Southern Oregon is a healthy place to live. With an abundance of outdoor activities and wellness support in our valley we are lucky to have so many opportunities to take good care of ourselves. When CrossFit came to Ashland 4 years ago, Ben Chew knew that it would be a great fit. With an emphasis on results and efficiency and a belief in holistic fitness for all, CrossFit is the newest measurable way to optimize fitness for anyone looking to improve their health in a community of inspired people. We took some time recently to talk with Ben Chew about this group fitness experience designed to give you a fun, safe and effective workout in under one hour.
Thanks for talking with us Ben. We’re hearing a lot about CrossFit these days. Now tell us, why all the hype? What’s so great about CrossFit?
CrossFit has been making waves in the fitness community for years but has it really come into its own with the general public over the last three years. The reason it’s caught on and is spreading like wildfire is that it works, plain and simple. This program, if followed, can get anyone into the best shape of their lives. The other aspect of CrossFit that makes people love it so much is the involvement and camaraderie within our CrossFit community. When you do intense workouts with people you build bonds of camaraderie through the shared suffering. It is what the military call esprit de corps. The fact that you can struggle through a workout, finish, and then walk over and high five someone that knows exactly what you just went through, well let’s just say it builds a certain kind of magic.
I hear you say suffering and I get intimidated. Is this a common concern?
It’s a very common concern; in fact I would say the intimidation factor is the single biggest thing that keeps most people from ever giving CrossFit a try. We often hear people say something along the lines of, “Oh, I need to get in shape first to do CrossFit”. It couldn’t be further from the truth! There really isn’t any way to prepare for doing CrossFit other than doing CrossFit. The thing is it’s going to be hard, no matter what fitness level you are starting at, and that’s a good thing. Our athletes range from people who have never stepped foot in a gym before to marathon runners and professional athletes. You will never be asked to do anything you can’t physically or safely do. We can modify just about every movement and every workout to meet each person’s personal specific needs. Our classes are small and our coaches know each client so we can work individually with our athletes to find the level of intensity they can do. Hard is always relative to your individual abilities. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and easy doesn’t get you results.
A typical CrossFit class consists of a group warm up lead by the coach teaching the class. The warm up is followed by a review/instruction where the coach carefully leads all the athletes through each movement they will be doing in the workout or instructs them to do a modified movement suited to their abilities. Then its 3, 2, 1…GO! The workout starts and the coach helps all the athletes complete their given tasks safely and at an appropriate intensity. These classes are for every athlete (hint: the second you walk through our doors we consider you an athlete), and it is really something to see a 60 year old woman who’s never worked out before training alongside an SOU athlete, both striving to be better than they were yesterday and both supporting each other in doing so.
Tell us about your staff at CrossFit Ashland.
Our trainers and educators are a passionate bunch. Each one of them is dedicated to helping others along the CrossFit journey because they themselves have all experienced the dramatic, life changing benefits of this program. Our trainers myself, Rob, Ryan, and Althea have all been doing CrossFit for years and each one bring a unique background and skill set to help developing athletes. Jennifer is our primary educator, as a RN and soon to be nurse practitioner she helps to educate our clients on a wide variety of health subjects to help them better achieve their goals.
CrossFit provides a holistic view of health and wellness and builds the most well rounded fitness there is. We are what is termed a GPP program or General Physical Preparedness program. We specialize in not specializing. We train in and improve all ten general physical skills, cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. We consider these all equally important and try to build them all in our athletes in equal parts.
How did you personally find CrossFit?
I found CrossFit in early 2009. At that point in my life despite an extensive background of sports, martial arts, and other physically active pursuits I had managed to slack for a couple years and let myself get very out of shape. I had just started back into trying to be more active when I realized my physical condition just didn’t let me do the things I wanted to do. I knew I needed help. Luckily help wasn’t very far away. I had heard a bit about CrossFit from some extreme sport friends of mine who swore by it, and when I heard there was one in Medford I rushed over there to give it a try. I met Lu Crenshaw who owned the only CrossFit in the area at the time, and she introduced me to the fitness system that would change my life. Under her expert guidance I would quickly lose about 65 pounds (yeah I had gotten very out of shape, unless you count round as a shape) and regained my athletic edge and abilities. It wasn’t too long after that I decided I wanted to do the same for others.
It amazes me sometimes how many people have gym memberships that they will pay $40-70 dollars a month for and never use or hundreds to thousands a year on weight loss gimmicks. The average gym patron walks in and is set loose to try and independently navigate a plethora of dangerous and confusing machines. That is an accident waiting to happen. Our gym does not use machines we combine Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, plyometrics, etc.…Our coaches are there to guide you and we work very hard to keep you safe.
We encourage our athletes to eat a Paleo diet and provide resources and support to help them transition and maintain their new diet. CrossFit is more than a gym. It is a community and a lifestyle and that is one of the big reasons our members are so successful in reaching their goals.
There is a very competitive element in the CrossFit model. Tell us more about this.
Yes CrossFit is a methodology for achieving outstanding levels of fitness, but it is also a sport; the sport of fitness. As a methodology, we use scoring systems to track progress. You need a consistent, reliable way of measuring improvement to objectively improve someone’s fitness. But as it turns out, there is this strange quirk of human nature that always seems to pop up. If someone gets a score, they always tend to want a better score. They become competitive with themselves, and this is where the really big results start to come on. People will always tend to strive more with a sense of competition. Sometimes this will blossom into looking at the scores of others in the gym and a friendly rivalry can develop. Competition isn’t pushed in CrossFit as a methodology it just seems to be a naturally developing byproduct, springing up even in those who may have never had a competitive bone in their body.
However as a sport CrossFit is highly competitive. Every year CrossFitters across the globe attempt to make it to the world CrossFit Games and win the title of Fittest on Earth. This starts with an open competition which anyone can join and participate in. The best of the open move on to compete in their region for the honor of going to the world games. At the top level of the games CrossFit has its own full time professional athletes that live and thrive in the world of competitive CrossFit.
Boy, that’s a really good question. I could probably gush for hours about how great I think CrossFit is. I love it because to me it’s the total package of fitness. I’m constantly improving even years into it, there is an element of achievement every time I get a more advanced movement down. The community is full of great people all striving to be their personal best, the kind of people who support each other and want to see everyone else succeed too. In fact generally the loudest cheers and greatest amounts of praise go to those finishing the workouts last instead of those finishing first because we all honor the struggle for improvement.
Ben, it sounds like the CrossFit community is almost like family.
Well in a way it is. That esprit de corps is some powerful stuff. People build lifelong friendships with their fellow CrossFitters. It becomes a part of the social fabric of your life because is changes you in such a positive way. Having other CrossFitters in your close social circles gives people a chance to empathize and share with people who have had this same experience.
You really love what you do. Tell us about that passion.
I do love it. I love helping people get to the edge of their abilities. I love showing people that they are really capable of so much more than they ever thought they could be. I love seeing the changes take place in people as they become stronger physically, psychologically, and stronger in spirit. Due to my own martial arts background I really view CrossFit in the light of a discipline rather than just a sport or just a “workout”. Helping to foster success in my athletes along the path of this discipline is a matter of great pride for me.
They are all success stories, but this is only a two page interview so I’ll just share a couple of the stories they themselves have given us!
“Because of CrossFit with Ben and the Crew at CrossFit Ashland I have found my strength again. With my strength came my confidence, my hope, a positive mood, no more back pain, more energy, and my self-worth. I have only been going for a month and a half and I no longer feel like I am going to injure myself lifting my 3 year old son, I feel like the athlete I was in high school, and I have noticed that my body is more toned. I am excited to see what is to come and I am proud to be a part of a team that is so encouraging and caring.” – Roxanne Victor
“I have always been an athlete and enjoyed exercising. However, as my job and family obligations increased and I had less time, I slowly began to only do the exercises I really enjoyed. This meant I did the same few things over and over again. I didn’t realize it, but my body was really out of balance. This resulted in severe tension headaches. I went to several specialists who helped with the symptoms, but did not help with the underlying cause (muscular imbalance). Their advice to me was to stop doing the exercises I enjoy. Being told to exercise less didn’t fit with my goals or my perception of what it meant to be healthy. I was nervous CrossFit would push me into doing the exercises that caused my headaches, but instead the opposite happened.
When I started, I couldn’t do a single push up without getting a splitting headache, so the coaches worked with me to develop alternate workouts that emphasized the supporting muscles and ‘prepared’ me for doing pushups with proper form. It was a humbling experience. However, it worked perfectly. After two months, I can exercise as hard as I want, do 30 pushups, and my headaches are gone! I credit the whole body exercises with restoring the muscular balance I had lost from years of solo training and poor form. I have seen this with other people as well when they get an injury. They favor the injured limb, and then the muscles around it atrophy so they become more impaired than when the initial injury occurred. Slowly starting with ‘scaled’ lower impact versions of the exercises prepares the supporting muscles enough that when the injury has begun to heal, it can be used again. After 3 years of chronic pain and facing giving up lifting weights, I credit CrossFit with curing my headaches, and making me the strongest, healthiest and most flexible I have been in years.” – Ben Bryan
A client of mine named Dawn comes to mind, she showed up unsure if she would be able to do CrossFit, but I think I’ll let her tell you in her own words.
“I was feeling old and out of shape, but I wondered if I should wait to do Crossfit until I got in better shape. I’m so glad I didn’t wait! Coach Ben Chew makes the workouts interesting and fun. They are challenging, to be sure, because the point is to go to the edges of your ability, no matter what your ability. Ben helps me get to my edges safely. That’s where the big results are.
I went from barely being able to do 5 squats (with lots of rest in between each squat!) to popping off 40 without too much trouble. And that was after 10 workouts spread over a month or so. I think I’m on my way to being in the best shape of my life by my next birthday–my 60th!” -Dawn Lemanne, MD, MPH
How can people learn more? Do you have an offer we can’t refuse?
The best way to learn more is to experience it! We have a free class every Saturday at 10:30am open to the general public so people can come in and get a taste of what is CrossFit is like. If you aren’t ready to come down and give it a try yet feel free to check out our website, we have tons of great information and content online so look around the site and get a feel for us. But if you’re ready to take the plunge and give CrossFit a real try, your first two weeks are free!
Free? You really let people come for the first two weeks for free? That sounds like an amazing deal.
Yep, first two weeks are 100% free. No commitment, no contract, just two whole weeks for you to see if we are the right fit for you. To take us up on this just go to our “Getting Started” page on our website www.ashlandcrossfit.com and schedule your free baseline evaluation. After two weeks you should be able to tell if CrossFit is for you or not, and we think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised.
Any final thoughts for us Ben?
Yes I just want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to all our current members. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t be here! I am blessed to work with some of the most positive, inspiring, and supportive individuals who amaze me every day with their steadfast dedication to self-improvement. Thank you for being who you are and for allowing me and CrossFit Ashland to serve you.
726 Jefferson Ave, Ashland