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Even if you haven’t tried it, chances are you’ve heard a lot about it.

Founded in 2000, CrossFit has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon. It’s not just a workout; it’s a way of life for some and a competitive sport, with its own annual, televised competition, the CrossFit Games. There are more than 10,000 CrossFit affiliated gyms across the United States alone, including a few in Napa Valley, statistics show.

“CrossFit is without question the most effective method for getting your body fit and strong on the planet,” said Beth Rypins, a former captain of the U.S. Women’s World Champion Whitewater Team and owner of Napa’s first CrossFit gym, Wine Country CrossFit. She’s been doing CrossFit for 12 years and opened the gym nine years ago.

“People feel themselves get stronger; even by the end of Week 1 they start feeling changes, and they feel changes from the head to the waist to the toes.”

Rypins says this is because of the unique way CrossFit incorporates strength and conditioning elements and exercises from multiple training programs, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics, to name a few.

Moreover, a wide range of fitness equipment is used throughout each CrossFit workout, including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, jump ropes and gymnastics rings.

This variability is what keeps CrossFit fun and exciting, according to Ignacio “Nacho” Franco, owner of Franco Fitness, a Napa CrossFit gym, and the Napa High School wrestling coach for the past 21 years.

“It’s always constantly varied, it’s challenging and it’s never the same, that’s the beauty of it. You need to have exercise be fun; it’s what makes working out something you look forward to doing every single day,” said Franco, who started his CrossFit business after seeing the immediate impact it had on his wrestlers’ performance.

Workouts are generally an hour and composed of a warm-up, skill development section, the workout of the day and stretching. The goal isn’t just weight loss, but to also build overall strength, mobility and self confidence, improve sports performance and for some, simply be able to move more efficiently throughout your day-to-day life, officials say.

Daniel Gomez Sanchez, 38, started CrossFit three years ago at Wine Country CrossFit.

“I got really, really out of shape, to the point where it was uncomfortable to bend down and pick up my daughter. I just knew I needed to change that,” said the busy chef de cuisine of La Toque. “It’s one hour a day. So if you’re really busy like I am, it’s convenient to have that one hour where you get in, get out. There’s always a coach, it’s all programmed, so you show up, the workout is written on the board, and there’s someone there to guide you and motivate you. At the end of the hour, you leave and go on with your busy day.”

He said he’s since lost 45 pounds and made incredible advancements on his mobility.

“When I started, it was difficult to squat, and do a lot of things, and I’ve gotten that back. I can squat, touch my toes, move again. I went from barely being able to run, to last week, I ran the 5k for the Zero Prostate Cancer Run and took second. It’s completely changed everything for me,” he said.

Although it may sound intimidating, CrossFit isn’t just for advanced athletes. Anyone from kids to seniors can do it to reach their individual goals. Even though the workout is done in a group setting, each person’s CrossFit workout is scaled by the coaches to their level and abilities.

“The community that you have in a CrossFit environment makes you realize that nobody is expecting you to be a high-level athlete,” said Franco. “Everyone is there to make a healthy lifestyle change. Everyone was on Day 1 at one point.”

That “community’ Franco speaks of is one of the largest, most passionate fitness tribes in the world, bonded together by a mutual, arguably-healthy addiction to pushing their bodies further than they ever imagined, CrossFit experts say.

“There’s a bonding that happens because you’re sharing this intense experience called CrossFit,” said Rypins. “You’re working out hard together, sweating together, and because of that shared experience, we’re all part of the same tribe. We share this drive to better ourselves each day through CrossFit, and that sense of belonging to this tribe creates a sense of community.

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