It’s hard to illustrate how special our gym is, without knowing a little bit about the unlikely history of how we came to be where we are today. This wasn’t meant to be a business. Even in the midst of starting the gym, it was never really the plan for it to be mine or anyone else’s job. On top of that, I have no real education related to exercise science. I have no idea why any of you listen to me, but here we are.
CrossFit RVA started officially in February 2007 with college roommates; myself, Matt Cricchio, and Brandon Underwood. Matt and I were in relatively terrible shape, looking for some different ways to train. This included running through every machine at the VCU gym, ridiculously long outdoor bodyweight and running workouts, dabbling with the “free weights”, and eventually CrossFit.
We fell in love with not just the program, but the idea that we could take control of our bodies and minds through training. CrossFit showed me that for most problems, there is a solution, and that solution usually involves hard work, persistence, and consistency.
We wanted people to experience this with us, so we started doing free workouts in Byrd Park. We met by the pull-up bars on the VITA course on Saturday mornings, and we were usually hungover after eating steak sandwiches and drinking Long Islands at The Border, a bar which closed down years ago.
When those got pretty big, we started charging a little, buying equipment, and running workouts out of our backyard in the Fan. We worked out in the dirt with homemade equipment. Our med balls were actually old basketballs we cut open and filled with sand.
We got too big for the backyard, and had to find a “real” facility, which was a tin shack by the city jail. Matt joined the Navy, and Brandon moved on to other things. John Huston, one of our members at the time, retired from the Army and bought into the gym, becoming an active business partner. With his helped, we began turning the gym into a business that would support growth for many years to come. As all this was happening, I somehow was able to turn it into a full time job after I graduated from college with two useless degrees.
When we outgrew our tin shack on Hospital Street, we moved to Foushee St, into the building that is now the Triple Crossing location. People probably have a lot more fun there now that it’s a brewery. The 400M course somehow felt like it was uphill the entire way. There was an alley behind the building where we’d do bear crawls and sled drags as the local homeless guys would heckle us.
We moved to Leigh St in 2010, which is when the gym began to look something like it does today. Going from 2,000 sq ft to 10,000 was a huge step, but it allowed us to expand tremendously and start adding some of the additional programs that we have today.
Of course, everyone is familiar with our current location on Hermitage, which will hopefully be our home for many years to come, and allow us to accomplish everything we want to as a community. Very few of you know how difficult it was to even get to the point of signing the lease here. It took offers at three different times over 8 months to find something both us and the landlord could agree with. All the while, we were negotiating a lease with our landlord at Leigh St. It wasn’t going well – to the point where I was wondering if we’d even have a gym to call home when the lease was up.
Each step along the path to who we are today required a big decision, some risk, and a little luck. It started with the idea that we wanted to provide people access to the instruction and facility that we ourselves would have loved starting out. We believe in the importance of a supportive community that can help our neighbors become more fit, healthy and confident. Every major choice has been driven by that belief.
I’m proud knowing that as a gym and a community, we’ve changed lives (hopefully for the better), created new friendships and relationships, and got a little more fit in the process.
I’m thankful to my wife Kat. Her support and involvement in the gym is the only way we could have gotten as far as we have. She was one of our first members, even though she refused to touch a barbell for the first six months, and most training sessions ended up with her being mad at me. I can only imagine that being married to a business owner isn’t easy; at time there were long hours, plenty of stress, and the gym has commanded most of our conversations and activities almost the entire time we’ve been together.
I’d like to say thanks to our staff, who are the backbone of the gym. The job may be fun, but not always easy, and I ask a lot from them. I can only hope that you all appreciate them as much as I do.
And of course, I’m incredibly thankful to every single member who puts their trust in us and has helped build our community. Your support for each other, and for the gym itself, is clear. Many gyms struggle, and yet we’re thriving, and you all are the biggest part of that success. Every one of our staff is thankful working somewhere they can do something they love, knowing they are making a positive impact on the world. Because of all of you, I can say that my life’s work is already being done.