Photos by Mindy Cookman Ratcliff
By Sasha Braithwaite
CrossFit has become one of the most popular and effective workout programs in the nation. With over 5,000 facilities across the US, it is only continuing to grow and improve its success rate. Originally created for first responders and the military, it is now a fitness regimen that has been adapted by people all over with different backgrounds.
Husband and wife team Ed and Ann Halavick opened their CrossFit box, CrossFit Lat 39, in December 2012, out of a joint passion for the sport and the sense of community that it brings. A “box” is the name given to CrossFit gyms due to the fact that not much is needed to create a space to do the workouts—just four walls.
Ed, who grew up in Ohio, was always active in sports. He played football in high school and while in the army, in addition to semi-pro football and Olympic lifting. Once Ed became less active in sports, he joined a gym in order to maintain his fitness. He could not do Olympic lifting like he wanted to because the gyms were not set up for that, so he had to switch to body building.
It was not until he read an article about CrossFit in a Muscle and Fitness magazine that he finally found something that included all the things he liked in one program.
He started doing CrossFit at a local gym. However the gym did not have the right space or equipment to hold a CrossFit program, so he joined a CrossFit box in Charles Town. He got his certification and after a year of coaching, decided to open his own box in Martinsburg.
“It was something that I had been looking for a long time,” Ed says. “I wanted to educate people and get them involved in the sport.”
Ed’s wife Ann grew up in Jefferson County and was never involved in sports, nor did she consider herself the athletic type. She never really struggled with her weight until after she had a child, so she started going to gyms but never really stuck with them. She found a local CrossFit gym and decided to give it a shot, and after only a week, she decided to continue with it and make it a part of her routine.
CrossFit as a whole focuses on fitness, movement, nutrition and community. It is a high intensity workout that incorporates weight lifting and gymnastics and transforms the body into a wellrounded and capable machine. It works to improve coordination, strength, speed, flexibility and overall functional fitness. The goal is to prepare the body for any type of physical endeavor. Each day there is a work out of the day (WOD) that can be found on the CrossFit website, Crossfit.com. Many boxes like Lat 39 create their own WOD programs that they use every day.
Lat 39 has six certified trainers in addition to Ed and Ann who teach the classes each week in the mornings and evenings, and their certifications are displayed on a wall inside the box. Currently there are about 75 members and even a children’s CrossFit fitness program for ages 4 up to the early teens. In each class, everyone does the WOD together for a full hour and at their own pace. Ed says that many people come in and are intimidated and feel like they have to get in shape before doing CrossFit, but he says that is not the case, because the program gets you in shape.
“What happens is that people come into CrossFit with a goal of losing weight, or whatever their goal may be, but CrossFit is a sport on its own,” Ed says. “I see three out of four people come into the door with a goal of losing weight, and they develop a love of the sport. Then all of a sudden, their goal is to get better at all of the CrossFit stuff.”
CrossFit is about more than fitness, though. There is a great sense of community and camaraderie amongst the athletes. It has the natural ability to bring people together, because often times, they have to depend on one another for support and encouragement. Participants do not just come in and do their own workouts and then leave like at regular gyms.
“You can walk into a globo gym with your earphones in and do your workout and mill around for a couple hours and never talk to anybody,” Ed says. “You can’t do that here. Here, you come in and have to work out with a group and have all of that interaction, so you can’t help but make friends.”
No one has to think about and plan what their workout will be that day, because it is already prepared for them, and everyone does the same workout together. Even though people finish their workouts at different times, they are still supporting one another down to the very last person. Ann says she has been the last one to finish many times when she first started doing CrossFit, but everyone was always surrounding her cheering on.
“Everybody has their own strengths and their own weaknesses, so you have to be able to swallow what you can’t do and work towards getting better at that,” Ann says. “You’re not supposed to be competing against each other. You’re competing against yourself.”
Apart from the fitness portion of CrossFit, half of the program’s success is due to a healthy diet. The program utilizes mostly the Paleo diet, which consists of nuts and seeds, meats, vegetables, fruit and excludes dairy, wheat, starches and sugar. It is a combination of the workouts and diet changes that increased both Ed and Ann’s health drastically.
Ed struggled with gout and his cholesterol. He was on different medications for both and his gout flare-ups controlled his life. After starting, CrossFit and incorporating the Paleo lifestyle, he lost about 55 pounds in three months, his gout went away, cholesterol evened out and he was able to go off of all medication. He says he is stronger than he has ever been in his life and can do more at his age now than he could when he was younger. His doctor is amazed that he no longer has any gout symptoms. As for Ann, she has lost about 25 pounds from CrossFit and Paleo and is now completely off of blood pressure and acid reflux medications.
That sense of community is evident outside of Lat 39 as well. Ed, Ann and their athletes do a lot of activities together and have gone to Hershey Park, an Orioles game, mountain climbing, and they have done fundraisers and even have pool parties together. Their goal is to increase that sense of camaraderie and accountability and to be able to collectively educate the community on the sport of CrossFit and overall health and wellness.
“CrossFit is about creating a community of like-minded people with the same goals who want to further the sport,” Ed says. “That’s what we’re all about here.”
Lat 39 offers a free week to anyone who wants to try CrossFit and see what it is all about. If someone decides to return to make the program a part of his or her lifestyle, membership is on a month to month basis, unlike many gyms where there is a long-standing commitment of some type. Family members of participants get in for half price, and there is a 25 percent discount for first responders, military personnel, teachers and students.
“We want people here who want to be here and be part of a community,” Ed says. “We give you the tools to make it easy for you, but there’s still a level of commitment in here and out of here that you have to give in order to meet your goals and change yourself.”
If you are interested in CrossFit Lat 39 and want to try a whole week free, contact Ed Halavick at Info@ crossfitlat39.com or 304-676- 8471.