Lee Road gym hosts 'I Can't Breathe' tribute-fundraiser

Jewell Johnson runs in the "I Can't Breathe" workout. [photo credit: Gabe Schaffer]

On Saturday, June 13, CrossFit I/O on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights hosted a fundraiser and tribute workout dedicated to George Floyd and his family. More than 75 all-ages athletes participated in the socially distanced event, held in the gym’s parking lot. 

The more than $1,700 raised will be matched by a corporate sponsor and distributed equally to these nonprofits dedicated to racial equity: Audre Lorde Project Inc., Black Lives Matter Foundation Fund, Race Forward, and the National Urban League. 

Angelo Rogers, a first-responder in Norfolk, Va., created the “I Can’t Breathe” workout “as a positive way to channel the pain and emotions so many of us are feeling as we witness the continued injustice so many of us still face today.” 

The workout went viral when an online platform, WODwell, added it to its list of memorial workouts.

Michael and Jodi Melistrup, owners of Crossfit I/O, acted quickly to turn Rogers’ idea into a Heights community event. 

CrossFit I/O members, along with their friends and family, were in attendance, as were members of other local gyms, and drop-ins who’d heard about the event online.  

Marques Evans, a certified CrossFit I/O coach, and a pastor, led with moving remarks about George Floyd’s death and the universal message that we all want to be “treated the same.” 

Evans urged the diverse crowd to work hard and perform the exercise, not just as an action toward personal health, but in tribute to George Floyd and his family. He asked them to “feel just a little bit the angst and the pain that he [George Floyd] felt when his life was leaving him.”

After the warmup, the participants—many of them wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts and tanks—shared a moment of silence, and then flooded onto E. Overlook Road to begin their run. 

The “I Can’t Breathe” workout comprises the following, and can be scaled as needed: 1,600-meter run, 30 burpees (full-body squat thrusts), 800-meter run, 20 burpees, 400-meter run, 10 burpees, 400-meter run, 20 burpees, 800-meter run, 30 burpees, 1,600-meter run.

After months of quarantine and weeks of protest and unrest, the community action for a just cause lifted many beleaguered spirits. As one athlete remarked, “Today felt right . . . for the first time in a long time.”

Nicole Tugeau

Nicole Tugeau is a Cleveland Heights resident and has been a Crossfit I/O member since 2016. She participated in the "I Can't Breathe" workout alongside her sister, Genevieve.  

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Volume 13, Issue 7, Posted 3:03 PM, 06.22.2020