On a Thursday afternoon, Jacob Lease swings a 100-pound kettle bell weight above his head and down between his legs multiple times. He takes a quick rest, sometimes laying flat on his back on the mat, but jumps right back up to continue his reps.
Lease, 25, trains with CrossFit at Vardy Human Performance Center in Wendell regularly, starting with the workout method in Iraq years ago and continuing as a coach when he returned stateside, including in Garner.
“I get bored, and this isn’t monotonous,” Lease said. “It’s another way to challenge myself. I can make it as hard as I can and still be able to achieve it.”
There are dozens of CrossFit-affiliated gyms in the Triangle, but Vardy’s is the only affiliate in eastern Wake County. Manager KC Johns said many members come from Knightdale and Zebulon as well as Wendell. They’re growing rapidly, and a little after a year of business, already plan to move to a renovated warehouse space on Wendell Boulevard in April.
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CrossFit is a nationwide strength and conditioning fitness practice that combines weightlifting, gymnastics and sprinting and aims for practical use in daily life. The trend started with former gymnast Greg Glassman who opened the first gym in 1995 and quickly spread, with currently more than 11,000 worldwide gyms.
Participants can compete in the online Open CrossFit games, where they register their workout at a Crossfit-affiliated gym. Many Vardy members were eagerly awaiting the release of the newest workout for the online Open that evening and would compete with an individual time at the gym.
“It’s a tight community,” Johns said, which makes the CrossFit brand unique.
Not only do the classmates know each other and return to work out together, but it is a worldwide and attractive to all genders and ages, Johns said. The oldest of his 35 members, he said, is 65 years old. Thursday afternoon, Lease was joined by three women and two teenage boys.
Marathon runners come to cross-train, and non-athletes come for something new and exciting.
“It’s constantly varying. ...We use our body as machines, the way they’re supposed to,” Johns said. “It’s like real life – lifting laundry baskets and groceries or farming.”
Unlike other weightlifting regimens, CrossFit draws many women. CrossFit trainer Jessica Newton said that it encourages women to be both physically and mentally strong.
“I love being strong,” she said. “Other places only do cardio, and this is the only place that encourages strong women. You have a community that supports you. It’s so functional, I know I can take care of myself. I actually helped my dad move.”
The hour-long workouts consist of a warm-up, strength and skill practice and conditioning.
“Everything is programmed,” said Johns. “A lot of people come in clueless, and we give it structure.”
The gym charges $110 for month-to-month and $170 for a family of two, adding $30 per family member.
During one of the sessions, Newton joked about a time when she went bowling, and accidentally threw the bowling ball so hard that it cleared two lanes.
“CrossFit really works,” she said with a laugh. “You can’t even go bowling!”