As a wrestler in college, John Klessinger was on a strict regimen of exercising, eating well and lifting to maintain his 134-pound competition weight.
However, almost 20 years later, the 38-year-old says he's now in “the best shape” of his life—even better than his days as a collegiate wrestler at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.
Klessinger’s business partner in the gym they operate, Erin Boensch, has a similar story. A gymnast in her youth, Boensch is 39 but didn’t complete her first pull-up until she was 38. She also said she feels better now than ever before.
How are both of these 30-somethings so fit beyond their “prime"? Their answer is short and to the point. CrossFit.
Using a highly specialized regimen, CrossFit workouts feature “constantly varied, high intensity functional movements,” Klessinger said. Using an assortment of workouts, athletes execute a hybrid of activities including Olympic lifting, gymnastics, power lifting and other non-traditional exercise methods.
The two began participating in CrossFit workouts a few years ago. After seeing and feeling terrific results, they independently became certified as CrossFit trainers. Months passed and after much deliberation, Klessinger and Boensch opened their own CrossFit gym in Edgewater to cater to those in south county.
Keep it Simple, Keep it Intense
Since opening the new gym in September, Klessinger and Boensch have turned their passion for fitness into a full-fledged, high-intensity, kick-your-butt experience now open to the public at 113 Mayo Road, called CrossFit South River
Both co-owners are certified CrossFit trainers and hope to bring the CrossFit style of training to the southern parts of Anne Arundel County—reshaping the way residents view personal fitness. In a world filled with high-tech machines, CrossFit South River uses a more elemental approach, using nothing more than rope, bars, weights, balls and blocks.
Upon walking into the gym, residents can see a lone rope hanging from the ceiling and a large, intricate structure with bars and rings to provide a plethora of exercises. CrossFit workouts only last about 20 minutes if completed at a grueling pace, but for many, with stretching and post-workout activities, the entire experience lasts about an hour, Klessinger said.
Workouts vary depending on a person’s capabilities, but some basic exercises include swinging pull-ups, medicine ball lunges and leaps, gymnast rings and dead lifts.
Offering fun, movement-centric methods and concentrated attention to the individual, both Klessinger and Boensch feel CrossFit is not only the best overall fitness option in town, it’s the best value too.
“We’re basically selling personal training at a very reduced price," said Klessinger, who also teaches physical education at South River High. "Classes are small enough to focus on individuals … We can change any workout to meet fitness levels."
Strong is the New Skinny
The biggest difference between CrossFit and a traditional gym experience is a mental one, Boensch said. Instead of just working out to be thin or look a certain way, CrossFit feels like an athletic activity that monitors progress and encourages a goal-oriented mentality, she said. For women especially, it shouldn’t be about just getting thin, it should be about getting strong, Boensch added.
“I just want to share with people, especially women, when you focus on goals, you end up looking the way you want,” Boensch said. “The way you look isn’t the goal itself, it’s the byproduct of working hard and reaching for your fitness goals.”
Boensch said for years she was a “gym rat,” just working out because she felt like it was the only way to stay healthy, stay skinny. After coming across CrossFit, her mentality changed and it’s something she wants everyone—men and women—to experience for themselves.
“The whole idea is to get that typical person that’s worried about losing weight, wearing smaller clothes. And the concept behind Strong to Skinny is embrace the fact you’re capable to be a strong woman or man,” Klessinger said. “It’s going to be better in the long haul to be stronger than it will be to starve yourself and run on a treadmill.”
The new business owners are offering a special grand opening discount. Those joining a CrossFit class can sign up for $140 per month, earning unlimited classes for three-, six-, eight- or 12-month terms. Classes take place at 5:45 a.m., 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. depending on the day.