When Bucks County Technical High School (BCTHS) School-to-Career Coordinator Ron Martino was being coaxed to join a CrossFit gym owned by fellow staffer John Haney six years ago, Martino declined. After all, he was a regular at a conventional gym and declared himself to be in shape.
CrossFit? He didn’t need CrossFit.
But Haney was persistent, and Martino decided to try it out.
CrossFit is a fitness program developed by Greg Glassman that utilizes high intensity, functional movements that target as many muscle groups as possible. More than 13,000 CrossFit facilities exist throughout the country, and for those who want to take it to another level there are CrossFit competitions at the regional and national levels.
The concept of CrossFit is to do a lot of repetitions or work in a short period of time. For beginners, a 10-minute workout is in order, and Martino remembers those first 10 minutes well.
“I thought I was in tremendous shape before starting it, but I was not," he admits. "I started this when I was 36. Before that, I worked out at a regular gym and I was looking for something a little bit different just to tighten up.
“My first workout was 10 minutes of sit ups, pushups and wall balls and I said, ‘Man, I can do anything for 10 minutes. This is going to be a letdown.’ I got three minutes in and I didn’t know why my body felt the way it did. That was a bad thing. It was ridiculously humbling.”
What was originally going to be a three-month commitment with his wife, Pam, is going on seven years. Martino also now serves as a coach at the Haney's Bristol facility, and has been key in recruiting other staff members from the high school to make the five-minute trip to the gym regularly as they change their lives for the better.
This BCTHS connection was forged eight years ago when Haney, the school’s IT coordinator, visited a friend’s gym in Allentown.
“It looked like a bunch of people doing crazy things,” Haney says. “So I signed up and the rest is history. He had me come back — there was always something to work on. It was different. You weren’t walking around to different stations. You weren’t waiting.”
Haney liked the program. But he wasn’t so crazy about driving for nearly an hour to go, so he set up his own shop in Bristol.
“There weren't any CrossFits here at the time,” he says. “I just got sick and tired of driving back and forth, especially in rush hour traffic. So I decided to open up my own place.”
There are now five CrossFit gyms within a five-mile radius of his facility, he says.
Five years ago, BCTHS Special Education Supervisor Peg Kopera switched from a conventional gym to CrossFit. She acknowledges that when she first walked into the Bristol facility, she was overwhelmed.
“It was pretty intimidating — I was wondering what I was doing there,” she says. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do what all of these people were doing. When I first got there, there were these little girls lifting these barbells full of weights, and it was impressive, but then I was like ‘oh, my Lord’ as it was also very intimidating.”
Kopera, a former high school soccer and softball player, says CrossFit changed her workout lifestyle. Three times a week after school, she heads to the gym.
“It has made me go to the gym consistently to be healthy,” she says. “I’ve always been a person who was healthy and worked out and had gone to the gym. But I was bored quickly with a lot of the other programming that was out there. I wasn’t good at going to a gym and doing my own workouts or going to a gym and taking part in a class.”
For a while, it became a family affair.
“I recommend it to my friends and my daughter, who was a collegiate-level athlete in field hockey, to train during the offseason,” she says. “She and her teammates would train to get ready for the preseason.”
All three BCTHS staffers rave about the camaraderie at the CrossFit gym.
“It’s for everybody,” Martino says. “It’s scaleable to your own fitness level. I stress the community aspect. You get to hang out with a bunch of positive people for an hour who want you to succeed and do well.”