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Charlotte Prong Parkhill photo

Charlotte Prong Parkhill photo

Alice Heinrich, 64, and Joanne LeGal, 49, have been going to Crossfit for three years. They go for the challenging workouts, but stay for the camaraderie and sense of community.

Muscle up

By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff

Sumo deadlift high pulls, handstand pushups, Russian twists, double unders, burpees.

These are just a few of the hundreds of varied and sometimes unusual moves the trainers at Crossfit Kitchener put their trainees through during the notoriously brutal “WOD” or workout of the day.

Crossfit isn’t just a fitness fad, says Joanne Mittelholtz, who owns the gym with her husband Lance. It’s a training system that can turn couch potatoes into athletes, and athletes into real competitors. But it’s also a fitness community that rallies around its members, pushing each person in the gym to do their personal best.

“It’s the camaraderie and the friendships,” says Joanne LeGal, 49, who joined the gym shortly after it opened in 2009.

“One of the things you’ll notice about Crossfitters is that we’re very passionate.”

Before joining Crossfit, LeGal was essentially inactive.

“We have a pool in the backyard, and I would just sit in it,” she says.

Now, her proudest achievement is being able to climb the rope, more than 20 feet high.

“It takes a lot of strength and coordination. And I’m scared of heights!”

Alice Heinrich is 64 years old, and she’s been coming to Crossfit for more than three years. She also belongs to another gym, but Crossfit has pushed her to the next level.

“I’ve got better core strength and much more power,” she says. “I’m a runner, and it’s made a huge difference in my power.”

Crossfit Kitchener quickly outgrew its original space and the new gym, near Courtland and Mill streets, has about 250 members. That’s far fewer than traditional gyms, because there is a trainer present for each workout, making sure members are using proper form and technique.

Every member goes through a four-week introductory course before joining the regular classes, where exercises can be scaled to each person’s ability. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“I don’t sugarcoat it for anybody,” Mittelholtz says. “It’s uncomfortable. It will take you places, mentally and physically, where you might not be ready to go. But that’s where the magic happens.”

Mittleholtz says the community she and Lance have tried to create inside the gym extends outside as well.

Each year, they hold two fundraisers, one at Halloween and one at Christmas.

This year’s fundraiser includes an event at the gym on Dec. 1 to launch the  Women of Crossfit Kitchener 2013 Calendar. Proceeds from the event and sales of the calendar are going to CrossFit Genetic Potential, a not-for-profit that brings the program to the only public high school on Manitoulin Island.

“So much of this is about the community environment and the people, camaraderie that you don’t get at a typical gym,” Mittelholtz says.

“But you’ve got to come in and be prepared to work, and work hard.”

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