By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- The four coaches at Onward CrossFit might have arrived on different paths, but they're all there for one reason: to take cool humans and make them cooler, according to coach and co-owner Mark Andrews.
Together with Andrews, coaches Jeremy Almond, Jessica Gustafson and Amy Stone train athletes through exercises and WODs (workouts of the day) at their new CrossFit box in Winchester.
Andrews said his first exposure to CrossFit was at a gym with a "survival of the fittest type of environment." There, he met Almond and the other two members of their close-knit fitness family. They tossed around the idea of becoming CrossFit coaches and received their certification in Pennsylvania last fall.
Andrews said that weekend showed him that CrossFit was more than just "lots of crazy testosterone," it was about boosting self-confidence, breaking down mental limits and changing people's lives.
"After Pennsylvania, we got together and said, 'I want to do this for the rest of my life and open the doors for other people to get to experience what we got to experience, whether it makes us any money or not,'" he said.
"There's no way in the world we would've had the faith or the confidence to say, 'Hey, let's go for broke and sink a bunch of money into this CrossFit box,' without going through CrossFit first."
CrossFit is a style of exercising characterized by constantly varied, high-intensity functional movements.
Unlike a standard gym, the CrossFit box is nearly devoid of workout machines. Absent are the ellipticals, treadmills and cycling machines. Instead, the box appears more like an industrial playground outfitted with large wooden boxes, climbing ropes, gymnastic rings and a rig made of squat racks and pull-up bars.
Almond, who works in law enforcement, said the functional movements of these exercises simulate more of the actions repeated in everyday life. He said one of his workouts could consist of rowing, pull-ups, picking up a kettle bell and climbing a rope.
"The kinds of stuff we do here lets me do many things other than just running and picking up heavy stuff," he said. "Now I'm ready for everything else that is coming my way."
CrossFit also offers a social community that helps athletes meet new people. Gustafson said that unlike a gym, it isn't awkward to talk to others working out.
"If you haven't been here in a week, not only coaches but also other members are likely to hit you up on Facebook," she said. "They'll be like, 'Where'd you go? On vacation? Is something wrong?' People actually care about you."
A social media tool called Wodify used by Onward CrossFit allows members to track their workouts, record their progress and compete against others doing the same workouts.
The workouts can be intense -- one WOD consists of three rounds of 21-15-9 reps of 95-pound barbell thrusters and pull-ups -- though they are scaleable and can be customized to fit any individual fitness level. Stone said members of Onward CrossFit range in age from high school to nearly 70 years old.
"You get a 15-year-old kid in here working out next to his grandmother," she said.
The 2,700-square-foot gym, located just off U.S. 11, opened at the beginning of February and has attracted 27 members. Andrews said the largest class is capped at 10 members.
He said there are a variety of membership options available and the monthly cost essentially equates to $6.25 per class. Onward CrossFit is hosting an open house on March 15.
Other CrossFit gyms in the area include Shenandoah CrossFit on Millwood Avenue and Adventure 4 Life CrossFit in Strasburg, both of which opened in the past two years.
Where: 190 Prosperity Drive, Suite 12, Winchester
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org