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Brickhouse Crossfit Owners
Brickhouse CrossFit owners Jay and Amanda Forrester, in a photo that is not upside down.
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Writer Tony Pearman, 46 years old: "Do I have six-pack abs? Lord no. But after 17 months of CrossFit, I can do more than 30 unbroken pull-ups."
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Crossfit activities (and weights) are geared to participants' own strength and fitness levels.
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Kelsey Hoffman Schmitt
Kipping pullups, as carried out by Kelsey Hoffman Schmitt and Mark Mast. Bending over: Jason Reeves.
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Roanoke Valley CrossFit co-owner Tim Falke is a former military special operator, he opened RVCF with Andy Beedle in the fall of 2011.
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RVCF athlete Jessica Holley, on what is affectionately known as "Heartbreak Hill."
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For writer Tony Pearman, "leaving it all on the floor" is both literal and figurative.
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Beedle foresees the day when the valley could sustain six Crossfit "boxes."
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Roanoke Valley Crossfit co-owner Andy Beedle also has a doctorate in philosophy.
Things seem to be in slow motion. Sounds of deep breathing and soft muttered curses can be heard. As I pick my head up off the floor, beads of sweat drip, drip, drip, drip from my forehead like rain. I rise to my knees as the sounds of the very, very loud, booming music – which has been playing the entire time – suddenly become apparent to me again, as if I had hit some mute button in my own head during the workout. Then I jump to my feet and start cheering those of my teammates still finishing the workout of the day (or WOD, as we like to say when we’re short of breath).
It’s about 6:30 a.m. and I have just finished a CrossFit WOD called “Angie,” having done 100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 100 air squats in less than 24 minutes. If this sounds crazy, you may be right. But the right kind of crazy, I have learned, can feel pretty good.
3, 2, 1, go: the CrossFit explosion
While it is not uncommon in the United States for fitness fads to generate interest and experimentation among athletes, fitness nuts and frequent viewers of late-night infomercials, the fairly recent explosion of CrossFit seems unprecedented.
While many confuse CrossFit with P90X®, Insanity® or some of the so-called “boot camps,” it is none of those things. While they may share similar philosophies of intensity and borrowed movements, none of them incorporate the technical expertise of Olympic weightlifting and the gymnastics skills that CrossFit embraces and demands.
Where did it all start?
Despite what may appear to be overnight success, CrossFit actually began in the ’70s in the Santa Cruz, Cal. garage of a former gymnast named Greg Glassman. However, it was just 12 years ago that CrossFit, Inc. was founded. Now there are approximately 3,400 CrossFit-affiliated gyms worldwide – most of them in the United States – and that number seems set to explode with the recent announcement that Reebok plans to franchise Reebok-branded CrossFit facilities or “boxes” around the world. Reebok will also fold in the alliance with its bread and butter – making specific shoes and apparel. Reebok also invested heavily in a 10-year sponsorship deal with CrossFit’s international competition, which is something like an Olympics of fitness. Last year more than 26,000 athletes competed all over the world to earn a spot in the games, making it one of the largest sporting events in history. This is especially amazing considering that the first CrossFit games happened just five years ago on the grass and dirt of a private home in California and featured just 70 athletes.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit describes its strength and conditioning program as “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement,” with the stated goal of improving fitness (and therefore general physical preparedness), which it defines as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”
Workouts are typically short – 20 minutes or less – and intense, combining movements such as running, rowing, jumping rope, climbing rope and weightlifting. Barbells, box jumps, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, medicine balls, and kettle bells are all part of the weekly programming.
The lingo, the culture, the clothing?
If you have no idea what it means to “RX a 20-minute AMRAP at the box in your OLYs,” don’t worry. CrossFit has a language all its own, filled with acronyms like AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) and RFT (rounds for time). The gyms or facilities are called “boxes,” the workouts are called WODs (we covered that), and every WOD has prescribed weights and movements. So if you’re able to perform the specified movements and weights for a workout, it is said that you RX’d it. Finally, many WODs have people’s names, with the most famous being predominantly women’s names like Helen, Angie, Cindy, Fran and Grace.
While every sport has unique equipment, CrossFitters take their obsession for work gear to near-fetish levels. Specialized shoes – from Olympic lifting shoes to minimalist running shoes – compression sleeves, wrist wraps, and compression tape. CrossFit athletes tend to have unique personal styles, and gearing up for a WOD is common – from knee socks to branded apparel from companies I had never heard of until I joined, like Rogue, WOD Addiction, Forged, Life As RX and many more.
It begins with a 45-year-old father of two. Married. Overworked. Stressed out. Advertising professional with a love for good food, bad food, dark bars and craft beer. Anyone reading this who attended Shawsville High School circa 1984 will tell you that I was never an athlete, not even close. I had tried hard through my 20s and 30s to stay fit.
However, as almost any adult will tell you, after you hit 40 things change. For me, the change meant that keeping my double chin and my love handles in check became impossible. I found myself sluggish, lethargic, angry and pretty unhappy in my life, despite a loving and supportive wife, great family and successful business.
I needed a change. Luckily for me, in the cold winter of 2010 I heard about a business called Brickhouse CrossFit moving near my downtown office. I liked their brand, and as I began to stalk them on Facebook I became intrigued by the community and the energy. It wasn’t long before I wandered in and asked for an appointment. Soon I was plugging along with a mixed band of athletes and average Joes, moms and college coeds, each at very different levels.
While CrossFit may at first seem to be “hardcore,” the truth is that the sport attracts all types. The BHC facility seemed amazingly accommodating, and the coaches – a husband-and-wife team who look like they could pose for the cover of any national fitness magazine – worked tirelessly to scale the workout to the individual, ensuring safety and sanity along with challenge. That “scalability,” and the constant challenge to achieve a goal and then proceed to the next one, has introduced me to a regime that I find infinitely challenging and endlessly rewarding.
Many of the folks I work out with are talented collegiate-level athletes who missed the teamwork, camaraderie and competition of team sports. Some are stay-at-home moms – and let me assure you, CrossFit athletes defy all stereotypes. Yes, there are a moms (and dads) fighting to work off a few extra pounds. But there is also a stay-at-home mom with washboard abs who can do handstand push-ups and then sprint home to take care of her six kids.
While this diversity makes it fascinating, the real glue that makes CrossFit so maddeningly addictive is twofold. First, the results. I mean, hell, I like the people, but I would not be torturing myself like this weekly for the fun of it without results. CrossFit delivers. For me it was the loss of 28 pounds in about three months. And that was just the outer changes. Mentally I was refocused at work. Excited. Not sleepy at 2 p.m. I was more patient with my kids and more loving with my wife. I felt more alive than I had in years.
But perhaps the most unexpected revelation during my first six months was how much I liked – and in some cases, kind of loved – the people at BHC. I developed bonds of friendship with my coaches and my team that we translated outside the box. I found that despite our differences, we all shared some intangible characteristic that bonded us.
So now where am I?
Perhaps the greatest testimony that shows the power of CrossFit is that after 17 months I am still at it, most weeks hitting the box at least four times, sometimes five.
Do I have six-pack abs? Good Lord, no. But I can deadlift more than two times my bodyweight and do more than 30 unbroken pull-ups, which ain’t bad. I have endured illness, injuries and family tragedies during that time, and CrossFit, and my friends, keep me coming back and wanting more. It is this “stickiness” that I found lacking in every other gym membership I have ever had. It is why CrossFit is now an ingrained part of my life I intend to continue for as long as I am able.
And hey, let’s face it. I am a little bit of a fanatic. But I am not so out of touch that I would dismiss anything anyone does to stay in shape. If dancing your way to fitness with Zumba is your thing, or you prefer a DVD in your living room, more power to you. I believe that an active lifestyle and good nutition are the pathways to happiness.
Where to Do It Locally
While there are affiliates in Blacksburg and Lynchburg, to date there are only two affiliated CrossFit facilities in the Roanoke Valley. To become an affiliate, an interested owner must pass a CrossFit Level 1 exam and apply. One interesting thing about CrossFit versus other national fitness facilities is that CrossFit is an affiliation and not a franchise. Therefore all affiliates are vastly different. CrossFit headquarters imposes no quality standards. Instead, it regards the system as “open source” and allows the affiliate owners to take the concept of CrossFit and come up with their own way of running their affiliate. So prospective members must do their homework and find the facility that is right for their personality and their personal goals.
Brickhouse CrossFit (BHC) is in downtown Roanoke on Salem Avenue, directly across from the Virginia Transportation Museum. It has been in business since being founded by the husband-and-wife team of Jay and Amanda Forrester. Amanda has more than 12 years of experience in group fitness training, personal training and nutrition coaching. Jay has five years of experience in nutrition coaching and personal training.
They opened BHC in 2010 when they saw the need in Roanoke for a quality strength and conditioning facility that specialized in teaching barbell training but also brought nutrition and weight loss expertise to the table.
“There is nothing new or special about CrossFit. It’s not a revolution, it’s a revival,” says Jay. “A revival of performance-based fitness. This way of training has been around long before CrossFit existed. It’s what you will find in professional athletic and collegiate facilities. The true significance of CrossFit is that they were the first to say: ‘let’s take the lawyer, nurse, waiter, truck driver, executive, housewife, grandpa and grandma, and let’s teach them how to train like an athlete.’”
BHC has nearly 200 members, ranging in age from age 5 to 62, including a 30-member team that competes at local and regional events. All of the staff of 11 are L1-certified and most have USAW Olympic weightlifting and mobility certifications. The owners also coach. Brickhouse offers CrossFit, CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit Kids and specialty team training.
“We had already been obsessed with improving the lives of our clients and we saw CrossFit as the perfect platform to expand that in Roanoke,” says Jay Forrester.
Roanoke Valley CrossFit: Leave “Feeling Like a Badass”
Andy Beedle may not fit your expectations of what a gym owner should be. First there is the doctorate in philosophy. There is also his former life as a successful Internet entrepreneur. But before all that, Dr. Beedle was an athlete in high school and college. His activities were threatened in his 30s by debilitating back pain caused by an uncorrectable genetic defect. CrossFit was his salvation. After discovering CrossFit online, he joined Brickhouse CrossFit. When former military Special Operator Tim Falke relocated to the area, he and Beedle found common goals, and in September 2011 they opened their facility at the home of a former driving range and batting cage in Salem. They currently train 135 athletes ranging in age from 13 to 68. RVCF has two active coaches, with four people certified by CrossFit. The RVCF coaching internship program currently has six members. RVCF offers standard CrossFit classes as well as a competition group and an endurance group. They also do mobility work and Olympic lifting. Beedle sees great potential for CrossFit growth in the Valley, projecting that the area should be able to sustain as many as six facilities.
“No matter who you are, you leave here feeling like a badass,” is the way Beedle characterizes Roanoke Valley CrossFit.
Michael Newman, 49, started CrossFit on New Year’s Day this year. The vice president of international sales and global marketing for Optical Cable Corporation says he had “never been terribly into sports or exercise.
“I played recreational soccer while growing up but never anything organized. Like many others, I had memberships to gyms but I seldom used the facilities because I did not understand the machines and did not have a plan to guide me.”
He says the guidance of two friends changed his outlook and approach.
“The more I observed each of these friends, the more I could see that they were really enjoying what they were doing and their dedication to this was very intense. I had an invitation to go try out the box on January 1, 2012. I accepted, and showed up for what was the most exhausting workout I had ever experienced. I was sore, wiped out and nauseated to the point that I could hardly drive home. I had an open invitation to come again the next morning, so I decided to tag along. The coach looked at me and said, ‘So he’s a glutton for punishment,’ and he was right about that.
“I have always defined myself by things that I could not do instead of defining myself by what was possible. I have lived a life defined by boundaries instead of living a life without boundaries. By overcoming physical limitations I have been able to take a view that I can do anything I set my eye toward. I take this to include learning new things, experimenting with new business models, taxing my brain to understand new languages, disciplines, etc., and being able to be a better person because I have had others be a better person to me so that I could excel. I think that my change in thinking has also proven to be good for my home life and relationships with my family as well.
“My box is Roanoke Valley CrossFit. I associate myself with this place and with the people because of the leadership from coaches Tim Falke and Andy Beedle. They have taught me to push myself beyond my comfort zones. It is from these people that I receive the daily encouragement to go out and do things that I have never done before, whether that is completing an endurance run or a sprint triathlon.
“I have the benefit of traveling with my job. I am always dropping into other boxes all over the world. The CrossFit community is cool, and it is exciting to get to know other coaches and participants around the globe. As I drop in I realize that I am representing RVCF and I take this very seriously. I may not be the fastest, or strongest, but I strive to leave everything on the floor wherever I am,” Newman concludes.