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In bid to expand, gyms explore CrossFit lite

Michael Thompson January 10, 2014 2
CrossFit RVA manager Jamie Sulc, left, and owner Jake Rowell. (Photo by Michael Thompson)

CrossFit RVA manager Jamie Sulc, left, and owner Jake Rowell. (Photo by Michael Thompson)

After building a following in recent years with their brand of intense workouts, some local CrossFit gyms are adding more relaxed – and cheaper – options to attract new customers.

CrossFit RVA in January is launching RVAFit, a program geared toward people who want to work out in an instructor-led group but avoid the heavy lifting associated with CrossFit workouts.

“We realize that CrossFit isn’t for everyone,” CrossFit RVA manager Jamie Sulc said. “But folks are still looking for something different from a big-box gym.”

Unlike the usual workouts offered to the 400 members at CrossFit RVA’s gyms at 900 W. Leigh St. and in Colonial Heights, RVAFit classes will focus on conditioning (as opposed to strength) and demand fewer of the technical skills required by CrossFit exercises.

CrossFit RVA owner Jake Rowell said the new program isn’t a move away from the CrossFit method, which attracts devoted followers and has fueled the growth of more than a dozen gyms across the region in recent years.

“We want to reach different folks but stay true to the mission of effective exercise,” Rowell said.

At $80 to $100 a month, RVAFit memberships are cheaper than CrossFit memberships, which run between $120 and $180 a month.

Stockyard CrossFit co-founder Lindsey Burnette coaches a client. (Photos by Burl Rolett)

Stockyard CrossFit co-founder Lindsey Burnette coaches a client. (2013 photo by Burl Rolett)

CrossFit RVA isn’t alone in its efforts to broaden its appeal.

Stockyard CrossFit, a Midlothian gym that opened in June 2013, plans to offer non-standard CrossFit workouts for women this year. Co-owners Lindsey Burnett and Ryan Bauer hope to attract would-be female members who feel intimidated by CrossFit.

“We hear it most from our members who have been talking about CrossFit to friends who are a little bit scared,” Burnett said. “I also believe it would get their feet wet for CrossFit.”

Burnett said the workouts would focus more on weight management and less on weightlifting.

Despite increased competition in the local fitness industry in the past few years – Rowell estimated there are 17 CrossFit gyms between Ashland and Colonial Heights, not to mention a slew of cycling, barre, pole and other specialty workout options – some CrossFit gyms don’t feel the need to branch out.

“We don’t really have a silver bullet for that,” said Jason Struck, owner of CrossFit Full Circle in Scott’s Addition, of the fear CrossFit inspires in some. “Watering down our services to attract people probably won’t work for us.”

In fact, CrossFit Full Circle has taken the opposite approach: For more than a year, the gym has run a “tangential program” focused on heavy lifting.

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2 Comments »

  1. Chris Miller January 10, 2014 at 10:45 am - Reply

    It’s great to see Richmond and surrounding areas focused on fitness, health, and outdoor! Over the past 15 years there’s been a flux of focus and options for getting out and seeing this great city. Having workout out with SEAL Team PT for nearly 11 years, enjoying Gold’s Gym, and seeing other great options perk up over the years – it’s just refreshing to know the movement continues and smart business owners evolve. Fitness; I think puts #RVA on the map as a great place to live. Congratulations guys on growing, expanding, and reacting to the market-place. So, try a few different programs; and choose the one that fits your schedule, and needs with people you enjoy being around and you’ll stick with it!

  2. C. Jay Robbins January 18, 2014 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I really disagree with the comment about the program being “watered down”. The best work-out is the one you do and doesn’t hurt you. I am 58 and pretty fit but I don’t pretend that I am a 20 y/o loose head prop, as I was in days long gone by.

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