CrossFit invades Prescott to promote full-body fitness

By Libby Sherwood
Staff Writer

High intensity training has been proven to increase strength significantly over short periods of time, but not everyone is ready for it.

Joey Powell runs his CrossFit gym on the philosophy that anyone can train, and everyone needs to re-learn biomechanics. Powell’s oldest clients are in their 80s, while his youngest is 11.

CrossFit is a training method that has been used by professional athletes, special military units, and soccer moms alike. “I’ve taken people with hip replacements, knee replacements, diabetes, stroke survivors, amputees… I’m not concerned about the high-end athletes. We just don’t have them here,” says Joey.

CrossFit gyms have been growing rampant around the country over the past few years, advocating “constantly varying functional movements done at a high intensity.” This typically draws a crowd of 18-35 year-old men who want to bulk up and “get strong.” Not in Prescott. While you will still find large men lifting heavy weights in Powell’s gym, his clientele is 60 percent women and heavily populated by 30-60 year-olds.

The gym still has some young clients. Jared Medlin, 24, says, “My wife and I wanted to find something that we could do together. Here, I can come for an hour, three days a week. I’ve never been this fit in my life and I’ve been doing it for 6 months.”

The gym attracts families as well as individuals, and serves as a community of its own. When you walk into the gym before the start of a work-out, you are likely to find people of all ages chatting and laughing. They might be perched on top of stacks of weights or standing around the white-board examining the day’s workout.

Joey currently has 90-100 clients, with a very small turn-over rate. He attributes this to regulating the number of times people train per week. “You can train more thoroughly in one day, with a more powerful stimulus, and because you don’t train as often you don’t burn out either emotionally, physically, or mentally.”

Varying movements at a high intensity that engage the whole body prove to be more effective than typical isolated movements used in traditional weight training. “Body-weight” exercises are frequently used to engage the core and the hips, promoting full range of motion. One client, 46 year-old Russel Derkson claimed, “My strength has doubled since I got here.”

And Powell’s CrossFit is not just about building strength. He likes to harp on functionality of movement and biomechanical correctness. “No one’s going to live a better life because they can run a marathon, but they are going to live a better life if they can get up and down off the toilet better. In order to do that, you need to learn to use your hips,” he says. At his gym, he puts technique and consistency before intensity.

Noel Sato, 41, was introduced to the gym by her sister and brother-in-law. “I used to go to the Y and I never knew what I was doing. I really like it here. It’s more hands-on. It’s more structured.” She comes to the 10 a.m. class three days a week with her two kids who play upstairs with the childcare that Joey provides. “[Joey and his wife, Andrea] are here and they’re totally on you, making sure you’re doing it right. It’s really supportive,” says Sato.

Powell does not let his clients get away with anything. “You get instruction and then you have consistency, and accountability for what you’re doing,” says Medlin. Powell has even been known to call people up at home and discuss why they are not recovering the way they should be.

Powell charges $120 per month, the normal rate for a gym of this type. He works with each person on an individual level and establishes a relationship with his clients. Personal training could cost you $50-85 an hour, and here you can get 12-20 hours of training a month.

The gym has been growing steadily for the past couple years since Powell began running courses through Freedom Fitness. Since then, they have moved twice and are currently leasing a property near Willow Lake. Powell has teamed up with some other business owners such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team leader Steve Judson to open a new gym in downtown Prescott later this year.

The new gym will have a climbing wall, a boxing ring, kids’ programs, a Jiu-Jitsu training area, a strong-man training area, childcare services and plenty of other CrossFit trainers.

Powell will tell you that he is the best at what he does, and he is certainly not the only one who thinks so. “To me, CrossFit is just better for the whole system,” says Medlin. “The things that we’re doing, like increasing quality-of-life movements, are incredible.”

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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