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Crossfit Gaining Followers in Ohio Valley

February 28, 2013
By JOHN McCABE - Managing Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

BENWOOD - When Ryan Ferns isn't in Charleston handling his legislative duties or here in the local area providing physical therapy to a patient, you can likely find him at his gym in Benwood, going through a Crossfit workout.

In St. Clairsville, Rachel Goodman handles her new duties as a mom with as much grace as poise as any new mom can muster. And when she's not tending to young Harvey Goodman IV's needs, she can be found taking part in Crossfit.

Crossfit, for many, is a new term. But it's one that's becoming more common across the nation and even here in the Ohio Valley.

Article Photos

From left, Ryan Ferns, Rachel Goodman holding Harvey Goodman IV and Ashley Morgan are at the RJF Crossfit facility in Benwood. Crossfit is a sport that is becoming more popular in the local area.

Photo by John McCabe

Both Goodman and Ferns operate their own respective Crossfit businesses - Ferns has RJF Crossfit at the Ryan Ferns Healthplex in Benwood, while Goodman and her husband, Jay, own and operate OV Crossfit at 67800 Mall Ring Road in St. Clairsville.

Ferns actually got his start in Crossfit last year with the Goodmans who at the time operated their business out of their home. The Goodmans started OV Crossfit in May after moving to the area from Chicago. Prior to moving, Rachel Goodman was a full-time coach and creative director at Atlas CrossFit in Chicago.

"Basically I had an interest in Crossfit - I had never met Rachel before - we had some mutual friends that put us in touch. I started training with her (while the Healthplex was under construction) and she was gracious enough to help me out when she opened her gym and helped guide me when I opened mine, as well," Ferns said.

And just what is Crossfit? According to Ferns, Crossfit is a core strength and conditioning program that is designed to offer a level of fitness that is broad, general and inclusive. Workouts involve metabolic conditioning, weight lifting and gymnastics and can be modified for anyone regardless of age or experience.

What makes it different is that each workout is done in a group setting and is timed. Workouts typically last for an hour, with plenty of stretching and warm-up taking place as part of the process.

"There are a couple of different components to Crossfit," Ferns said. "The folks who get into it always talk about the Crossfit community. Every workout is done in a group, so there's a camaraderie that forms naturally within your gym. Everyone pushes each other, encourages each other.

"Each workout is timed, so there's a competitive component. But at the same time, at Rachel's gym, at our gym, the folks who finish first will actually encourage those who are still working to push them harder, to do the best they can."

"Crossfit is different and it works," Goodman added. "You go to a gym, you're intimidated by machines. You don't know how to use them. Here, you come to a class setting, which makes a huge difference because everyone's learning. It's like going to a playground, but instead of having a machine you have a pull-up bar. It's just different and you see the results."

"And it's fun," Ferns added. "I've worked out all my life and been involved with sports all my life, and I've never - I've done weight lifting, running - I've never really looked forward to working out like I do now."

The Crossfit craze has been fueled in recent years by ESPN's decision to air the national Crossfit Games. Goodman said the national exposure from the games - she started in Crossfit in 2007 - and the entrance of even more top-tier athletes has raised the bar for what participants are being asked to do.

But, as Ferns pointed out, the national games show only the best-of-the-best in Crossfit - it's important to remember that anyone can take part.

"While it was great for the Crossfit Games to come out on ESPN ... for a lot of folks, that's their only exposure to Crossfit. They see these elite athletes. ... One of the first things I did early on was encourage my employees (at the Ryan Ferns Healthplex) to take part. It gives a broad spectrum so (potential clients) don't just see 20-somethings here every day.

"Our 6 a.m. class, we have a gentleman who's 61 years old, hadn't exercised in three years and wanted to get his body back in shape. He'd had an accident and broke his leg, but prior to that he was running marathons. ... He was nervous about jumping into Crossfit ... that's one of the barriers we've got to break down, the thinking that Crossfit is only for elite athletes."

Ferns and Goodman also stress the benefits of Crossfit for all athletes. There's what's known as "Crossfit Football" that is geared more toward football players, and other variations.

Ferns currently has about 25-30 regulars doing Crossfit at his gym, with head trainer Ashley Morgan, a Wheeling Central graduate and former West Virginia University cheerleader, leading the classes. Classes take place at 6 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call RJF Crossfit at 304-218-2300.

Goodman has a number of classes currently running and forming at her gym. For more information, call OV Crossfit at 740-695-3971.

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