Local CrossFit gym wants to build a tight-knit fitness community | Local news

How do you convince potential customers to sign up for a premium gym option in Henry County? Is having the best gym equipment the answer? Offer a variety of class times or have the best coaches?

For Josh Simmons, Ben Malone and Michael Turner, the new owners of Outlander CrossFit, the answer keeps coming back to a gym culture built on establishing a community of support and camaraderie.

“The things that CrossFit offers are the constant variety (in your workouts), the inability to avoid things you don’t want to do, a sense of community and rhythm. You’ll never work out harder than when you’re next to someone who works out faster than you,” Simmons said.

Simmons, a 12-year CrossFit veteran, said one of the things he loves most about the community is how welcoming even CrossFitters he’s never met are. He recounted trips to Las Vegas to one of the biggest boxes in the world, which is what CrossFit athletes call his gym; and Aruba or Mexico for their 20th wedding anniversary, where he stopped at CrossFit gyms to work out and was welcomed with open arms.

“It’s a really amazing community,” he said.

And that’s the idea behind Outlander CrossFit, a box opened by the local trio earlier this year at 1900 S. Bell Ave., in the former Milan Express trucking building.

After Paris Landing CrossFit closed earlier this year, Outlander CrossFit opened just over a mile away from CrossFit’s former location with 6,000 square feet of rubber flooring, a 30-foot-long platform where a variety of exercises and multiple rowing machines, air assault bikes and ski-erg machines and about 6,000 pounds of free weights.

But for the trio of owners, it’s not about the shiny new equipment or the new location, it’s about the relationships between everyone in their CrossFit family and the relationship the three owners have with each other.

Outlander CrossFit members work out in hour-long classes that run from 5 am to 5:30 pm on weekdays, taught by one or more of 12 certified CrossFit trainers. There is also a class option on Saturday mornings. Although athletes generally try to complete their training as quickly as possible, they also focus on cheering each other on as they go.

That relationship at the gym and a Bible study group helped foster a strong bond between Simmons, Malone and Turner, so strong that the trio decided to open the gym as a passion project that would be a wise move.

“So Turner had me do some gardening and we talked about fitness, we talked about working out,” Simmons said. That eventually led to an invitation to the 5 a.m. class at CrossFit Paris Landing about two years ago, and Turner was immediately hooked.

Then the pandemic hit and gyms started closing, so the couple moved their workouts to another local gym, where Simmons struck up a conversation with Malone about his recent baptism. Eventually, COVID shut down that gym as well, and the trio began working out in Simmons’ garage.

It was all CrossFit from then on for the group. As the world slowly began to reopen, they continued to work out at CrossFit Paris Landing and further increased their relationship with a weekly Bible study group every Wednesday night.

Before going into business together, another member of the Bible study group sat Simmons, Malone and Turner down and told them they had to prioritize their close relationship over any business relationship, and they agreed. Fraternity has to come before business.

“When we decided to open the gym, the three of us had different talents, and if you put us all together, you get a really good person,” Simmons joked. “When we first visited the old Milan Express building, we said it would be an amazing gym! But it will never happen.

But it happened, and quickly, as the group launched the gym a month after the old CrossFit gym closed. In a cavernous old building that needed some TLC and even more effort, the ownership group found a building that perfectly suited their needs.

Milan Express still rents the parking lot and Outlander CrossFit rents the building, as neither company needs the space the other is renting.

Once home to a practice facility for the Paris Thunder baseball team, the building was littered with green artificial turf, shooting nets, empty gatorade bottles, and plenty of sunflower seeds.

Walls were painted, everything was cleaned, new lighting was hung and bathrooms were remodeled. Plans are in the works for a new kids’ area for parents taking classes, and the group is always looking to add more to enhance the gym experience.

“We’re adding four more ski-erg machines, so we’ll have six of everything,” Simmons said. “We envision a day when the gym is open 24 hours.” Simmons also said that the goal of adding more customers can help them reach a point where the price can be more attractive as well.

“All of our gear is from Rogue Equipment,” Simmons said. “We kept hearing people say they wanted the best of the best, and Rogue is the best of the best.”

So how do you join CrossFit? Isn’t that a weird fitness cult? It’s definitely not for normal people, right?

Not so, says Simmons. The stereotypes are out there, perpetrated by videos of the most elite CrossFitters on the planet and perhaps some overzealous CrossFit athletes singing the praises of the show too much in the interconnected days of social media.

“I think people are intimidated sometimes,” Simmons said. “There is a stigma that people think they won’t fit in. They think I could never do that. Maybe they are embarrassed. But what they don’t know is that 65% of our local gym is made up of women.

“These are ordinary people. Take my wife, she does CrossFit, but she’s also a mother of four, she still takes care of things around the house. These are just normal people doing CrossFit here.”

Still, the group knows that only about 1% of the population has the mental toughness to figure out how athletes work out in a CrossFit box.

“I always tell people to give it a try,” Simmons said. “We know it’s not for everyone, but the only way to know is to try it.”

To give it a try, Simmons said to reach out to the Outlander CrossFit Facebook page and the group will set up a time to come work out with a class.

“We’ll agree on a date and time, make sure he has a trainer there, and we can scale a workout to suit his physical needs,” Simmons said.

CrossFit athletes aspire to meet the prescription for the day’s workout, which is the prescribed weight and rep schedule for that day’s variety of lifts and exercises, but Simmons said the beauty of it is that it can be scaled. infinitely.

He used an example of an elite athlete exercising alongside a 60-year-old Parkinson’s patient. They were both doing a squat-based movement, but with very different levels of difficulty.

“For me, I trained for years (with a strict lifting schedule). But my problem was that I was always skipping days with stuff I didn’t like,” Simmons said with a laugh.

One of CrossFit’s strengths is the forced variety of having someone else plan the workouts and having a coach there to help execute them, Simmons said. “We tend by nature to avoid things we don’t want to do. It’s also very rare to find someone who really knows what he’s doing. CrossFit helps with that.”

One of the most common reactions to CrossFit is talk of CrossFit-related injuries. While Simmons doesn’t deny that CrossFit athletes get injured, he said any increase in activity levels will add increased risk of injury, and most of the injuries he’s seen have been ego-related.

“Zero people were injured sitting on their couch today,” Simmons said. “Any time you increase your movement, you increase your risk of injury.

“It’s funny, when I tell someone I got hurt snowboarding with my daughter, they’re like, ‘Oh, I hope you get better!’ But if you say you pinched your back at CrossFit, people say, ‘You need to stop CrossFit; It’s so dangerous!’”

Simmons recounted a story that CrossFit founder Greg Glassman liked to tell about an older woman who came in and said her doctor told her to stop deadlifting. Glassman went to ask the doctor why she said that, to which the doctor replied, “She’s too old to be doing that kind of thing.”

Glassman asked the doctor if the woman dropped any purchases on the kitchen floor if she should leave them there. The doctor replied, “Of course not, she should pick them up.” To which Glassman replied, “I just want to teach you how to pick up those groceries without hurting your back.”

Simmons said the point of the story was that injuries can come from anywhere, but CrossFit athletes are stronger and more resilient and are often better able to recover from injuries.

He noted that nothing done in CrossFit is isolated, but rather compound movements that teach clients how to operate better in their everyday lives.

Anyone interested in trying CrossFit can contact Simmons or one of the other owners on the Outlander CrossFit Facebook page to schedule a first class workout with a CrossFit trainer.

“It’s definitely not for everyone, but when it fits right, you fall in love,” Simmons said. “And you’ll never know until you try.”

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