CrossFit workouts march to a different drummer

‘You’re the machine,’ says Perez
2013-01-09T18:00:00Z 2013-01-12T00:23:13Z CrossFit workouts march to a different drummerISABELLE DILLS Napa Valley Register
January 09, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

Among a group of warehouses off Jackson Street, near a recycling center and a storage facility, is a gym unlike any other.

No machines. No mirrors. No wall-mounted TVs. The main entrance is through an open garage door.

Along the walls inside are kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, wooden boxes and giant rubber tires.

This is Wine Country CrossFit — one of the thousands of independently-owned CrossFit affiliate gyms that have popped up across the world. Wine Country is currently the only CrossFit affiliate gym in Napa, but it won’t be alone for long.

By this summer, 25-year-old Napa resident Ruben Perez plans to open a second CrossFit gym — CrossFit Napa Valley — on Enterprise Court south of Napa Valley College. Construction for the new facility is scheduled to begin this month, according to Perez, who works as a CrossFit coach and personal trainer.

Wine Country CrossFit is expanding later this month into a facility about three times the size of its current space. The gym is moving to the east side of the complex it currently occupies on Jackson Street.

Owner Beth Rypins started Wine Country CrossFit four years ago under a covered porch in her own backyard. She began with three gym members, and today she has 130.

“CrossFit has had this explosion in popularity,” Rypins said. “CrossFit gyms are starting up like mushrooms after the rain.”

CrossFit is defined as “constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity,” according to Emilie Wyrick, a CrossFit coach at Wine Country. A CrossFit workout isn’t about isolating any one muscle — it’s about utilizing multiple muscles in the body all at once.

Perez describes CrossFit as a combination of Olympic lifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, and track and field.

“At a CrossFit gym, there’s no machines,” Perez said. “You’re the machine.”

In a free introductory class at Wine Country, potential CrossFit members learn three basic movements: air squats, box jumps, and body rows, which help to develop the upper body strength required to do a pull-up.

After learning each movement, the exercises are performed back-to-back, at a fast pace, with a timer along the wall counting each passing second. A coach watches each movement carefully, making sure the correct form is used, scaling down the workout if necessary, and providing motivation throughout.

Because of the personal training members receive from coaches during each workout, CrossFit gym memberships are typically more expensive than regular, non-CrossFit gyms.

“Each time you walk in our door you receive nuanced instruction, from the warm up, into the technique and skills, through the WOD (workout of the day), and the mobility, stretch cool down period,” Rypins said.

At a regular gym, members have access to an assortment of equipment but don’t typically have personalized instruction, she said.

“At CrossFit we teach you how to move, and how to move well,” Rypins said. “We have many body builders that no longer go to the regular gym because they get a better, more complete workout with our trainers.”

Members at the Jackson Street gym include children and people well into their sixties, but the majority of members are professionals in their late 20s to late 50s, Wyrick said.

Correct form is crucial in preventing injuries, which is why CrossFit gyms require a series of introductory classes before joining the group classes. Typically referred to as “On Ramp” training, potential members pay for a series of classes to learn the proper technique for CrossFit workouts. Full CrossFit workouts use a combination of different movements, so no workout is ever the same.

“I never know what I’m going to be challenged with,” Napa resident Holly Neal said.

Neal, who trains with Perez as her CrossFit coach, was a competitive swimmer back when she attended UC Davis. Now 37 and a mother of two, Neal said she feels just as “fit” as she did while swimming in college.

Napa resident Johnny Shackford has been doing CrossFit for nearly four years. He describes it as “more like a sport, than a workout” due its non-stop pace.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before,” Shackford said.

Shackford does CrossFit training with Perez. Both he and Neal plan to join the new gym when it opens this summer.

Bill Knopka, a Napa resident who has trained at Wine Country for two years, said what he enjoys most about CrossFit is the workouts “never get dull,” and that as a middle-aged man, he’s never felt better or stronger.

“This is the first exercise regimen I’ve taken part in where the results are so dramatically positive,” Knopka said.

Knopka’s two sons — ages 17 and 14 — also train at Wine Country. Knopka said CrossFit provides “great off-season conditioning” for his boys, who both play baseball.

“It helps them develop their core strength,” he said. “It’s a great way to stay fit.”

Rypins said CrossFit training becomes “an addiction” for many people, because of how good it makes them feel — both inside and out.

“You start to feel younger,” Rypins said. “It literally turns back the clock.”

The vast majority of CrossFit gyms are located in warehouse spaces, similar to Wine Country’s. As Rypins explained, “fancy” gyms aren’t well-suited to the CrossFit experience.

“You can go out into the woods and do a CrossFit workout,” she said. “We don’t need anything fancy to get strong.”

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