Athlete of the Week Blog

Athlete Spotlight – Melissa Y-R.

Why did you choose Sycamore CrossFit? Why do you keep coming back?

I was new to the area after moving in with Chris and followed him to the SCF after leaving CrossFit Oswego. He had started shadowing Carl/Jeremy and was working toward his CrossFit level 1 certification. Obviously, Chris is now a coach and Sycamore CrossFit has grown, but the “small gym feel” never changed. Everyone is always so encouraging and the gym is literally like a second family.

What's your best story about the gym?

In May 2019, Chris was involved in an accident during which he suffered a traumatic brain injury. The way that the gym came together to support Brantley and me was nothing short of amazing. The fact that the gym came together outside of those four walls is my favorite story. Everything from meals, to gift cards, to packages, to help watching Brantley, to texts/calls, visitors, or giving us rides proved once again that Sycamore CrossFit is more than a gym, it’s a family.

What advice would you give to the person you were a year ago?

I would say that persistence is key. Be real and honest with your coaches because CrossFit can be adapted for anyone. It’s not always all the craziness that people see in the Games. It’s you versus you and nothing more. Everyone at the gym will support you where you are at and celebrate wins together.

What accomplishment at the gym or in your nutrition are you the most proud of?

The fact that I am starting to do some workouts without a lot of modification is the accomplishment that I’m most proud of. I have chronic pain and nerve issues that needed surgical intervention. The doctor said that even post-surgery that my pain would never go away and it was something that I would have to live with and work around. With the help of Coach Eric I was able to slowly increase my work capacity to the point I’m able to complete some workouts without modification and even hang from a pull up bar/rings, which I was unable to do previously without pain. I still have a long way to go but am proud of the progress I have made.


What to Buy Your CrossFitter Gift Guide

Crossfit gift guide

On Small Business Saturday we made some recommendations for items you could buy from our business. But we know your CrossFitter loves other fun gear as well! So please check out this gift guide for some other great ideas!


CrossFitters. Love. Shoes.

Most we know can’t get enough of them!

So what are the go-to brands?

All three brands have some amazing styles that your loved one is sure to enjoy.

fitness tracker

A fitness tracker is a great gift for anyone on your list who likes to workout!

Some fitness trackers are great to use to track workouts, distances, and routes. Some of our members love watches from FitBit and Garmin.

Another great choice is the Apple Watch, which does a lot of the same things as other fitness watches, but you can also make phone calls, and it can be great to have in an emergency.

Another favorite is the Whoop band. This wrist band tracks several physiological factors in order to give you a better understanding of your workouts, recovery, and more. It even tracks your respiratory rate to determine if you’re getting sick. 

Use this link for a free strap and your first month free.

subscription box

Who doesn’t love a subscription box?! Fun surprises every month! And there are some that are created specifically with the CrossFit athlete in mind!

Gainz Box

Gainz Box is a monthly subscription box for male or female CrossFit athletes! Each box contains gear, samples, and an apparel item. You can purchase a one-time box or a subscription, and they have special boxes and items for the holidays

Purchase here!

Barbella Box

Barbella Box is a monthly subscription box designed specifically for CrossFit ladies! Each box contains gear, samples, and an apparel item. And the subscription can be paused or cancelled at any time. Or you can purchase a one time holiday box!

Purchase here!


People tend to be very particular about their workout apparel, so we suggest figuring out what brands your loved one wears. Some of our members’ favorites include:

  • Born Primitive
  • Virus
  • Lululemon
  • Athleta

And you can never go wrong with some Sycamore CrossFit gear! We’ve got shirts, tanks, pants, cold-weather gear, and even masks!

Check out the store here.


Our own Coach Hannah is a licensed massage therapist. She specializes in massage for athletes and also offers cupping. A gift card from Hannah is a perfect gift for the athlete in your life!

Call or message Hannah for details: (815) 970-4773


Gym Bags

Our own Laura Harcar is a stylist with Stella & Dot, and they have some amazing bags that are perfect for going to and from the gym! The bags are all part of the Crush It Collection. But hurry, these styles are selling out fast!

Check out her store here:

Jump Rope

Every serious CrossFit athlete wants their own jump rope! It truly does help you get better at jump roping, and especially at double-unders. We recommend RPM ropes, and we would suggest choosing Session or Scout.

Purchase here!

Other Accessories

Here are some other ideas for accessories that your CrossFitter might be interested in:

  • Grips
  • Knee Sleeves
  • Water Bottles

Interested in a gift card or training sessions from Sycamore CrossFit? Please contact us! We would love to help you find the perfect gift for your loved one. And we would love to help you help your loved one get started on their health and fitness journey!


Sycamore CrossFit Gift Guide

Happy Small Business Saturday!

The holidays are coming up, and we know many people are looking to shop local this year!

With that in mind, we wanted to give you some gift ideas from us!

Personal Training/Skill Sessions

Gift your loved one a skill session or personal training session!

Skill sessions are a great way for a CrossFit athlete to work on a specific movement or skill and improve by having focused, one-on-one time with a coach! Your coach can help you improve on specific weightlifting movements, skills like pull-ups, double-unders, muscle-ups, etc., or they can even help you focus on a specific area like glutes or abdominals and provide you with some at-home exercises to improve those areas!

Personal training sessions are always a hit, especially for someone who is first starting their fitness journey, someone with a difficult schedule, or someone who has very specific goals.

Nutrition Session

Give your loved one the gift of nutrition!

Figuring out how to eat healthy and develop good eating habits is incredibly difficult. Help your loved one by giving them a session with a coach who can guide them to better choices and habits.


We offer many fun smaller gifts that you or your loved one may enjoy!

  • SCF Blender Bottles
  • SCF Coffee Mugs
  • Protein & Supplements
  • FitAid
  • Rx Bars


Sycamore CrossFit apparel is always a hit!

Check out our store here:

Items include:

  • Sweatshirts
  • Vests
  • Hats
  • Shirts
  • Tanks
  • Sweatpants
  • Masks
  • Children’s Apparel

Gift Cards

This one is as simple as it sounds! Gift cards can be used toward monthly memberships, personal training, nutrition, or skill sessions, and merchandise.

Athlete of the Week Blog

Athlete Spotlight – Jake N.

Why did you choose Sycamore CrossFit? Why do you keep coming back?

I chose Sycamore CrossFit because I wanted to start having a more decisive workout regiment that wasn’t just maxing out on bench press every other day. I keep coming back, now more regularly than ever, because of the amazing vibes at SCF and how helpful the coaches are at helping me reach my goals.

What's your best story about the gym?
A memory that sticks out in my head is when I was doing the “Helen” and I was on my very last set of 12 pull-ups. I jumped down from the bar with 8 more to go and Coach Nate started yelling at me very angrily to get back on the bar and finish it. Immediately I jumped up and did the rest, even though I was completely gassed and didn’t think it was possible. Turns out he was just super pumped for me to break the gym’s record for that workout! Haha!
Also, pretty much every time Coach Eric or Chris see me they tell me what the best time/reps was for the workout and just wait for me to try to beat it, knowing that I probably have no chance getting even close 😂
What advice would you give to the person you were a year ago?

If I could give myself a year ago advice, it would be to  start coming more consistently sooner! Since I’ve been coming to SCF more frequently, it’s become even more enjoyable once you get to know everyone, and I’ve been getting better at almost every movement.

What accomplishment at the gym or in your nutrition are you the most proud of?

I’m most proud of how disciplined I’ve been on actually making it to the gym every day and following SCF’s WOD programming. Like I said before, I used to always do the same workouts every time I went to the gym, and I’m happy that I finally don’t just skip a day just because I don’t want to work out a certain muscle group (leg day) 😂

Athlete of the Week Blog

Athlete Spotlight – Agnes S.

Why did you choose Sycamore CrossFit? Why do you keep coming back?

Yvette had just joined and asked me to come with her to check it out … the rest is history, ha!

What's your best story about the gym?

I have never liked group work out, hence my love of solitary  running, and this is the first place that I actually enjoy coming to regularly, and have stuck with. 😊 I love the concept of CrossFit, which was new to me when I joined, and I absolutely love the coaches. Eric, Hannah, and occasionally Chris (my 7 am class), are amazing, and I look forward to the class every day. 

What advice would you give to the person you were a year ago?

Ain’t a workout till your eyeballs sweat, and the soreness hits the muscles you didn’t even know you had! Hurry, and join CrossFit! 

What accomplishment at the gym or in your nutrition are you the most proud of?
I keep moving. I didn’t die. Oh, and I can pull a few double-unders a in a row (thanks to an unexpected personal training with Eric, when no one showed up to a class) 😊
Other than that… I don’t keep any numbers, scores, records (however, I’m working on a pull-up so bad 🤣)…I’m just having a great time. Working out makes me happy (and semi-sane), and I enjoy it at Sycamore CrossFit very much!

Reaching Your Goals

We know it’s chaotic right now, so we wanted to share a problem-solving strategy with you.

It’s something you can use to accomplish just about anything. For example, you can use it to create your ideal lifestyle or career. You can use it to complete a home-renovation project. Or you can use it with us to make a plan to accomplish your health and fitness goals.

You can even use it to get through a very challenging day!

A secret: We use this strategy to improve our business all the time. With the pandemic ongoing, things are constantly in flux. So whenever we come up against a problem that seems overwhelming, we use this plan to find focus and then take clear action.

Here’s how to break things down into manageable steps that don’t seem so intimidating. Feel free to do this exercise mentally, but it might help to pull out a pen and paper so you can write things down. 

Start by thinking about your goal—your desired end state. Call that Point B. 

Then think about where you are currently. Call that Point A.

Draw a line between the two points.

Now, map the steps that lead from Point A to Point B. Break the journey down into key parts. What’s halfway? What’s halfway to halfway? What are the major milestones?

Note every step that will take you closer to your ultimate goal. 

Then take the first step!

Think of the old proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The hardest part? Starting. Once you have momentum and milestones, you’re much more likely to keep moving.

This process works wonders. Think about the goal of climbing Mount Everest one day. That’s very intimidating. There are probably a million things you’d have to do to accomplish that goal. Where would you start? What if Step 1 is simply “go to the store and buy mountain-climbing boots”? That doesn’t seem so hard, and once you’ve crossed it off the list, you move on to steps 2, 3 and 4.

Here’s one other tip: You can supercharge this process by getting someone else involved, like a friend, partner, mentor or coach. That person can provide objective insight, support, motivation and accountability. Or maybe you aren’t sure what the steps are and need an expert to help you lay them out. 

If you have health and fitness goals, we would love to go through this process with you. No matter what you want to accomplish, we can help you create a step-by-step plan that keeps you moving forward. Lose weight? Gain strength? Do a pull-up? Work out three times a week? Stay active during a pandemic? We can help.

If you have anything on your mind right now, contact us and let us know when you’d like to talk about it. 

We can’t wait to hear from you!


P.S. The holiday season is coming. If you’d like to talk about how you can eat the foods you enjoy and accomplish fitness goals, we can help!


Can exercise improve my mental health?

The physical benefits of exercise are obvious.

  • Improved cardiovascular endurance
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Improved sleep
  • Longevity
  • And more

But what about mental health?

Many of us are struggling with our mental health right now. We may be clinically depressed, anxious, or dealing with other mental health issues. Or we may be struggling with depression and anxiety that we’ve never experienced before.

Our current circumstances can feel isolating, debilitating, lonely… but exercise can actually help.

Exercise improves your mental health too!

This article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry explains that exercise is proven to

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce depression
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve self-esteem and cognitive function
  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce tiredness and therefore increase mental alertness

Heading to the gym can also give you a safe but very important outlet and place to go. You can safely be around other people and have a physical and social outlet to get you out of isolation.

Athlete of the Week Blog

Athlete Spotlight – Katie A.

Why did you choose Sycamore CrossFit? Why do you keep coming back?

When I moved to Hampshire in the summer of 2019, I struggled to find a good workout routine. With a background mostly in dance, yoga, and barre classes, I craved the ability to gain more muscle. My husband suggested that I try CrossFit, and then I remembered that my cousin Michelle was always talking about how much she loved Sycamore CrossFit. I hesitated since it is a 15 mile drive each way, but during the first week I was hooked. The coaches attention to form and genuine interest in our lives is something I’ve never experienced in group fitness. Also, the members are so down to earth and cheer each other on!

What's your best story about the gym?

After my first intro lesson, Coach Eric asked me if I had any questions. For some reason, I had this preconceived notion that I should be taking classes with people my age and at my ability level (probably due to intimidation), so I asked him what the crowd was like during the 8:30 am class I planned on attending. He tilted his head to the side, and then just started shouting across the room to the 8:30 class, “Hey! How old are you guys?!” I was mortified, humbled, and entertained. What I was about to find out was that each class is a complete mix of bad ass CrossFitters from all walks of life. This mix of people is the secret sauce to helping us all become the best versions of ourselves!

What advice would you give to the person you were a year ago?

Stop doing your same old exercise routine. You think you are pushing yourself, but you’re not.

What accomplishment at the gym or in your nutrition are you the most proud of?

I am so happy to feel like I won’t blow away in the wind anymore. Everyone would always compliment me on how thin I looked, but inside I felt weak. Since starting at Sycamore CrossFit in January 2020 I’ve gained a consistent 7 pounds of muscle and hope to continue that growth. I have come to enjoy the cashed out feel after a difficult WOD, and the way my mind feels cleansed for a good 24 hours post workout.


Meet the Coach – Kenneth

Kenneth started coaching at Sycamore CrossFit in January 2019 through an internship for his undergraduate degree. He has been coaching with us every since and is now pursuing his master’s degree.

He is focused on personal training and does an amazing job using his experience and education to help athletes become the strongest, fastest, and fittest versions of themselves.

When/how did your health and fitness journey begin?

My fitness journey started out when I was younger playing different sports. The way we move and function as humans caught my interest. I honestly liked pushing myself and the exercise. Making myself bigger, faster, stronger, and healthier has alway been my reason for exercise. The science behind this whole process has me hooked. Helping others reach their fitness goals excites me, and I’m very passionate about it.

When did you first start coming to Sycamore CrossFit?

I started coming to the gym in January of 2019.

Why did you want to become a coach at SCF?

I started at Sycamore CrossFit for my internship with NIU. CrossFit was completely new to me at the time. 

I wanted to coach at Sycamore CrossFit to help as many people reach their goals, while staying safe and having fun. There are more than enough options to help each individual meet their specific needs here. I needed to share my knowledge and passion of Health and Fitness with the community.  

What education/certifications do you have?
  • Bachelor’s of Science in Health Science from Northern Illinois University
  • Currently pursuing a Master’s in Kinesiology/Exercise Physiology at Northern Illinois University
What is your favorite thing about coaching at Sycamore CrossFit?

My favorite thing about coaching at Sycamore CrossFit is being able to help people reach their fitness goals.  Everyone at the gym works hard. The members and the vibes also can’t be forgotten.

Why should people want to come take a class or do personal training with you?

Everything that I do is assist you in reaching your fitness goals. I will provide a workout that is modified to your physical capability. Safety is one of my biggest concerns. Each workout will challenge you both mentally and physically. I am big on positive energy and hard work. 

What is your favorite memory at Sycamore CrossFit?

My favorite memory at Sycamore CrossFit was after my first  group class workout.  I completely rushed through everything just trying to be fast and get it done.  After the workout I was laid out on the couch and couldn’t catch my breath at all.  The coaches came over and explained the importance of slowing things down for pacing and safety reasons.  I didn’t feel attacked or anything. From that day forward I have taken things completely different.  I have felt much better after workouts as well .

Athlete of the Week Blog

Athlete Spotlight – Kandice C.

Why did you choose Sycamore CrossFit? Why do you keep coming back?

About a year ago I was transferred back to the DeKalb/Sycamore area for work. At which time I knew that I wanted to continue to develop my CrossFit skills, which I had started elsewhere. Joining Sycamore CrossFit made sense to me due to location, cost, convenient hours, excellent coaches, and nice people. Even on my “bad days” I continue to go to Sycamore CrossFit because it allows me to “mentally unplug” from my day. It’s nice to have a place that has a balance of joking around and having fun, while focusing on hard work. Physically it is rewarding, but it’s also very mentally rewarding as well.

What's your best story about the gym?

It’s hard to choose a “best story” about this gym. Most good stories come down to either Carl, Eric, Nate, Mike (really any coach) having friendly banter with members during class. Being able to laugh, creates more of a “laid back” atmosphere which makes the hard workouts seem easier somehow.

What advice would you give to the person you were a year ago?

The biggest piece of advice that I would give to myself from a year ago would be that you have to be patient. Bad days come and go, so it’s ok to fail. Push yourself but also listen to your body. It is OK to take a day off. It is OK to be last. Leave your pride at the door. Show up, do your best and 6, 12, 24 months from now you will see progress. Just be patient.

What accomplishment at the gym or in your nutrition are you the most proud of?

The biggest accomplishment that I’ve made in the gym is that I can now do rope climbs and double-unders. It’s so rewarding to finally be able to do a movement that I have tried for years, because it is more of a mental victory than anything.