As we head into a new year of rugby, we’d like to take a minute to give a shout out to one of our sponsors from 2014, Balance Gym.
Hang around the Furies long enough and you’ll hear Dre Khoury or Tiffany Smith give their stump speech- literally, standing on a table or chair- about how the Furies are more than a rugby team; the Furies are a family. It’s only natural that the team joins forces with a fitness community that also emanates the chorus of the disco hit “We Are Family.” Voted 3 times as Washington DC’s Best Gym, Balance Gym’s strong focus on fitness and community make a partnership with the Washington Women’s Rugby Football Club a natural fit.
As a Fury, it’s nearly impossible to go to Balance gym without running in to someone you know. From the front desk to the weight room floor, DC’s ruggers permeate Balance Gym. Mark Crick and Ben Weidmeier, owner and general manager of Balance Gym respectively, love to hire rugby players, quoting their level of commitment and reliability. Even if you don’t run into someone you know among the staff at the gym, the odds are good that you’ll see someone you know while you’re there working out. This could be a teammate, a rugger from another DC team, or a new acquaintance you’ve met through the gym. There is a great sense of community at Balance that mirrors the one-big-family feel of the Furies. Kerstin “Toad” Nordstrom of the Furies says, “I love that I can go to the gym by myself and I’ll always run into teammate or one of the many friends and trainers I know from the gym. It’s the friendliest place I regularly go to. It’s a healthier version of Cheers.” Her teammate, Tara Dunderdale echoes this sentiment, saying, “I almost always find another Fury at the gym when I come in for a workout. Even if I don’t, the staff at Balance always makes me feel welcome.” Members of the Washington Women’s RFC, Potomac Athletic Club (PAC), and the Washington Renegades can be found working out individually or in small groups throughout the gym most any day. As a sponsor of these Washington-based rugby teams, Balance has expanded the rugby team network from the pitch to the weight room.
How does a gym with a friendly-neighborhood-hangout vibe attract so many serious athletes? Maybe it’s that the gym is owned and run by former ruggers whose mission was to create a place where they would want to train. Originally from Australia, gym owner Mark Crick came to the US through the course of his rugby career. He met Ben Wedmeier when they both played for the Mid-Atlantic select-side, then the US men’s national team. While in DC, Mark started a fitness class to make some money. An outdoor boot camp with 5 participants grew into Balance Gym, which now offers a wide range of locations and fitness services throughout greater Washington. The mission: Mark really wanted a gym he would want to train in. This hit the mark for the Furies. “You know a gym is doing something right when two ladies can go chalk up, lift some heavy barbells…and no one gives them any crap or side-eye about it,” says Nordstrom.
From the start, Balance Gym has been involved in the larger community. The first event Mark sponsored was a Capital Tennis Association tournament, supporting the LGBT tennis community. Balance continues to be the signature sponsor for the annual Capitol Classic tournament. In fact, if you go to numerous events around DC you’ll find the Balance logo. In the rugby community, Balance supports the Potomac Exiles, the Washington Women’s Rugby Football Club, the Washington Renegades, and Georgetown RFC. They contribute to the Washington Area Women’s Soccer League and are a partner in the annual Cupid’s Undie Run- an event held each February to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Association. Recently the gym has started a non-profit arm to develop a DC-base for Steve’s Club, a nationwide organization to help at-risk youth find positive outlets and learn discipline through Crossfit training. Every year the gym participates in the DC Pride Parade. Mark talks with enthusiasm about the fun experiences he’s had with many of these events over the years, from being hit on at the tennis tournament, to the year he recruited Ben to move from California to DC only to be harnessed to a float in the pride parade on his first weekend in town. But, he says that one of his favorite events is the Bike to the Beach century ride Balance Gym participates in each summer. The event- a fundraiser for Autism awareness- builds community through training rides leading up to the big day.
The Furies are proud to be a part of the Balance Gym community, and to be able to count Balance as one of the members of the extended family that is rugby in Washington DC.