearly all of the dirt herself. That also meant she had to complete all of her workouts by herself while competing in the Lurong Summertime Challenge that ended near the end of June.

The time spent working out in the front lawn while rain is pouring down in the middle of the night was all worth it when McNear won the overall female open competition. 

McNear had no other workout partner to chase after or to push her. She always tried to go full throttle and just hoped to be near the leaderboard because there was nothing to help her gauge the goal she was chasing. The overall motivation of having a gym community also was temporarily lost to the fire, and McNear said it felt pretty lonely at times.

But somehow she prevailed. 

“I didn’t realize how well I was doing in the competition,” McNear said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to the leader board until somebody had mentioned that I was at the top of it, and I just assumed that it was going to all be a wash, and we’ll do all right next time. But here we are.” 

Robinson and McNear found a building on Commerce drive to move the Deathproof gym and anticipate the opening day to be Wednesday. Although the fire didn’t stop Deathproof from performing well in the Lurong competitions, Robinson said it feels incredible to be able to work out in an actual gym soon. 

“We didn’t drop off as much as we (should have),” Robinson said. “Everything should have ended on that day (of the fire), but we weren’t prepared to let it. You can’t be prepared to let everything in you life just disappear up in smoke in one day and say, ‘There is no more of that ever again.’ That was never going to happen.” 

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Name: Audra McNear

Age: 38

High School: Madison 

Occupation: Deathproof CrossFit director of operations

Lurong Summertime Challenge: First place in the overall female open competition


Name: Jase Robinson

Age: 48

High school: Queen Elizabeth Sixth From College (Darlington, England) 

College: Teesside University (Middlesbrough, England); Indiana University

Occupation: Deathproof CrossFit owner

Lurong Resolution Challenge: First place in the overall men’s Masters competition