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Mercer Island CrossFit builds community, fitness in the gym
It seems intimidating for many people — the acronyms, the workouts, but it’s the people who change minds.
CrossFit, a workout regime that has gained a large following over the last several years, was once used largely by police and fire departments to get and stay in shape. Now millions across the United States use the program to get into shape.
Mercer Island CrossFit, located in the Stroum Jewish Community Center building, has been doing just that for the last two and a half years.
JD Green, a trainer who now runs the fitness center at the SJCC, and friend Corey McGee had talked about gyms getting into the business. When McGee was laid off and Green got the job at the SJCC, the time to start a local CrossFit chapter never seemed more ideal. Since then, the Island location has grown to around 60 members, mostly through word of mouth, said McGee.
“We’ve stayed pretty small,” said McGee. “Mostly it’s through word of mouth, in a very organic way.”
The partnership between Mercer Island CrossFit and the SJCC allows the two to play off the other with referrals on either side. McGee said they purposely keep the classes small, about eight to 10 people per class, which allows them to tailor the workouts to the individual.
“It’s universally variable,” said McGee. “We scaled it to the individual and customize it for the first two or three months. It’s like recess for adults and will definitely increase fitness.”
CrossFit gyms have popped up all over the area, and McGee said it’s becoming popular because it works, and it’s fun.
“You suffer through the workout and all of a sudden you’re telling your friends they have to try it and you’re addicted,” said McGee.
Part of the appeal of CrossFit is the workout varies every day, set by the trainers for their group. Mercer Island CrossFit is open six days a week, taking Sundays off, with classes throughout the day. McGee said largely it’s Mercer Island residents looking to get or stay in shape, with some commuters who make a pit stop on their way across the bridges.
Mercer Island CrossFit also offers a kids program, taught by McGee’s wife Allison.
“It’s the same program, but we’ve scaled the work down,” said Allison McGee. For teens the idea is to teach the mechanics and moving safely, while for the younger kids its about making the exercise a game, with lots of movement.
Allison McGee got hooked in much the same way as others at the gym, new workouts and seeing the improvement.
“It’s constantly changing,” she said. “Even if the workout is one of my weaknesses that day, I know that eventually the workout will be something I’m stronger at. I like that you don’t compete, its more a fight with myself. The people here are very encouraging.”
One thing McGee said that people ask a lot is if they need to do anything to prepare for CrossFit.
“Don’t try to get in shape for it,” he says. “Doing it gets you in shape and that’s the point.”
One thing many people find when working out in a gym is that it’s them doing a workout, then going home. For those in CrossFit, it’s also about getting to know the people in class.
“We get to know everyone in the group and you encourage each other,” said Allison McGee.
“We promote doing things together and we’ll have socials outside of the gym,” said McGee.
On some occasions the two things – working out and socializing – combine into one event, like the Mercer Island CrossFit 5K Challenge held at the end of June. Over 75 athletes from 12 gyms came to take part in the event that was part running, park CrossFit workout.
“We don’t do a lot together, so its nice to see the other gyms,” said McGee.
At Mercer Island CrossFit, it’s always free to give a class a try. McGee said on the Island their focus in the gym has been about general fitness, because everyone needs to be able to do the same type of movements. If after the free trial someone decides to sign up the first several classes are one on one with a trainer, teaching the movements and learning the CrossFit basics. After that there are multiple classes to choose from.
“We’ve tailored it to the community,” said McGee. “In CrossFit your results and whether or not you come back depends on the attitude you have going into it.”
To learn more about Mercer Island CrossFit, or CrossFit in general, visit www.mercerislandcrossfit.com or call (206) 465-2727.
The annual CrossFit games in California will take place this weekend, airing on ESPN3 from July 13 through July 15, as top qualifiers from around the United States compete.